It’s Not About The Money…

I caught myself saying something pretty lame the other day, making me then feel old as balls:

“The younger generation doesn’t appreciate money these days.”

It seemed accurate in the context of our conversation, but then again I could be totally wrong. After all, what does a guy in his mid-30’s know about being in his early 20s again? He can’t even remember his 21st birthday! And not just because he blacked out (which he did).

Still, I’m 87% certain most “kids” would rather be doing anything else than creating a budget or investing in their 401ks or thinking about retirement, etc. And I think that’s because they’re all thinking about it wrong. Just like I did back then too (that part I remember ;)).

I want to shake them all up and tell ’em:

“It’s not about the money. It’s about what the money GIVES YOU.”

Yeah it’s awesome to say you’re a millionaire and can buy anything you want, but more importantly it’s the freedom it gives you to do whatever the hell you want in life. No matter how boring you think managing your money is, there’s no denying all the sexy $hit it let’s you do.

Such as….

  • Never having to work again
  • Never having to think about money again
  • Throwing a party anytime you want
  • Skateboarding all hours of the night
  • Going on unlimited road trips
  • Hiking/camping/biking/anything else outdoorsy people do
  • Donating thousands to the Make Pot Legal Everywhere Foundation
  • Going out on tour with your band
  • Getting to read books all day long
  • Starting a company
  • Volunteering anytime you want
  • Blogging at a coffee shop 24/7
  • Blaring music in your mom’s own back yard
  • And whatever else you hipsters like to do… (my apologies for all the clichés, btw)

In other words, money let’s you do whatever the f*ck you want if managed well. You have to hustle and save up/invest/sacrifice/pay attention to it all to get to that point of course, but once you’re there it’s golden. And you get more motivated as time goes on throughout the process.

THAT’S the part we need to be focusing on – “the dream.” Not the annoying steps you have to do to get there, which, let’s face it, is annoying. You really have to want this stuff bad enough and start taking action NOW – while you still have tons of time on your side so you don’t have to be working at 60 or 70, or God forbid 80 at the end of your lives. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Some people even “retire” in their 20s and 30s! If you need a swift kick in the ass, go check out my man Mr Money Mustache or Jacob from Those guys got their money on lock early and are now enjoying the beauty that freedom affords you. Another great site is Paula’s over at too. She’s all about mixing pleasure and work on her own watch and not worrying about the $$$ anymore.

Most of you reading this of course already know this, but we can always still use a refresher. And a lot of the younger gen have been hitting me up recently on this blog, so this is more of a shout out to them than anything. Gotta make sure I’m representin’ up in here, know what I’m sayin’? Do y’all still say “representin'” btw? No? Really? Damn.

Anyways, remember: If you want a kick-ass, stress-free, life doing whatever it is you like doing, start paying attention to your money NOW. Keep reading and hustling and getting excited about it, and one day we’ll both be chillin’ at the beach drinking our dranks and doing our thangs… you know how we do! That’s so ratchet!

(Disclaimer: I have no idea what “ratchet” actually means…)

[Photo cred: Brad.K]

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  1. July 25, 2014 at 6:04 AM

    Minding your money when you’re young helps relieve stress as you’ll never worry that if you lose your job you lose your lifestyle. Money frees you from stress that ends up taking time off of your life

  2. Prudence Debtfree July 25, 2014 at 6:59 AM

    I was in my mid-thirties when you were blacking out on your 21st birthday, and I can assure you that the “older” generation doesn’t appreciate money these days either. Here in Canada, 60% of people retire in debt. Ouch! Fortunately, it’s never too late to get on the right track : )

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 7:05 AM

      Yes – Amen to that!

    2. Darrell July 25, 2014 at 12:53 PM

      I came here to say this. This isn’t a younger generation issue…this is a people issue. In fact, I’d argue that the Baby Boomers are much more materialistic than Gen Y’ers. There is an odd street cred that younger people can get driving a car with a mis-matched tail light. You’re doing good deeds by making people think about finances in a fun way.

