Things are a little easier, if you expect the unexpected
I always expected my life to tinker along the same way for many years – work at a job I enjoyed, get a house, a car, go out occasionally, repeat until I felt like retiring. Since I loved my career so much, I figured I wouldn’t really need to worry about retirement income since I’d probably want to keep working, just maybe a little less. Well guess what, it didn’t happen that way. I don’t have a job, I have no interest in returning to my former career, and honestly, I’d be happy never to work again. I can’t quite manage the ‘never work again’ part, at least not yet, but I won’t be out on the street anytime soon, all because of choices I made when I was too young to really know what I was doing. Now, I am incredibly thankful that, somehow, I did some things right.
I listened to my mother
My mom always regretted her decision not to go to college, and she made sure that all of her children (seven of us) knew the importance of getting an education. Some of us went to University, some learned a trade, but all of us kept learning after graduation. I see so many young people today that have no goals beyond finishing high school and getting out of their parents’ house. The sad thing is, without some goal you rarely go anywhere. Now these same smart kids are working fast food or bagging groceries. These are both honorable jobs, if you see them as stepping stones to something better, but if this is the furthest your life ever goes, you really haven’t gone anywhere. Most goals require more education to achieve; keep learning.
I listened to my father
My dad told me that whatever I chose to do with my life, math would be of use. I suppose it helps that I’ve always loved math, but I still appreciate his advice. Simple algebra comes up when changing recipes or figuring your gas mileage. You need to know the surface area of a wall (geometry) so you know how much paint to buy. Math comes up in all kinds of jobs that don’t require much formal education; carpentry, landscaping, child care, running a house. How can you pick the best deal at the grocery store if you can’t figure the price per ounce of two products? Managing your own bank account can’t be done without math. Really, learn math.
I planned for retirement
My first job had a matching 401(k) program. Being my father’s daughter, I did the math and realized that I was saving a whole lot more money when it was matched by the company. I only worked there for five years before I left, and I wasn’t making that much money, but I left it in the retirement account rather than cash it out when I quit to go back to school. That little bit of money, left in the account for 20 years, now constitutes half of my expected retirement income. Half. And I didn’t really contribute that much at the time. Maybe you have to give up getting new clothes, or a fancier car. Maybe it means living with a roommate a little longer, but, holy cow, if I didn’t have that money now (for the future) I’d be sitting here dreading the fact that I’d need to keep working until I’m 70, or older, just to survive. Life is so unexpected, and knowing you’ll have some money to live on if things don’t go well is a relief that I can’t possibly describe. However hard it is, save some money.
I lived within my means
It’s probably that math thing again, but spending more than I made really never made sense. I’m so cheap that the thought of paying the interest on a credit card balance makes me crazy. There are very, very few things in life that you can’t wait a few more months to get as you save money. I use my credit cards more like debit cards; they get paid off every month, and I have very few of them. Now that I’m unemployed, and dirt poor, I have no debts to worry about, and no expensive lifestyle to maintain. Without that huge financial burden weighing me down I feel like I have a lot more options for the future, since making a little bit of money is much easier than making a lot. Spend less than you make, always.
I learned to cook
I have met people that are so unfamiliar with what goes on in a kitchen, that they don’t even know how to make mac and cheese from a box. Seriously. That’s the extreme example, of course, but a lot of people have gotten so lured in by frozen meals and delivery pizza that the idea of chopping an onion and browning some hamburger is beyond them. Knowing how to make something edible from basic ingredients opens up all kinds of options for the adventurous person. You can feed yourself while travelling without looking for restaurants; you can adapt to dietary changes needed for health; you can save money by not buying things in boxes. You can even start a garden, because you’ll know what to do with the vegetables once they’ve grown. Once upon a time, every child grew up learning how to feed himself; as an adult you should know how to feed yourself too.
I learned basic modern survival skills
I’m incredibly inept when it comes to fixing things, but I can handle the basics. I know how to change a tire, and I’ve needed to do this on a dark road. I can also put the chains on my tires on a snowy road. I know, you’re laughing at that, but why do you think all those guys are standing around on freezing mountain passes holding signs that say “$20 to put your chains on for you”. It’s something many people don’t bother to figure out. I can change the oil in my car, the windshield wipers, and fill the fluids. I can’t set the time on the clock, but that’s a separate issue. I can do basic sewing repairs, although, admittedly, sometimes it’s with duct tape and staples. It still works, and it gets me through the day. (FYI, staples hold up through several washes, duct tape needs constant reapplication.) Without having some idea how to do handle minor emergencies that come up from time to time, you’re stuck being dependent on someone being around to help you. Even a minimal amount of knowledge can get you through many problems.
Honestly, however well you plan, *** happens. You can’t prepare for everything, but you can make sure you’re in the best position possible if the **** happens to you.