There’s more to life than a spreadsheet

Screen shot 2009-12-06 at Dec 6, 2009, 9.41.49 PMI was having a conversation with my financial analyst buddy about saving/investing. He’s the person that convinced me to start a Roth IRA and ultimately is responsible for my PF addiction. I wrote a post a couple months back that laid out my retirement game plan. I essentially calculated I should easily be able to have a cool $6,000,000 waiting for me. As my buddy and I were talking, he said something profound: “I’m starting to realize there is more to life than a spreadsheet.”

WTF! More to life than a spreadsheet? Forgive him PF god, for my financial analyst friend has sinned. How could there be life outside of a spreadsheet? Microsoft Excel defines my goals and ambitions in a few simple calculations. Surely my friend had to be under the influence of some mind altering drug. Right?

Wrong. Even though Friend Ninja loves excel much more than I, he is learning that plans change, which means his spreadsheet/retirement/life will also change. In the world of PF we rely on spreadsheets, budgets, and calculators to determine exactly what kind of life we are going to live, and even how to go about getting there. Shoot, I’d be willing to bet most of you also share some type of crush on excel.

But, through my friend’s wisdom, I’m realizing there is more to life than being loaded. Sure, I have a goal to have $6,000,000 at retirement, but would I be bummed about having $2,000,000 waiting for me? Heck no I wouldn’t. Especially if it meant I got to have a higher quality of life for the 40 years preceding retirement.

My spreadsheet was focused on 65 and older. I completely forgot one day I will be 35. You know what happens when you are 35? You have two and a half kids, a mortgage payment, and a dog named Larry (wouldn’t Larry be a funny dog name?). I want to have an awesome life my whole life, not just when it comes time to retire. How am I gonna be able to afford to ‘live the dream’ pre-retirement? You guessed it, live outside of my spreadsheet.

I might have to sacrifice a retirement contribution here and there, so I can take a vacation to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Wales (I don’t know how to pronounce it, but it’s a real place). Or maybe I’ll give up a million at retirement, for a 2nd home in the mountains when I’m 40. I get so focused on saving and investing, that I forget to spend. I guess it is a good problem to have, but it IS still a problem. Sometimes my frugal side possesses me and it takes a little common sense from my friends to slap me back in to reality.

Do you live your life according to a spreadsheet? Do you have defined goals for the ‘short term’ (10 yrs from now)? Were you once obsessed with saving for retirement, but now realize you wish you had used some of that cash for other purposes? Do tell, ’cause I’m very curious if you live inside or outside the spreadsheet.

23 thoughts on “There’s more to life than a spreadsheet

  1. Plus, sometimes when life does happen outside of your spreadsheets, you can feel like you've let your spreadsheet down…it's a bad thing that a file makes you feel guilty.

  2. Right on, Ninja! I think half the point of setting high goals is that even if you don't reach them, you've still managed to get yourself further than you might have if you hadn't set such a high goal — the difference between retiring with $6M and not having any fun vs. retiring with $2M and having enjoyed the journey.

    For the record, my family used to have a dog named Dave. He was the best ๐Ÿ™‚ My buddy has cats named Steve and Louise ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. I sometimes cheat on Excel spreadsheets with Google spreadsheets. Google spreadsheets have this awesome function (GoogleFinance(“symbol”, “attribute”)), where you can pull stock prices and such right into your spreadsheet from GoogleFinance.

    But, imo, everything in life can be explained in the spreadsheet (math).

  4. We all TOTALLY need a life outside of spreadsheets. The key is all about balance (of course, how to achieve said balance is another matter). As for me, I'm heading over to pay homage to House of Mouse (aka Disney World) this Christmas, which will do nothing for my financial bottom-line but will make a very happy vacation. Sometimes you need little things like that to keep you going. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. For the reasons you mentioned, I really have never made retirement projects other than the ones built into my 401k at work (which don't include my Roth IRA at all). I just save as much as I can without feeling toooo pinched. Which is weird, because I'm very very goal oriented in the shorter term and other areas in my life.

    I do have many cash goals in the next 10 years (newer car, home, and probably a family) so I have to remind myself not to shortchange those.

  6. "Spreadsheets won't keep you warm." Unless you print them out and use them to sleep on train-tracks but then I don't know any bums with access to printer… ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anyway… while I have the opposite problem in being too present-minded (I have a dog with a person's name and no retirement savings of which to speak), I agree wholeheartedly. Life is all about balance and you are smart to realize this so young!