  3. Brian @ Debt Discipline July 25, 2014 at 7:18 AM

    Teaching my kids about this well before they are in their 20’s. Don’t want them making the same mistakes I’ve made. Ratchet you say? I thought it was a video game.

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 12:43 PM

      (I just spit out my coffee)

  4. Kalen @ MoneyMiniBlog July 25, 2014 at 7:33 AM

    Good stuff! It’s easy for people to get caught up with an obsession of money and not focus on the freedom money gives you. Money is a tool that can help you live the life you want to live, but if you start to view it as important on it’s own, you probably won’t be too happy. Even the value of our money is only there, because we agree it has value. It’s really not about the money! I loved the cliches by the way. HAHA

  5. Catina July 25, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    From the Urban Dictionary:
    “Ratchet: A diva, mostly from urban cities and ghettos, that has reason to believe she is every mans eye candy. Unfortunately, she’s wrong.”

    Maybe “That’s so Dope!” (Although this clearly shows my age)
    Or…”That’s so BOSS!” (Little more current?)

    Cliches are cool!
    P.S. Great article as usual… :-)

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 12:47 PM

      HAH! I can get down with “boss.”
      Isn’t there a rap song like that? “I’m Bossyyyy”

      1. Catina July 25, 2014 at 3:35 PM

        Yes, BUT….here is my personal fav that you should duplicate and drop some Budgets are Sexy SNL type FLAVA…LOL >>>

        It should be a crime to love Rick Ross at my age.

        1. J. Money July 26, 2014 at 9:04 AM

          I think he needs to be a little bit more hardcore ;)

          1. Catina July 26, 2014 at 11:49 AM

            HAHA! Right?! ***hangs head in shame due to bad rap addictions***

  6. Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life July 25, 2014 at 8:41 AM

    I wound up in the hospital on my 21st birthday after stupidly mixing nyquill with a heavy night of drinking and busting my lip open on the bathroom sink… ANYWAY… I did actually read something about how millennials are saving for their futures MORE aggressively than gen X and the boomers- found that interesting.

    1. Brian July 25, 2014 at 10:16 AM

      But isn’t that countered by the fact that more millennials are saving their money in cash/cash equivalents because the are afraid of risk due to growing up during the “great recession”?

      1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 12:49 PM

        As long as they’re saving that’s all I care about! Can never go horribly wrong even with it burried in your back yard ;)

        1. Jason July 31, 2014 at 12:18 AM

          Gen Y won’t get ahead by putting money in CDs and money market funds that pay less then inflation. They will simply fall behind slower.

          1. J. Money July 31, 2014 at 9:14 AM

            it’s not ideal of course, but isn’t it much better than the alternative of not saving at all? baby steps with this stuff…

            1. Jason August 1, 2014 at 1:34 AM

              Yes it is better than saving nothing but it still won’t be enough. Gen Y should expect to provide 100% of their retirement; pensions are a thing of the past. They won’t get there saving in CD’s at 1% interest when inflation is 2%. They are wasting the most precious commodity of all – TIME.

              I’ve gone through this with new engineers I work with who are saving 10% of their income in our 401K’s fixed value option. Plug into retirement planner. Age 25 – Retire 67 – Salary $65,000 – Save 10% – Expected Raise 2% – Income Require @ Retirement 90% – Rate of Return 3% – Rate of Inflation 3%.

              The result is that they retire at 67 and are out of money at age 72.

              1. J. Money August 1, 2014 at 6:46 AM

                Believe me, I agree with you :) We all need to be saving a lot more than we are in general. But you start with saving *something*, then you continue adding more in over time and get awesome at it. But you tell a person (esp young person) they need to save 20-30-40% off the bat and they shut down cuz it’s too hard sounding. Gotta start small and work your way up.

                1. Jason August 1, 2014 at 8:50 PM

                  That the thing though, if people start young AND invest in something like a S&P 500 index funds with low fees and good returns they don’t have to save 20-40%

                  If you run the same numbers above but change the rate of return while working from 3% to 7% that person doesn’t run out of money until they are 82. Up the percentage to 15% and it goes to 91.

