“I may not have a lot to give, but what I got, I’ll give to you.”
— from “Can’t Buy Me Love” as performed by The Beatles
Many years ago I attended a church service when the sermon topic was financial giving. Like the rest of the congregation, I was prepared to be instructed on how much to place in the offering on a regular basis, which is not a totally comfortable subject for the speaker or the audience.
The elderly minister, now passed away, smiled as he began speaking, and I was surprised at his remarks. The theme of his sermon was “Give until it feels good.” This impressed me tremendously. Not “Give until it hurts,” but just the opposite. His message, essentially, was that when we feel good about what we’re doing with our money, we’ll know it and be gratified by our actions.
This makes imminent good sense to me. The concept that we should do what makes us feel good with our money is a startling and liberating idea.
Here’s where things get a little bit complicated, though. We have to decide whether our financial decisions bring us temporary or delayed pleasure. Spending without restraint at the store every Saturday or making frivolous online purchases every day may provide short-term elation, but the gratification rarely lasts.
We want good feelings associated with our financial habits that resonate for more than a few minutes. When we dedicate money toward savings or into our retirement accounts first thing every payday, before we get a chance to spend that money on something else, we acknowledge that life is longer than just today’s 24 hours, and that we need to provide for ourselves and our families for the long term. The satisfaction we enjoy from making these types of steady contributions is perhaps more muted than the joy of say, buying a flashy new car, but we are gratified ultimately because we know we’re hopefully growing our assets rather than investing in a depreciating one. And we feel good about providing for ourselves and our loved ones in the future.
Which is not to say that there isn’t some well-deserved and joyful pleasure to be derived from spending on something other than savings or retirement accounts. Money directed toward enjoyable vacations, for instance, is often well spent. We savor the sights, sounds and memories from great journeys for years. The irony, of course, is that those who save regularly are more able to afford vacation spending when the opportunity arises.
It’s like the need to buy nice clothes. Everybody experiences that sensation, but the financially responsible method is to wait for sales and discounts to purchase those things. If we do, we may even feel better when we wear them.
Margaret R. McDowell, ChFC®, AIF®, author of the syndicated economic column “Arbor Outlook,” is the founder of Arbor Wealth Management, LLC, (850.608.6121 – www.arborwealth.net), a “fee-only” registered investment advisory firm located near Sandestin.