It Doesn’t Matter That You Can’t Take It With You

Hi guys! Thanks for all your incredibly kind words on my last post, Steve and I really appreciate them. I’m currently in Jordan spending time with Steve and his family, but I’ll be back at the end of the month. I hope you are all having a wonderful January! 

If your excuse for why you refuse to save for your future is, “I could die tomorrow!” or “I can’t take it with me!”, you’re a moron. And I’m not trying to be mean when I say that. I’m just trying to save you from your moronic thinking. Because I was also a moron when it comes to savings until recently (and I’m still a moron about a lot of things).

Before I explain why we’re morons, I’m going to come clean about something. Even though I have several friends in the PF community who are super into early retirement (and whom I absolutely adore), I always thought it was stupid. I had this idea that those who saved so much weren’t truly living.

not true

I mean, god forbid they died early, they would never get a chance to spend their hard earned cash. Sounds juvenile now, but that’s truly how I felt.

And then, I was rocked with my first two deaths in the past four months — my grandfather and my mother-in-law. Not only did both change my life, but they changed my entire [financial] belief system.

One would think these deaths (especially my mother-in-law’s, as it was unexpected) would make me feel like saving was a waste of time because it could all be taken away tomorrow by the cruel reality for many people that is untimely death. They actually had an opposite effect.

So how do I feel about “I could get hit by a bus tomorrow!”, now?

Many people way smarter than me in the PF blogosphere have pointed out that it is HIGHLY unlikely that you will die early, and this is very true. But those of us who respond more to the emotional side of things rather than the statistical side *raises hand* may understand better when I say it this way — maybe it doesn’t actually matter whether or not you can take it with you.

The very arguments “you can’t take it with you” or “you could get hit by a bus tomorrow” assume that money is actually the most important thing in the world when you die. Like, on your death bed, you’re going to be so pissed you didn’t buy those Manolos (shoes, for the menfolk). But guess what? Even if you don’t spend all the money you saved in your life, it really doesn’t matter.

What DOES matter is that you spent a lifetime cultivating meaningful relationships. Your loved ones don’t give a shit about what type of car you drove. They don’t care whether or not you were a baller, shot caller. What they DO care about is the relationship they had with you, and that’s also what they’ll remember.

Good news on this, guys. Relationships really don’t cost that much. Meaning — shocker alert! — your life’s worth is not determined by the amount of money you spend or what you spend it on. That’s actually completely irrelevant compared to the type of person you are for richer or for poorer.

Have you ever heard the phrase “Life is short. Buy the shoes.”? That is the most ridiculously idiotic thing I’ve ever heard. Maybe instead of YOLO-ing like crazy when it comes to spending, we should be applying this “life is short” philosophy to our relationships.

To overusing “I love you”.

To laughing too hard at the inside jokes no one else will ever understand except for you and your best friend.

To calling your mom regularly to see how she’s doing. 

All of which, by the way, are free.

You don’t actually have to spend every dime you make to have a fulfilling life. In fact, one might argue you definitely shouldn’t. If you can’t be satisfied with a life spending less than you make (assuming you make a decent living wage and are not in survival mode or close to it), you have bigger issues that cannot and will not be solved by money, no matter how many zeros are at the end of your paychecks.

Basically, if you aren’t saving much because you are afraid you won’t be able to spend it all before you die, pull your head out of your ass and start saving now. If you happen to die before you spend it all, I promise you won’t care. Like, swear to god, you really won’t give a shit.

So here’s my new outlook on life and finances:

1) Early retirement is not stupid. Thinking it is stupid is stupid.

2) Whether I die tomorrow or when I’m 110*, I am going to keep on saving for my future. Even if, god forbid, I didn’t have much of a future ahead of me, I’d rather die with too much than too little.

3) Personal relationships ALWAYS trump money. Therefore, discretionary income that is not being saved should be spent on cultivating these relationships (date nights, plane tickets home, etc.) before buying shit I don’t need (which is almost everything I’ll ever buy).