                  The rate of return matters. People only have to save 20-40% if they start late in live or insist on saving in safe but low return investments.

                  1. J. Money August 3, 2014 at 12:35 PM

                    Oh, yes – for sure. You should have said THAT in the beginning and I would have gotten you a lot faster ;) I don’t know if people are too scared to start there vs savings/cds/etc, but I agree – much better to be in the market from the get go than miniscule interest accounts.

  7. John @ Wise Dollar July 25, 2014 at 8:42 AM

    Could not agree more J! I just finished a post yesterday actually that was somewhat along these lines – that you need to have something to tie back your money to. Money is great and all, but you need to have something that drives you and the beauty is that can be whatever the heck you want it to be. If you manage it right, then you can use that money to get you the freedom you want. I too blacked out on my 21st birthday and so glad I finally woke up as it were. :)

  8. Will July 25, 2014 at 9:05 AM

    This is so true. It’s not actually about money – it’s about what money can do.

    I want to retire by 30… so yes, I’ll pay attention to money at 24. What’s crazy is NOT thinking about money early.

    Anywho, I think ratchet refers to a wrench that you don’t have to remove from the bolt each time you run out of room.

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 12:50 PM

      You’re so hip ;)

  9. Retired By 40! July 25, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    What changed my life – and what will hopefully teach my daughter the correct perspective about money – is that every dollar that you save is an employee. And each and every employee you save works to make more money for you. It’s all about perspective!

    1. BOB July 25, 2014 at 12:32 PM

      I agree. A high school economics teacher kept telling us to not waste our money on customizing mini trucks so that we can look cool while driving it while wearing out hats on backwards. Instead, he recommending investing that money. He told us that you can’t(most people, at least) get rich by just working, and you have to put your money to work. He used the example of 1 dollar equals 1 employee, and that stuck on my head till this day. 13 years later, I’m now 31, and I wish I would have taken action on his advice earlier on. I have a nice nest egg so far, but it would be a lot better had I started investing 13 years ago. I blame it on not having access to all the investment websites that we have access to now. Now, people don’t have an excuse.

    2. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 12:53 PM

      Agreed. Love it. 100%.

      I remember an article a few months back saying what makes it worse is when you release these employees (they called them “solidiers”) for stuff that hurts you in more than just financial ways too. Like when spent on cigarettes that not only kill the soldiers but also infiltrate your body and hurt you physically too. And then get you addicted requiring you to give away even MORE soldiers as time goes on!

      I’ll never look at a cigarette the same again :)

  10. Noonan July 25, 2014 at 9:33 AM

    Right on, old dude! ;)

    Budgets are sexy only because FREEDOM is sexy!

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 12:54 PM

      You know it.

      And budgets/freedom = confidence too! Which is also very sexy :)

  11. Ben Luthi July 25, 2014 at 9:40 AM

    I struggle sometimes when I see my wife’s younger siblings throw away their money on garbage. They grew up in a pretty well-to-do family and got used to having nice things, but don’t realize that their dad worked for a long time before he could afford what he has.

  12. EL July 25, 2014 at 9:43 AM

    I know a few folks who retired with hardly any money, they just try to make ends meet off the system. (Social Security) But these younger generations have to prepare because if republicans get a chance they will get rid of it. I don’t want to get political on this comment, but it is the truth, as they always state a change is needed to SS in their debates.

    1. Iron Mike Sharpe July 25, 2014 at 10:10 AM

      A change IS needed to SS. It has nothing to do with political party. The system cannot keep paying out the same level of benefits with the money it brings in. Either payments need to be brought down, more money needs to come in, or a combination of both.

      1. Aimee July 25, 2014 at 10:48 AM

        I think the solution is to stop maintaining highways. Everyone drives SUVs anyway right???? (I don’t drive a SUV)

        1. ThriftyHamster July 25, 2014 at 11:32 AM

          I think we’re on to something. Stop maintaining highways, at some point they’ll get too rough for even SUV’s. As a result people be required to ditch their vehicles and move within walking distance to work. They’d save a bundle of money.

