Society vs. Reality

I turned 45 years old last week.  I am well into mid-life.  Every year, I try to get a sense if I am on the right path.  I realize now that the “right path,” especially regarding finances, has been society’s expectations, not my reality.

Upon researching where a 45-year-old should be regarding their finances, I am not in the right place.   I am supposed to have 8x my annual expenses saved/invested.  If I do not, the experts suggest I save 25-35% a month of my income for the next 15 to 20 years to catch up.  To me, those who have 8x their annual expenses saved apply to people who work full time with a high-paying job, do not have children, have perfect health, and possibly have had the help of a parent who gave them a debt-free college experience or even their extra home.

Some out-of-touch people say, try not adding guacamole to your chicken bowl or not having coffee at Starbucks will put me to where I’m supposed to be with my savings.  Sure these types of things add up, but not the savings of 8x my annual expenses.  You know what adds up, having out-of-pocket medical treatments because our health insurance does not cover them—having a child who wants to play sports in high school and needs to be on a club team even to have a chance of making it.  Needing a therapist because of a trauma-filled childhood, and honestly, to cover just the basic needs of groceries, a mortgage, and utilities because we live in California.  (We deal with California’s high cost of living because we do not want to live anywhere else.)   And Covid and other societal issues aren’t helping the jump in the cost of living.

I have come to accept that the hyper-focus on becoming financially stable will suck the joy out of life.  From now on, I will focus on the beautiful moments in life because life is short.  All I can do is my best and allow for some treats along the way. Honestly, these last 18 months have shown many of us are just trying to survive.  After Covid is gone, maybe then we can plan to thrive.

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