Things have been going well recently in my personal finance journey. I have a plan in place, am following a budget, and am making great progress. Even with around $2,000 dollars in medical expenses this year, I’ve still managed to make progress. But I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t been without a few hiccups, and a good smattering of fear.
As easy as personal finance may seem (spend less than you earn, save the rest), the endless number of choices can often leave people frozen with fear. You make a plan, but then you worry. Am I prioritizing correctly? What if something unexpected happens? What if I make the wrong choice?
My overall goal is to reach financial independence, and then to retire at a young age. But there are numerous choices and goals that must be met along the way. My short-term goals were simple: Setup an emergency fund, then set aside money for immediate needs. My bank allows me to set categories within my savings account, with goals for each category. So, here are the categories I initially created:
I’ve been able to maintain my emergency fund, despite the numerous medical bills. The porch and bathroom remodel are both estimates based on research; I’m hopeful I can do each for slightly less, but figured it was better to save more than I needed than not enough. The vacation fund is for a long weekend that my older sister, mother and I are considering taking. That being said, we don’t have it planned, and keep pushing it off. That’s probably more money than I’ll need, but again, better to be prepared.
Every week I get a feeling of satisfaction as I assign the extra $200 from my paycheck to a category. I’ve watched as all but one of my goals have been met, and I quickly close in on the last. And I sit, frozen, unable to make the next move, or plan the next step.
Month after month I watch as my net worth grows. It’s a small step, but seeing myself out of the red, and slowly creeping along into the black, is a great feeling. I reached my goal for the porch roof months ago, and yet I still haven’t done anything about the project. Sure, there are several contractors that haven’t gotten back to me with numbers. But, to be honest, I already have a contractor that I want to work with. I’ve known I would most likely be using him for over a year. I have the money, I have the contractor, but still the work sits undone. What’s the deal?
Honestly, I’m frozen by fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the unexpected. Fear of making another foolish financial decision. Is replacing the roof on the porch my biggest priority? How long can I wait on the bathroom remodel? Should I be buying a new car right now? And if so, should I redirect that money to a down payment?
Once the money’s gone, it’s gone. And that’s where my fear lies. Right now, I have a large safety net. But that isn’t what that money is there for. Sure, $3,000 of it is there as a safety net. The rest of it has a specific goal. I need to stop second guessing myself, and stick to my plan. Sure, there may be better ways of doing things. But doing nothing isn’t the right choice.
So, I’ve contacted my contractor, and asked him to draw up plans for the front porch. I’m going to continue saving towards the bathroom remodel. Once the money is there, I’ll start looking into having the work done. I made these two goals a priority because my living situation might change at any time. I’d like to talk to Realtor, see where I actually stand on the value of my house, and seriously consider whether I’m ready to sell. I can’t do that until those two projects are done. Plus there’s around $400 of insurance money sitting out there for the porch roof that I’ll only get if the project is completed by early next year. The risk of losing that money is worth making that project a priority!
I’m still looking into buying a car. And, if I have to buy without a down payment, so be it. It’s not the situation I’d like to be in, but I’ll have to make the best of it. From there, I’ll decide whether paying off my student loan, or paying off the new car loan, will be my biggest priority. And then I’ll actually act on it.
I’m not advocating rushing into things, or acting without researching first. But I can’t let my fear of making bad choices keep me from making any choices, or taking action on the choices I’ve already made. Leaving money sitting in a savings account is not really doing much to get me ahead. Sure, my net worth may take a hit initially. But I can’t put so much emphasis on that number that it leads me to stop making progress. It’s just a number, after all, and only one piece of the puzzle that makes up my financial life.
Do you find yourself frozen by fear at times? What do you think of my plan? Should I be prioritizing differently?
– Cindy W.