With apologies to those who believe in reincarnation, it’s true that you only have one crack at life and implicit in this is that you should live for today. The problem with that is it can lead to a life with unnecessary hardship down the track. The ‘only live once’ approach should perhaps be replaced with a ‘no regrets’ approach. Although on the surface they are similar, the no regrets attitude looks towards the future.
I have heard many a young person justify the personal debt they are in with the line “Well, you only live once!” and I have heard just as many people a few years older express regret at the debt they burdened themselves with when they were younger. So to minimise the chance of regret, I reckon you should think to yourself “You only need to do it tough once.” You get to choose if you will do it tough for a short time by saving up for purchases, or a long time by buying on credit then paying your debts off.
The ‘do it tough once’ thing assumes that you don’t suffer some sort of personal tragedy, illness or disability that you can’t insure yourself against or avoid. Statistics tell us that there is a pretty high chance that you will bit hit with an affliction that’ll lay you off work for a couple of months at some stage in your life. So I guess the reality is that you may have to do it tough twice.
I’m not saying that all the good things you want should be delayed until you no longer have enough teeth to chew your own steak. There is a happy medium between living for today, at a big cost, and not spending a cent ‘til the day you retire. In fact, doing things tough when you’re young means there is little risk of having a retirement where you have to rely on government help.
Doing things tough once also lowers the chances of passing on the burden of debt to your family when you depart. Personally I can think of nothing where I would be more of a failure as a parent than to pass on a large debt with nothing to show for it to my children. Giving my kids the best crack at life has always been a very high priority for me, and being free of debt is a big part of that.
So next time you are tempted to whack that new lounge on credit or buy that car with a loan, think about how much easier life will be later on if you delay the purchase and use your savings instead.