When is it the right time to..
- Clear your debt?
- Have a baby?
- Start saving for retirement?
- Take that dream trip?
The answer is:
There will never be a right time for anything.
There will always be something holding you back from starting, namely money for most folks. All of the above costs money, but if you look at money as a tool, and focus on the spending side more than the accumulation side, you might find yourself in a better position than you imagine.
The basic, golden rule of money is:
The less you spend, the more you have.
It really is that simple and everything we do and talk about, rotates around that one, basic, golden rule.
That said, each situation takes a bit of digging into and clarification, so here’s my short observation on each dilemma:
So when is it the right time to clear your debts?
There will always be a good excuse to not do it (look, shiny new shoes that will lift my spirits and make me feel amazing!), but the truth of the matter is that you are never too late to start clearing your debts. Yesterday was already too late.
So when is it the right time to have a baby?
Aside from the emotional and physical limitations and responsibilities you will have to acknowledge and take on to have a child, you are financially ready if you know how to make a budget and track your expenses so that you are able to see where you can slash if need be.
- Read: How to trim, cut and slash your expenses
…then you are responsible enough to make choices and sacrifices to have a cuddly bundle of noise.
Bottom line: If you aren’t responsible enough to make a budget and watch your money, you aren’t responsible enough for a child.
Even if you are in debt, if it is under control and you aren’t deciding to also take on MORE debt by buying a house / car / yacht under the guise that it is “for the good of the future baby”, then you are ready to have a child.
If your income exceeds your expenses, and you still see that you can trim even more of the fat if need be, you are financially ready for a child.
You don’t need to be debt-free to have a child. You don’t need to have a million saved to have a child. You just need to realize that you can’t have it all, and if you truly want a baby, you need to start sacrificing in other areas to make financial room for one.
There are plenty of stories of parents who unexpectedly found themselves expecting a child, having just lost their jobs and having barely any savings. They made it through because they had to, and if you go into having a baby with the same perspective (albeit more prepared to handle it), you will be better off.
When is it the right time to start saving for retirement?
Right now. Any time is a good time. Unless you have debt at fairly high interest rates (7% or higher), you should start saving for retirement as soon as possible.
The only exception to this is if you have debt at 7% or higher, but your employer offers you a 50% or 100% match on ALL of your retirement savings. Then you should max out your retirement savings and pay less towards your debt.
Because if your employer matches your retirement contributions even at 50%, that’s a 50% “instant” return on your money, which more than trumps a 7% interest cost on your debt.
I myself had $60,000 in student debt when I graduated, but when my employer offered a 100% match up to 4% of my annual earnings, I maxed it out.
I took the full 4% match, contributed every month and had them contribute an equivalent 4%, which gave me an effective return of 100% even before taking into account how the market was doing.
I also made sure to stay at the company long enough to be “vested” (that is, so that when I leave, I am able to take their retirement contributions as well as mine) so that all would not be for naught.
When is it the right time to take that dream trip?
Whether your dream trip is around the world or just 2 weeks in Stockholm, Sweden to find your roots, it is always a good time to start thinking and planning for it.
I don’t recommend doing this while you are in debt, but if you won’t be swayed and absolutely MUST do it before a certain age, then at the very least, be responsible about saving for it.
How to plan for a trip even though you are in debt
- Figure out WHEN you want to take the trip. A date, however hazy, helps.
- Do the calculations of how much you estimate you will need for the trip (if you are in debt, I am hoping you will make a tight budget and be willing to stay in cheap hotels or hostels)
- With your final trip number, divide it by the number of months you have to save that money before you want to take that trip.
- See if it fits in your budget along with your diligent debt repayment
- If the number does not fit, then adjust your trip to either have it be taken at a later date, or slash the budget even farther.
That’s it. It really is that simple.