          Of course such a situation would happen with out any whining or complaining. ;)

          1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 12:55 PM

            Yeah, I’m staying out of this thread, haha….

  13. Nicola July 25, 2014 at 10:08 AM

    Great post! I want the freedom wealth brings you more than the wealth itself, I think. It’s about what money can give you, not having the month itself, if that makes sense? :)

  14. Tiffany A. July 25, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    So true, J. This message actually has been at the forefront of my mind lately. Not exactly the topic on which you are writing, but which applies nonetheless. There are some things (well, experiences for me) that are PRICELESS – and because I’m so careful with my money, I feel more comfortable living in the moment and not worrying about money in these instances. For example, one of my favorite things is hosting singer/songwriters at my house for private concerts (I actually rent a clubhouse but that’s besides the point). These events are usually quite costly, because I not only have to pay the artist but have to provide their meal (usually sushi), clubhouse rental, drinks for guests, etc. “Donations” from guests help subsidize the cost but I never break even. This doesn’t really matter to me, but to my super money conscious mother who is so frugal she washes paper towels to re-use them, I need to do everything possible to maximize my ‘profit’ and make my money back.

    To me, the fact that I get to host such an event and hang out with my friends and these artists that I’ve come to know – there is no price on that. So the point of money vs. creating memories that I will never ever forget for the rest of my life – is pretty contentious between my mom and I. But I stand my ground. Knowing that I have these events and how much I love them, helps me pare down my costs elsewhere – for example, I don’t go out to movies and rarely go to other concerts. I don’t even have cable. But putting my money and energy into these events – and supporting the music and artists that are now my friends – means so much more than just a price tag.

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 1:01 PM

      Love this story!! Good for you for *prioritizing* both your money and what brings you joy – that is the way to do it, my friend. No doubt. At the end of the day it’s YOUR life too – even if it was financially stupid to do (which it’s not, in my opinion). Parents and friends will always want to help advise and look out for the general good of you, but they don’t always know how to do it :) Hopefully as a parent myself I’ll be able to recognize this too!

      Thanks so much for taking the time to share all this with us. Great example of the power of money and paying attention to it :) I want to attend one of your gatherings!

      1. Tiffany A. July 26, 2014 at 8:28 PM

        Yeah, it’s all about the freedom to make choices that are best for YOU – that is the power of money :) It can make for some great memories if you let it!

        J, you’re always invited my friend – next one is in late September (for my absolute favorite artist Brendan James). Even if you can’t make the show, you should check out his tunes – he writes some phenomenal stuff – and I think his lyrics would resonate with you! (The name of his latest album is ‘Simplify’ ;)

        1. J. Money July 28, 2014 at 11:36 AM

          I do like the sound of that – going to google him now :)

  15. Hannah July 25, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    By ratchet do you mean fetch? (For some reason the end of your post reminded me of Mean Girls).

    I’m glad I was able to start investing directly after college. It has definitely freed up our family to live on one income (although I can’t be a stay at home mom yet since my husband is in grad school).

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 1:05 PM

      FETCH! It’s going to catch on!!! Haha..

      That is the meaning I was going for though actually, well done :)

  16. connieK July 25, 2014 at 11:12 AM

    I just wonder how [retired] people – referring back to your list at top – can “Throw a party anytime they want” or “Go on unlimited road trips,” or things of that exact nature. The retirees with whom I talk in my ‘hood (Cincinnati, OH) all say “You can never have enough $ for retirement and you constantly have to watch so you don’t outlive your cash!” They say it’s stressful! Does anyone else feel the way that I do, which is: I seem to have a really good handle saving for ‘monthly expenses’ in retirement (you know, car insurance, utilities, those types of expected expenses)… but it’s the ‘capital expenditures’ with which I’m totally struggling… like I am 44 years old, hoping to retire at or just after 55 (not raising kids!), and it JUST RECENTLY hit me I’m gonna have to save say an extra $30k to purchase a used car or two in retirement! That’s completely separate than working your butt off to save for monthly expenses! And what about travel, and furniture like a new bed? Honestly I am totally freaking out… help! :) Love y’all~ love this blog!