4) Saving so much that you are depriving yourself and your relationships is just as bad as not saving. Balance is key.

5) It really, really, really doesn’t matter that I can’t take it with me. And it doesn’t matter that you can’t take it with you, either.

You might die earlier than expected. That’s the honest truth. But don’t use this highly improbable scenario to justify a life of excess and irresponsibility. Don’t be a moron — save for your future like you are going to live till you are old and gray and live your life like you aren’t. It’s really not that complicated.

Have you ever hesitated to save because “you might get hit by a bus tomorrow”? Do you realize how moronic that belief system is? Are you totally embarrassed for me that I used to really believe that?

*If I’m lucky enough to live a long, long life, I’m totally playing the unfiltered old person card as soon as I possibly can. I’ll be shaking my cane at young whipper-snappers yelling wildly inappropriate things before 70. Hide yo’ kids.

Rockstar Finance

Image from imgur


  1. Nail on the head. Despite knowing someone who actually did die when hit by a bus (sadly, at age 22 just 6 months after graduating college), I’ve never really had any YOLO tendencies and now that I’m starting to get old (I say you can start yelling, “Get off my lawn, you whippersnapper!” as soon as you hit 30) I am definitely grateful for that.

    • Wow, really?! That’s unfortunate 🙁

      Sweet, so I just have five and a half years before I can take my teeth out and become the crazy lady on the corner 🙂

  2. I’d say a majority of the money I spend, that isn’t supporting myself in NYC, is on relationships. Going to brunch, to movies, to happy hours and the biggie…traveling to see my friends who don’t live in NYC (which is a majority) and of course, Peach.

    My beef with early retirement how unrealistic it is for people living in high-income areas with relatively low-paying jobs. Major props to people who are able to save enough to retire early (and want to live at a certain income level forever). But you have to be willing to make major sacrifices, especially in where you’re living.

    I’m glad you’re having the opportunity to spend time with Steve’s family!

    • Yeah, we definitely spend more doing things together than purchasing stuff. And seeing family of course, as I’ve been to see my family twice since I moved, he flew out to see his brother, and now we’re both in Jordan!

      I think balance is key. I could never go into extreme frugality mode (unless I absolutely had to due to job loss or other financial hardship), but I see value now in putting away “extra” money than I originally did. As long as I’m still enjoying life, why not? It does help that Portland doesn’t have a high cost of living and I love the city!

  3. Great post! Also, all that money I am saving and investing – putting towards early retirement?

    In a way I am “YOLOing” with that money, too. The way I see it, I am spending that money, a portion at a time on financial independence/early retirement. I want to buy my freedom so I can spend more time on personal relationships and doing nice things for people!

  4. Caveat: I’m an ER guy.

    The reason I think “you can’t take it with you” is so bad is that YOLO and the consumerist mindset it spawns are incredibly selfish. Yes, *we* only live once, but buying a bunch of crap you don’t need to ride the hedonic treadmill just creates landfill waste that future generations will curse us for.

    Another argument is that by NOT spending it all, all the time, you’re much better prepared for truly important emergencies: like two tickets to Jordan on a moment’s notice.

    My condolences on your loss.

    • like

    • This is a seriously great comment. The YOLO excuse to spend money on unnecessary crap is cray.

      Unfortunately, I committed a huge financial no-no at the end of the year and used my emergency fund to pay down debt. So a lot of the trip was financed :(. I’m always learning my lessons the hard way and I will definitely prioritize building my savings back up when I return.

      Thank you.

  5. Sadly I’ve watched one too many relationships crumble because of someone having workaholic tendencies. Of course you need to make money to live, but at what point do you end up sacrificing everything else? Great post! I’m glad you’re enjoying Jordan, but I wish it was under better circumstances.

