Society forges life templates for people. This is not necessarily a bad thing – it can help people collectively make good decisions – but sometimes the template is badly flawed. For example, the lifestyle template for pretty much the entire developed world (and parts of the developing world) is cumulatively ecologically destructive. Either this will change, or it will kill off most of the human race (which in itself would be a huge change).
In other cases, the harm is personal. For example, adherence to the relationship escalator causes a great deal of preventable drama.
Wait, I’m supposed to talk about personal finance.
Okay. The middle class template in many places, including the United States, is to get a college degree (which needs to be financed), buy a car, buy a house, and get enough assets to retire. This is the main point of middle-class asset accumulation.
What about me? I already have enough college education. I hope I never need to buy a car. I think have a less than 50% chance of ever buying a house, and I am most likely to buy a house if I can somehow buy with cash. I cannot see myself taking out a mortgage. And I’d rather work less hard and have plenty of free time than save for retirement (if people don’t stop killing the environment, the environment might not be capable of supporting billions of people by the time I could ‘retire’ anyway).
So why do I like to build savings? Simple – emergencies, small investments, and luxuries (such as travel). By ‘investment’, I don’t mean buying stocks, I mean being able to purchase stuff which will save me money or increase my income in the long run (such as a menstrual cup).
I am basing my personal finance goals based on my own assessment of my life, not car!house!retirement! This is not unlike forming one’s own relationship patterns instead of going on the relationship escalator. In fact, the default personal finance plan and the relationship escalator are closely intertwined – people are supposed to buy houses as (married) couples, not as single women (which is what my mom did), or with their brother (which is what my dad did), and they are supposed to plan retirement as a couple (instead of firewalling their finances, as my parents are doing).
Heh, it’s obvious who taught me how to approach personal finance.
I am debt free. I’d love to take ‘credit’ for this, but this is mainly because a) I attended public university in California and b) I was born to a family which could pay California public university tuition out of pocket.
The housing, student loan, and overall economic crises are making people rethink the template. While the endemic fraud which caused the crises is utterly repugnant, getting society to rethink the so-called ‘American Dream’ is a good thing. I wish it didn’t come with inflicting intense suffering on the 99%.