    To any PF lovers having a hard time striking a balance between planning for the future and living the right now, check out Zimbardo's writing on the subject. http://www.thetimeparadox.com/ OR Tolle's bestselling writing http://eckharttolle.com/the_power_of_now

  7. I so agree with WellHeeled that it is about balance.

    Which is why I think it is so stupid that people got angry at Krystal for buying a car. She made a decision outside the spreadsheet and people flamed her for it. (But that is neither here nor there is it?)

    Anyway, I think it is important to plan for the spreadsheet life and adjust according. My spreadsheet life INCLUDES in it travel to exotic places, trips to see my family, car down payments, and future funds for a marriage or a house down payment and saving for college funds for future mini-SS4BCs.

    I guess you could say that I've planned my "spreadsheet" life MORE for age 35-55 than I have for retirement. But that could possibly be because I know there is a great chance I won't live to see those retirement funds. When you have a mom that dies at 41 and a brother at 22, you realize that life is NOW – not in retirement. Though it is good to be prepared "just in case".

    (BTW… according to your picture at life at 35, I still have a house and 2.5 kids to get. Thankfully I have a dog already so I'm partially on track… But his name is Jack, not Larry ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. I read the post title and thought WTF? There is no life beyond the spreadsheet! LOL. J/K. How did you find such a wacked name place for a vacation. And Larry would be great!

    I can't comment on this one, I am too busy digging myself out of debt to be OCD about my retirement. I can't sacrifice living balanced if I want to continue to climb out of this mess. Ask me in a couple years and I'll tell you what I think then. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. I don't have a spreadsheet, but I am living inside of the proverbial spreadsheet…for now. Only because I don't have 2 kids, or a dog, or a mortgage. Within 10 years. though:

    -I'd like attend grad school and have those loans paid off (Not in the spreadsheet)
    -Get married, pay for the wedding (Not in the spreadsheet)
    -Buy a condo and start saving up for a house (The condo is sort of in the spreadsheet, but the house…I'm not sure how it will make it into the spreadsheet)
    -My net worth to be six figures (low or high…no preference…lol!)

    I'll keep you posted on how I'm doing with that

  10. I think you're talking about Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyll-llantysiliogogogoch, Wales and I've been there. Just passing through though, not vacationing. But of course, I got my picture taken with the sign!

  11. I live WITH the spreadsheet. I don't let it run my life, and I don't allow my life to conform to it without question. Today in fact, I took a look at a little something in my "Grand Plan" and discovered that one item no longer fit my current circumstances… I'd grown out of it! So I changed it! This little tweak actually allows me a little bit more of both: life and planning ahead. Yay for changing with the circumstances and not letting numbers run my show!

  12. Great Post! Probably one of your better ones, because it deals with the reality that we all face. I want to be out of debt as soon as possible, but making my wife unhappy and forcing her to eat rice and beans for three months is not worth it. In due time we will be out of debt, as long as we live within our budget. We are cutting our debt significantly each month, but I still do not want to cut our quality of life. I want to enjoy life without constantly thinking about money! Life is more than money. Thanks for the thoughts NINJA!

  13. money != happiness

    until you learn that, really embrace it, you will never be happy no matter how much money you save NOR how much money you spend!

  14. Great Article .. your article take people aware in their life in the future. And Thanks so much for a wonderful idea . I was a little nervous about expense in my family without a Realtor and doing my own lease, but
    now i found that this is not the hard thing to do.

  15. I do, in fact, have a dog named Larry. He's a 7-year-old miniature long-haired piebald dachshund. And yes, he is chock full of awesome.

  16. I am 37, two kids, stay at home wife, mortgage, no pets. The spreadsheet has been with me longer than my wife or kids. Its had a few revisions, a few data purges, a few false assumptions, a few child spreadsheets, but it survives and its awesome. It has grown to 66 tabs (just counted, holy crap). Its backed up a few places, although they are not totally current.

    But it is used for much more than tracking where I'll be at 65. It keeps my checkbook register (little overlap with mint), it tracks home improvement plans, it has (the precious) net worth model, including a soviet style five year model. It has multiple mortgage amortization schedules, tax return estimates (several years worth), the whole nine. In short, it tracks things long term, short term, mid term, past tense and totally non financial that I am thinking about. So it lives with me.

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