    • It kills me when people prioritize work over people. I mean, you have to work, but when your relationships are falling apart, maybe it is time to re-prioritize…

      I wish it was under better circumstances as well, but I’m glad I was able to come. I’m truly grateful for freelancing this month 🙂 I can’t imagine the look I would’ve gotten if I was still a tax accountant and asked to leave for most of January!

  6. Wonderful post, Erin. I’m with you, any discretionary income I spend, I want it to be on cultivating my relationships or adding to new experiences (with those people I want to cultivate relationships with). I feel like early retirement and the YOLO mentality have something in common – they are both really extreme. I prefer more balanced paths. I’m planning on leaving my office job before I’m 30, but I won’t be drawing off my investments to live. I still want to work, but the key for me is to be able to make the switch to working for myself – instead of not working at all – and only worrying about making enough to cover living expenses (since I’ll have saved enough to let it compound and be ready for me to start living off when I’m in my 50s or 60s).

    • Totally! Most of our discretionary income is spent on activities we do as a couple, as well as travel. I’m glad I’ve mostly done away with my old tendencies to accumulate crap I don’t need.

      Balance is the name of the game. I think you can easily save more than other people without sacrificing quality of life. Most people seem to be spending that extra money on stuff anyways. My husband likes working in general and I like doing the work I do now, so I don’t see us ever vegging out and doing nothing. But it would be nice to know that we could!

  7. #PREACH

  8. Also (hit ‘post’ to quick!) having tons of money saved up on your death helps out your FAMILY sooooooo much! For paying for funeral stuff, helping those left behind with college, down payments, etc etc…

    I used to want to have all my money spent too by the time I’m up in the clouds, but that changed the day I had a kid.

    • Agreed. When my grandpa died, everything was already planned and paid for. It certainly made things a lot easier for my family. In this case, it wasn’t expected, but my in-laws had the cash to cover medical and funeral expenses due to diligent saving. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be dealing with both grief AND financial distress.

  9. Great post Erin! I especially love the part about investing in relationships instead of in stupid stuff. I definitely need to get better at this. I’m good at showing my feelings/love for my hubby but maybe not so much for my family, not that I don’t love them, we’re just not an affectionate family.

    I save because I do want to have an earlier than 65 retirement but I don’t feel the need to retire at 45 or something like that. I never really get FOMO as I’m more of a homebody anyways. I also wouldn’t want to leave my family in the lurch with debt to pay and a funeral (which are damn expensive!) so even if I were to die tomorrow, I would want not to be a burden after death.

    • I grew up in a relatively affectionate family, but I know it can be difficult to express love when your family isn’t overly affectionate. For my non-affectionate relatives, I just make sure to tell them I love them regularly. Sometimes they say it back, sometimes they don’t — but it’s still important for me that they know 🙂

      I have no desire to leave my family with a burden when I die either. I would never want to leave people with both grief and financial distress because I failed to plan adequately.

  10. Interesting! I’ve never had this mindset. Actually the opposite thoughts give me motivation to paying off debt and bumping up saving.

    If I get down on myself that it will take “forever” to pay off this loan or “forever” to save for a trip, I give myself a reality check. I’ll have this loan paid off in a year? 3 years? 5 years? And how many more years do I have to live…. FIFTY! (yep, i’ll make it at least to 80!) FIFTY MORE YEARS OF MY LIFE…. what’s a few years of paying off debt when i’ll have the entire rest of my life to enjoy being debt-free. Those thoughts encourage me when I feel like I will never be debt-free.

    • That’s a great way to look at it Leslie and I’ve never thought about it that way! You are absolutely right, although it feels like I’ll be in debt “forever”, it’s really only a few years. Thanks for the new perspective!

  11. My life goal is always trying to find that balance. I do sometimes think I could die tomorrow, or live until I’m 100, but that doesn’t stop me from saving or make me make bad choices. I do spend extra on travel, friendships and love. I am realizing it’s so important. If money can buy you that flexibility to see people more often and enjoy life, then of course you should save and value money’s power in that regard.

