YOLO – You Only Live Once. I learnt this term very recently from some of our Centonomy clients who are in university. However, YOLO speaks to a concern many of us have about financial planning. We do only live once, after all, and we do struggle with the concept of doing all this and then not living to see the fruits of our hard work, attempts to be frugal or sacrifices we made to have that business or portfolio.
A few years ago, someone asked me that if they do everything I was telling them to do and then die, what would have been the point? Shouldn’t they have just spent money as they want and lived life to the fullest? To be honest I did not have an answer then. I may have responded with something about balance but I was also confused about that question.
I don’t claim to have a straightforward answer to that, but since then I have kept asking, observing and trying to process information that may attempt to answer that. So this is what I have come up with so far.
It’s not a sacrifice
I have learnt that you cannot see working towards your goal as a sacrifice. I figured this out when I realised the cost of buying lunch everyday is equal to a holiday.
If you spend Shs10,000 on lunch everyday it will add up to Shs3.6million at the end of the year. So for me to go on a holiday, all I had to do was carry lunch instead of buying lunch. Doing this was no longer a sacrifice. It was a step in the right direction, a rung on the ladder.
When we use the word ‘sacrifice’, we usually relate it to denying or taking something away from ourselves. Nobody wants that. Look at your goals.
Maybe the problem is that you do not want it that badly, or you are doing it unwillingly for other people. The holiday had meaning for me. Work towards things that have meaning to you. Things that are more important than the discomfort.
In fact, it is because you only live once that you really want to do the things that are more important than lunch. On my deathbed, I really won’t regret how many restaurant lunches I missed.
Through this same experience, I also learnt that as much as the holiday was great, what I started to experience as a result of doing something different was just as good.
I ate healthier and felt better. I spent time over lunch doing things that were actually constructive rather than idle conversation. I started seeing other areas that I had been wasteful with money and could be put to better use.
When I decided to go for lunch, most of the times it was because there was some meaning to it for example, a good friend I had not caught up with in a while, a mentor, to explore an opportunity or just to give myself a treat that day.
When you do it everyday it is no longer a treat. In other words, even though my objective is in the future i.e. to go on a holiday, it started changing my everyday life.
Even If I had not made it to the holiday, I would have been healthier, wiser, more focused and disciplined as a person. All these things were more important than eating lunch everyday. You only live once, so whatever you are working towards in the future should start changing something about the present.
Ultimately, the future will only occur in a place called “NOW”. Sometimes, we are doing things that are not only destroying the future but the present like the guilt that comes with continuous impulse shopping.
If you are working towards something that has meaning to you, something will start to change.
Need for balance
This brings us back to the balance equation. There is a high probability that you will live past tomorrow. Do you want to live well only today or live well sustainably? I don’t want to go on holiday only once, I want to go on holiday regularly, so carrying packed lunch is now a habit. Even if I did not go on holiday, I would still carry lunch. Do you want to have an over-the-top lifestyle just today because you happen to have a decent income or do you want to have a great life that is sustainable?
This process is not about not doing the things you genuinely like; it is about planning to do them consistently. That is why figuring out what you truly do value is very important, as is aligning your everyday habits so that you can experience that.
Lastly, if there is one thing that seals the debate on YOLO, it is discovering that it cannot be all about you. Living just for yourself gives you a very small view of life.
It is quite difficult to think big when you are only living to please yourself. Everybody has to come to terms with whether they want their life to mean something beyond their consumption.
What legacy do you want to have? What values do you want to impart to the generations that come after you? So that is my two cents on YOLO.