Old habits are hard to break. You may have been raised in a household where your family needed every penny to make ends meet. Perhaps you started working at a young age to help pay the bills. The value of hard work becomes ingrained, and you learn not to spend money frivolously.
If this describes you, the lessons you learned about saving money most likely served you well as you grew older and more successful. Your mortgage is paid off, you purchase cars with cash, and your children earned college degrees without incurring student loans.
Saving, and not spending, becomes part of a proud lifestyle and even a badge of honor. Why buy a new dress when you have two in the closet? Why buy a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood when you have lived just fine in the same home for 30 years?
The power of saving and investing prudently, coupled with compounding over time, does work. One day you wake up with more money in your retirement accounts than you can fathom spending. You feel very secure and know that, with your low level of spending, your investment accounts will keep growing.
Now what do you do? Emotionally, you have difficulty spending and may even feel guilty when doing so. This can be carried to the extreme, where maybe you hesitate to spend money on holiday gifts or much needed home repairs.
Don’t miss out on something you want to enjoy because you’ve waited too long to begin spending what you’ve saved, perhaps even for that purpose. Travel while you are healthy and buy that new sports car while you can still drive.
Reluctant spenders won’t be able to change overnight. Perhaps you can start out with baby steps. Treat yourself to an expensive bottle of wine tonight with dinner. Next week, buy that nice wool sweater you have been admiring for months. Maybe next month, you take a weekend trip to a nice resort. See how you feel after spending a little bit of money on yourself.
Many people receive satisfaction when they spend money on others. What about inviting your entire family on that Alaskan cruise for your wedding anniversary? You don’t need to wait for a milestone anniversary, like your 25th or 50th; plan this for next year.
As you most likely had a savings plan to prepare for retirement, now make a spending plan. Understanding how much you can spend each month or year without ever having to fear running out of money will give you comfort. And knowing that you have all your risks covered will give you peace of mind.
Sit down with your spouse and discuss what is most important to each of you. Agree that you will commit to spending money in the next few months on two items from the list you put together.
After you reach a certain age, you may have all the “things” that you need or want. However, you can never create enough memories. Talk to your friends and see if you can plan to do something fun and different once a month.
Consider that if you do not spend some of that money now, in many cases your family will simply inherit that much more when you pass. Perhaps you should start giving them an annual gift, so you can enjoy seeing them use that money during your lifetime.
This commentary originally appeared November 30 on TheCasperStarTribune.com
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