    • That balance is difficult and something I’m constantly trying to achieve. Life has so many uncertainties, but hopefully I’ll make the right financial choices to both save for my future and work on my relationships.

  12. First, my condolences on the death of your mother-in-law. It is so hard to say farewell to loved ones. When you wrote this, you actually hit upon some thoughts that Jesus had to say about money. He knew that money can get in the way of a lot of things–our relationships with others and with God. If fact, He said that “a man’s life is not measured by the abundance of his possessions.” What is in his heart is the most important thing.

    He also said to “Keep yourself free from the love of money.” He did not mean that we could not earn money, enjoy it, save or spend it. What he meant is that money is not the most important thing. He understands that most of us must toil and work in this world for a living. But it is true that we can’t take it with us. “For your heart will always be where your riches are,” He also said. He wants us to think of what comes after this world too and be prepared to live with Him. If we gather all the money in the world but don’t think of eternity, what good is it? I know that a death in my family many years ago prompted me to think of these things too. I also discovered that God has ALWAYS provided for our family, but I couldn’t understand that until I really let go of my worries about money!

  13. I love #3 – actually, I think it’s one of the best reasons to be financially responsible. I’ve spent most of the last decade away from home and the whole reason I started an emergency savings account was because I was super freaked out that something bad might happen at home and I’d be on the other side of the world and too broke to get home quick enough. Since then, I’ve been able to use my extra income on plane tickets home for the holidays or on trips with my family or best friends… and I’ve never considered any of those times wasted money. But being able to do those things without going into crazy debt required being financially responsible, keeping a budget and living below my means.

  14. I find it hard to flip the switch on this sort of thinking: there is a part of me that wants to live the typical YOLO lifestyle. It’s that stupid Monkey Brain that Jason Hull writes about, always wanting to live for now. And there is, I guess, a kernel of truth in that. But I’m trying to get a better handle on the things you’re talking about: not worrying about the fact that this money is going to be given to other people and charities when I go, and to invest in my future and relationships, anyway.

  15. Well said Erin. I had some of the same thoughts after my wife lost her grandfather. In the end, people matter. Money just allows you the freedom to spend more time with them. I think that “YOLO” line of thought is just an excuse to do immature and irresponsible things sometimes. Not to mention, it’s the worst acronym in history. Take care!

  16. Really sorry to hear about your loss Erin. We lost both of my in-laws over the last several years and it was a difficult time but also presented an opportunity to reconnect with family members. I’m saving for tomorrow and making the most of each and every day!

  17. Sorry to hear about your recent losses. My HB lost a very close family member so I know what you mean when it changes your perspective on things. For instance, I never did too much thinking about retirement planning or life insurance, but after everything happened it really showed me how important those things are and why saving for the future now is so crucial.

  18. I feel your pain, and am sorry for your loss. 🙁

    It’s funny, my post was titled the opposite of this one, but we’re essentially saying the same thing. It really doesn’t matter, because what DOES matter has nothing to do with money.

    I think we share a very similar money philosophy, cemented by the recent tragedies. My condolences to you and your family.

    • Thank you, Jacob.

      I was thinking that when I read your piece. It’s amazing how much suddenly becomes clear when you suffer a loss, although, it would be nice to not learn these lessons the hard way.

  19. I never know what to say in this type of situation, even though I have been in it myself a few times. There is nothing we can say to make you or Steve feel better but I’m going to try anyways. I am so sorry for your loss, my heart goes out to you you both and your family. I love that you are working through this by writing, I find it’s a healthy form of therapy. Everything becomes clear in death and there are just so many emotions involved. Stay strong and think of all the positive things in your life.

  20. I’ve heard that before: “You don’t know what tomorrow will bring. You don’t even know if there will BE a tomorrow. So spend your money!”
    Here’s the thing, Einsteins: There generally *is* a tomorrow, and it generally costs at least as much as today.
    My frugal mantra is “I save where I can so I can spend where I want.” Which is why I can afford those tomorrows while still enjoying today. Viva balance!

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