we can generally have anything we want, we can’t have everything we want

Hat-tip to Get Rich Slowly for this piece of philosophy. There’s a deep truth in it – just like the lie has finally been given to the myth of ‘having it all’ that polluted womens’ magazines for so much of the 1990s. Life involves choices, and and what areas to focus one’s intent on is perhaps the most important choice of all.

It’s easy to want to have it all, and let’s face it, who doesn’t? But in a world of finite resources, and finite nervous energy, it is necessary to know our values and priorities.

In the case of that article, it was the case of a guy in his 20’s who was saving so much for his retirement that he wasn’t living life. He didn’t move out of his parents’ home, so he was missing out on one of the key rites of passage. It is far easier to become an independent adult in your 20s, not because you have lots of money – you don’t, you’re at the lowest point of your earning potential. It is because you are at your most adaptable, you aren’t weighed down by lifestyle expectations. You’ll put up with conditions that you’d find a hardship later on in life when you have experienced better.

I shared houses with students, and then with pals and workmates until I was 28. I could do that because I didn’t have expectations. I remember the first house I shared with four other guys which had a leaky washing machine. It was an upgrade for me because I didn’t have to go to the launderette. It was no bad thing that the kitchen floor got washed once a week as a byproduct of the leak. This was a house with five guys in it 🙂 15 years later when my own washing machine sprang a leak I was on the net to order a replacement within an hour – my expectations were totally different.

Eventually I looked and came to the conclusion that though I loved living in London I was making too many compromises to stay there. I wanted to be able to live on my own by the time I was 30 in a house I was buying. That meant I had to move out of London, and get a job with better pay and prospects. Staying in crummy shared houses was great in my 20s and reduced my costs, but I had to move on as I got older.

The 20s are a special time in life, however. This decade is the time when you are working out your place in society, many people look to finding that special someone to live with in this decade, you are building and consolidating the foundations of your career, and you may have to move area either for work, university or for that special someone.

In my view, one’s twenties aren’t the time to acquire illiquid assets like a mortgaged house or to stay at home with the parents saving like mad and deferring life, but each to their own, as long as they do intentionally rather than being sucked into the hype ‘you have to get on the housing ladder as early as you can‘. I couldn’t afford to buy a house until I was 29, but I still managed to pay the damn thing off in less than 20 years.

So the subject of that article deferring his development into an independent adult in favour of his 65-year old self is not necessarily A Good Thing. It depends on his values and priorities, as GRS said

we can generally have anything we want, we can’t have everything we want

I love it. There’s a world of difference between saving like a nutter for retirement in 45 years and saving like a nutter for retiring in five years!