Aviation lends itself to metaphors. Taking flight. Perfect landings. Mach speed. It just has great stuff to work with. Who doesn’t want to compare to something so inspiring? You can race a Formula One car, but if you’re really good at it, “you’re flying.” And if it’s a tough race, you’re in a “dog fight.” Personal finances can put you in positions that deserve these phrases as well. My favorite is how planes fly above the weather.
If you have flown very often, you have experienced air turbulence. As powerful as commercial jets are, if they are flying at or below the cloud line, it’s surprising just how easily they can be tossed around by nothing but air. All those moving weather conditions create this chaos. The pilot will often come on the intercom and tell us passengers that once we get to altitude, or above the weather, we can expect a smooth flight. And you know what, it always amazes me how dramatic it is when the plane levels out and everything gets super still. You are looking down on the cloud line and everybody sits back in quiet confidence.
Money life, and our trip through it, works in a similar way. Taking off and getting started in life is hard. It takes a huge amount of energy and dumb courage.
Which is why God gives us youth.
But once we are up and going, we realize we can actually do this thing called taking care of ourselves. And then we get all impressed with ourselves. Take on a lifestyle. Get a great credit score. Borrow money on things we can’t afford. Find out that our jobs aren’t quite as easy as we thought. Making moves we really can’t handle.
All this stress about bills and money to fund them is turbulence.
When you are stressed with paying big bills every month, you are always desperate for another toy to bring some sense of short term happiness. A vacation to get away from everything. New car to show (fool?) yourself that you are a success. A vicious cycle. Even a really big paycheck can’t power you through all this and smooth your flight. When you owe banks every month, you are one paycheck away from disaster. And your brain knows it. Down deep you can’t escape this. You do and say things because you need to. You walk away from your ideals, and generosity takes a back seat because “...I got bills to pay.”
We can end up stuck at this altitude forever. Even accept it as normal. But why?
There is no car loan or vacation that will ever get you above these things.
The key is to ditch all the weight of owing, and keep only what we can actually own.
Gain altitude, and really fly.
At whatever income level you are at, there is an amount of lifestyle that you can comfortably afford without a second thought. I will tell you, it is quite a bit less than you think. And then a socially embarrassing bit lower than that. The idea is to dump stuff creating any drag on you. Holding onto a $25k car loan to avoid a $500 repair bill once in awhile on a cheap used car makes no sense in 3rd grade math, and it shouldn’t make sense to you either. Even the so-called good debt of a mortgage should be looked upon as suspect. A short term necessity you are in the process of severing from your life with great prejudice. If you can’t see yourself pouring into your housing and paying it off in less than 10 years, get out of it. If you can’t afford to own it, don’t keep it. Having and owing on doesn’t work. Radical lifestyle slash and burn. You need to look at your situation like an emergency. This mindset will get you to a place that is free from the bonds of credit and debt. No credit payments. No car payments. No mortgage. People will tell you this is all unnecessary. A mistake. Don’t listen to them. When some financial expert tells you these things, ask them what their net worth is. If they can’t answer about their own money, they aren’t fit to tell you how to deal with your money.
I am telling you this from personal experience: when debt has no hold on you, a quiet will occur in your soul. You are in rare air.
Things have just become simpler for you in a way you couldn’t have predicted. You look around and realize life isn’t so expensive after all. Food, electricity, water...all these things are actually not that big a deal when they are all by themselves. The marvels of modernity have provided the basics at a really good price. A normal paycheck now feels like way more than you even need. And come to think of it, spending it all doesn’t seem all that interesting after all. Building up large sums of money is now staring you in the face. All while your immediate need of it has disappeared. Very interesting.
Now you can breathe. And think clearly.
Enjoying nice things is fine, but you are loathe to risk your freedom to them anymore. Comparisons and opinions of people we don’t even like fall away. The way you get satisfaction from life can now be about things that aren’t materialistic. Money becomes a tool to serve you now. Kindness, generosity are luxuries on their own you realize. You no longer fight the clouds and weather of debt, so you have energy to pour into new things. When a plane gets altitude, the other benefit is that it requires less fuel to maintain speed. It’s literally going through thinner air. It has less drag on it.
Simplicity and contentment take hold of you. Your true motivations become apparent to you. Just like a plane above the clouds, you can see things at great expanse. Life doesn’t scare you at every turn. Serious illness and car accidents can still happen to you, but you can take them on with great focus and patience. You can now be the more honest version of yourself. Because you are free from most financial risk, you can be braver about your life and how you live it. You may become bolder and more creative in your professional life, because risk is taken out of the equation. Ideals and priorities take center stage and become the way you pilot your way forward. Happy flying my friends.