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 1:20 PM

      I can’t speak as a retiree cuz I’m not one yet, but it seems if you’re always worrying about money then you either retired too early or didn’t have enough of it saved/invested before you hit the button. (Or a big unforeseen event happened like a health scare/etc). Either way, it’s no fun being stressed out constantly with money so I feel for them :(

      The nice part though is that you can always DO SOMETHING about it, though it may not be fun. Like, picking up another job or side hustle while in retirement or letting go of certain aspects to your lifestyle. Just depends how bad you want one thing over another really.

      Same with your cars :) Is it worth working longer to save for that $30k, or saying screw it and changing your lifestyle to not need cars as much? I’m a car man myself (though I stick with beat-up $3,000 cars! Haha…) so I feel naked without one, but many will just dump them and adapt because freedom is sweeter to them.

      It always comes down to lifestyle in the end. And the less expenses you have to live in this beautiful world of ours, the more freedom you’ll eventually get. It’s a hard balance that we ALL struggle with!

  17. Shannon McLay July 25, 2014 at 11:44 AM

    I would say that you are 100% correct that most “kids” don’t really think much about their money. The problem is that 65% are graduating with student loan debt and the student loans act as a big mountain that they can’t see beyond. They fixate on them to the point that they don’t think about life beyond student loan repayment. The ones that don’t have student loan debt just believe what the “financial experts” tell them and that is that retirement is 3 or 4 lifetimes away, which is impossible to get your arms around when you are in your 20s. If there were more widespread conversations about financial freedom vs. retirement, people young and old would have more interest in focusing on it. Freedom sounds so much better than retirement.

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 1:23 PM

      You could be totally right on that, for sure. Which is an even BETTER reason to get on top of it now before you give up on living a nice life and letting it jade you forever! Debt is no fun no matter how you look at it, but even more so is living a horrible stressed life. Which is good that advisers like YOU are around to help them snap out of it! :) It’s a hurdle, yes – a huge one – but it’s jumpable. Not if you hide your head in the sand forever though.

  18. Broke Millennial July 25, 2014 at 11:48 AM

    Skateboarding all hours of the night?! Why didn’t anyone mention that….I would’ve started saving so much more!

    Sarcasm aside, it’s always a good reminder to focus on the why. I’ve gone through a bit of a money hemorrhage lately just because I’ve wanted to finally let loose and enjoy the present a little. I do need to find out how to moderate it better and you’ll be pleased to know I’ve started tracking every penny I spend (just for the next four weeks) to see where I can trim the fat.

  19. Kassandra July 25, 2014 at 11:57 AM

    I agree that it is about how badly do you want to achieve financial success/independence or anything else for that matter and then actually doing something about it! Most of my nieces and nephews who are in their twenties are not thinking about their financial future (even though their cool aunt has tried to give them a heads up) and are generally not very ambitious.
    When I was in my twenties, although I spent way too much money, at least I was very driven in going after the goals I wanted to achieve. It is never too late to learn, but if younger people only understood that if they started now, it would result in a lot less financial stress later on!

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 1:28 PM

      Yup! It really is about being ambitious too – you’re right. Maybe we need to make it into a game or challenge for people :) Get their competitive side going while securing their future at the same time!

  20. Becky @ RunFunDone July 25, 2014 at 12:03 PM

    I was just talking to a co-worker who is the same age as me, who makes a very similar salary to me. She was shocked to learn that I’m maxing out my 401k. Meanwhile she was not saving ANYTHING towards retirement. She said, “Wouldn’t you rather just spend the money now???” I gave her a quick lesson in compounding and talked to her about the freedom that will come in the future because I’ve made a choice to save money now. Guess what? She agreed that she’ll start saving for retirement! I’ve done some good in the world!!!

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 1:29 PM

      WAY TO GO ROCKSTAR!!! You could have single-handedly saved her from a life of stress and sadness, way to go :) Where were you 10 years ago for me??

  21. Scott July 25, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    Freedom! I tried to explain this concept to someone on the MMM forum who seemed to be almost complaining that having a Million dollars wasn’t all that exciting. I feel sorry for people that can’t conceive of doing anything else except work and make money.

