When it comes to a lot of the “big” stuff in life – finances, relationships, career – it seems like everyone is always gearing up for the next “big” thing. A promotion. A wedding. A house. A baby. No matter how content we are at any given moment in our lives, there’s always something else to be saving for or working towards next.
And even if you’re not planning for or excited about the next “big” thing, someone in your life expects you to be. When you’re dating someone for at least six months, everyone starts asking when you’re getting engaged. As soon as each of my married friends returned from their respective honeymoons, the “when are you having a baby?” questions started rolling in. And then as soon as each of them had their first babies, their friends and family began asking “when are you having another one?”
I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to find this fucking exhausting.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of setting goals. I like looking ahead to my future and checking off all of the boxes. In fact, I spent my late teens and early twenties in perpetual forward motion – high school, college, graduate school, job, apartment, steady boyfriend, promotion. I’ve enjoyed all of it and don’t regret any of the decisions I’ve made.
But I’m at a point now where I feel stalled. I thought my next steps would be getting married, buying a house, and starting a family (more boxes!) but recent events have rendered those things unlikely to happen in the near future. I’m ok with that, because I very firmly believe that it’s better to be on your own than to be in a relationship that’s not right for you, even if it’s a difficult path to take. So why do I find myself thinking recently that something is wrong in my life?
The short answer is because for me, right now, there is no next “big thing” on the horizon. Right now, I need to just maintain my status quo. This is very uncomfortable for me…because I’ve never done it before. I’ve never just lived my life without actively working towards some next huge goal or milestone. I’m not used to just status quo-ing it, so I sometimes catch myself mentally inventing some next “big thing,” something I don’t actually want (like moving abroad or changing careers) but that I think will give my life that forward motion I crave. Of course, I snap myself back to reality, but it’s hard not to look to my near future and feel some disappointment that I can’t envision or work towards whatever the next “big” thing, at least not right now.
How does this relate to finances? Just like I’m tempted to look at my life and try to create a next “big” thing, I the sense that there are a lot of people who are tempted to create their next “big” thing, financially speaking. In other words, there seems to be something wrong with just maintaining the fiscal status quo. Humming along, maxing out retirement accounts, putting extra towards debt, saving for emergencies – this stuff is all very valuable, even if it’s not “big.” It’s not paying off a $30,000 credit card balance in one year. It’s not going on a twelve month spending fast. It’s not saving half your salary for five years straight to purchase a home in cash. It’s normal, responsible financial behavior. Maybe it’s boring, maybe it won’t make for an exciting personal essay. But it also won’t sink your financial ship while you’re figuring out what your next move is.
So if you’re not working towards anything “big” financially right now, know that that’s ok. Keeping your status quo is important. It’s valuable. Let someone else’s finances be sexy right now. After all, sexy is complicated – and usually a lot less fun than it looks.