August 07, 2013

How to Spend It All

Credit: scottchan
Usually I try to write something about how to save money, budget, or invest. Occasionally I’ll go a little further out on a limb and talk about tax-saving opportunities, the importance of adequate insurance, or even some estate planning considerations. I try to make my messages timely, truthful, fairly upbeat, and hopefully, helpful. Today I’m doing something different: I’m throwing a changeup. I’m going to tell you how you can spend it all. Based on my personal experiences, situations I’ve heard about, and things I’ve read, I’m going to try to convey to you a shockingly simple lesson I’ve learned: No amount of money is so large that it cannot be spent.
  • If you own so many pieces of real estate that you can’t rattle off all of the zip codes, you could probably spend it all. Even if you can afford the properties, the upkeep, additional insurance required, and property taxes might whittle away at your financial position over time. Also, as we relearned in the mid-to-late 2000s, real estate does not always appreciate.
  • If you are so concentrated in one (or even a handful of stocks) that an Enron-esque fiasco for your holding(s) would literally bring you to tears, you could probably spend it all. I know, “They’re a great company, always have been and always will be,” but please go talk to some undiversified General Motors, Wachovia, and Lehman Brothers shareholders and get their perspectives.
  • If you can’t say no to a single charitable call-a-thon or “urgent” donation request form in the mail, you could probably spend it all. Giving to charity is great on so many financial and personal levels, but if you are giving more and more, and your income and assets are not keeping up, you might find yourself someday needing charity.
  • If you frequently “binge shop,” you could probably spend it all. Whether it is shoes, purses, hunting equipment, or the latest technological gadgets and gizmos does not matter; whether you can control your spending or not when times get a little hard does.
  • If you can’t possibly have fun at a restaurant, hotel, or golf course that is not 5 stars, you could probably spend it all. Sometimes a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a Holiday Inn Express, and a countryside course without a “19th Hole Bar & Grill” can suffice.
  • If you can’t stop giving money away to your family, you could probably spend it all. Helping those you care about can be such an admirable act and very much appreciated by the recipients, but sometimes tough love and an occasional “No” will actually help them more in the long run.
  • If you can’t ever achieve emotional peace when it comes to how you are invested, you can probably spend it all. I once saw a cartoon sketch that showed a stock market chart where the individual kept buying at the top of the market and selling at the bottom of the market. The punchline read something to the effect of “Repeat until broke!” Life is too short to not have peace of mind and the ability to focus on what is truly important. Sure there are market ups and downs, but if you are ever invested in a way that leaves you constantly uncomfortable, you shouldn’t be.  

I’m not trying to be Scrooge. I just thought I’d take a different approach to my usual message of saving and being fiscally responsible, and instead, share a few, common ways on how you can make hard-earned assets disappear.

Being broke and working is bad. Being broke and retired is even worse. Potentially leaving a little to your heirs may not be your goal, but it isn’t the worst thing in the world, either. Remember, if you really don’t like your heirs, you can always bequeath whatever you have left to your friends or to charity.

Please, whatever you do, just don’t spend it all!


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