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 1:31 PM

      Let me guess – they said a million dollars wasn’t worth a million dollars any more?

      That $hit drives me crazy… guess we should just all give up now and call it a day as thousandaires :)

  22. Andrew@LivingRichCheaply July 25, 2014 at 1:05 PM

    Being in my mid 30s also…it doesn’t feel like my 21st birthday was that long ago…but it’s been over a decade. Wow, where does the time go?! I don’t think I blacked out, but let’s just say my memory of that day is pretty fuzzy and I’m sure I had a pounding headache the next day. Anyways, I’ve always been a saver but didn’t really have any goals or plans…really loved that I found MMM. Financial Freedom at a young age…didn’t know it was possible or something that normal people could attain until I started reading his blog and ERE.

    1. J. Money July 25, 2014 at 1:33 PM

      Right? You have to be open to a total mind shift and figure out how to sacrifice a little, but in the end you’re handsomely rewarded with oodles of time and money to do whatever the hell you want :) And every day that passes I’m realizing just how important *time* is. If we don’t stop to look around we’ll be talking about how long ago being in our 30s was.

  23. Free To Pursue July 25, 2014 at 4:50 PM

    “It’s not about the money. It’s about what the money GIVES YOU.” Amen.

    1. J. Money July 26, 2014 at 9:06 AM

      Well that’s good to hear!! I hope I am wrong for sure. And I hope more so that they all start their own personal finance blogs and then tell all their do-do friends who don’t pay attention to their money!

  24. Michelle@MoneySmartGuides July 26, 2014 at 7:53 PM

    I have to agree because I feel like I did not care about my money until the debt damage was already done and accumulated. I started to get serious about my debt in the past two to three years. I often times find myself thinking what a different situation I could be in now if I would have paid more attention to what my money was and wasn’t doing for me. I hope that when I have children, I can teach them at a young age to make their money work for them and to constantly be watching where their money is going and to continue saving money throughout their life.

  25. Shona From No More Sheeple July 27, 2014 at 6:25 AM

    You’ve hit the nail on the head with this article. Too many people focus only on the money and not what the money is actually able to do for them. By the way, methinks a ratchet is a type of mechanism in a tool, such as a ratchet wrench. :-)

  26. The Wallet Doctor July 27, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    I think you are right to point out that many young people fail to realize that the ability to act that is associated with money is the true draw. They perhaps don’t fully realize just what money enables them to do. I think its easier to loose sight of that when you have few responsibilities like family and the like to worry about.

    1. J. Money July 28, 2014 at 11:37 AM

      True true… nothing gives you a wake up call more than having kids :) Or even getting married for that matter.

  27. No Nonsense Landlord July 27, 2014 at 10:46 PM

    I thought you WERE the younger generation…lol

    Money is the basis for freedom. Without the ability to live below your means, you are destined to be a slave to the rich folks.

    1. J. Money July 28, 2014 at 11:38 AM

      I’m still gonna go around telling people I am the younger generation :)

  28. Done by Forty July 28, 2014 at 12:44 AM

    Yeah, the money itself is kind of the wrong goal. It’s good to accumulate it, but without a good idea about what you’re going to buy with it (early retirement, travel, new career, part time work, family time, etc.) then it’s not going to be that motivating.

  29. Cait Flanders July 28, 2014 at 2:53 AM

    See, and I thought this post was going to be another video of you singing – this time, a cover of Jessie J’s Price Tag.

    1. J. Money July 28, 2014 at 11:38 AM

      Don’t tempt me!

  30. Catherine July 28, 2014 at 10:35 AM

    I read a quote recently from someone who was 65ish that said something like ”I regret not taking the piano up at 40 years of age, it means I would have had 25 years of enjoyment” . Point is, it’s never too late. Now is always better then later, if ever.

  31. J @ the expat investor July 28, 2014 at 2:57 PM

    Love this article J! I’m shooting for financial freedom also. One day I will be able to quit my job and just travel around and don’t have to answer to no one.