That Day I decided to start a retirement account

*I have not been compensated for writing this article in any way.* 

It's no secret that I believe in financial indulgence. As a proponent of YOLO, I rarely pass up opportunities to enjoy life. Besides, I work full time and attend law school at night. In light of that back-breaking schedule, it's pretty easy to convince myself that I deserve whatever particular thing it is that I want at any given moment in time where I happen to have the money to do/buy it. I have always found it draining to be around extremely frugal people. That level of self-denial just isn't in my nature. What's the point of working hard if I never get to splurge? But if I'm completely honest with myself, there's a much heavier reason I have a hard time tolerating tight folks: The staggering difference between their financial choices and mine hits a little too close to home.

Me trying to remember why I went to law school when I get my student loan statement.
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Yes, I sure do love to spend money. But I am also a highly anxious person. For most of my adult life, that deadly combination has translated into a major shopping addiction. Will I ever change my habits? If I'm being completely honest with myself, probably not. As long as I work and have discretionary income, I will most likely continue to reward myself with material things that I feel I deserve. This is why I have long since accepted that my financial portfolio will never measure up to my more conservative counterparts. I decided a while back that being able to have more things and experiences NOW was more important to me than accumulating wealth for a future that is not guaranteed. However, that doesn't mean I don't still feel guilty about spending. It doesn't mean that I don't get heart palpitations when I think about my surmounting debt. It doesn't mean I don't feel the constant pressure to save. These insecurities seem to be exacerbated whenever I hang around my thrifty friends, which usually then leads me into my defensive soliloquy about how I deserve to have things. This brings me to the real point of this article, which is about how yesterday my perspective on all of the above changed significantly.

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I met with an old friend (he's not old, we've just been friends for a long time) who is a financial adviser, and over a casual lunch discussion, I came to accept three things as truths:

1)  I deserve to spend my money in any way that makes me happy.
2)  The idea of financial security makes me happy.
3)  It is possible to be financially indulgent and still have financial security. 

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While it may be obvious to some, the third one basically never occurred to me before this meeting. I always just assumed financial planning was an all-or-nothing deal. In my eyes, people fell into one of two categories:

1) Super responsible people with 401(k)'s, 403(b)'s  IRA's, 529's, and all those other acronyms and numbers that don't sound nearly as exciting as a trip to Cancun or a new Kate Spade bag; or 

2) Complete financial lushes who will always have exciting lives but will have to either (a) marry rich or (b) inherit rich in order to ever really have any money to speak of.

My assumption was that belonging to both categories was impossible. 

This was my plan for being rich before Scott.
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My assumption was wrong. 

You can totally do both. Will I build as much wealth as my friends who are maxing out their monthly contributions to their retirement accounts? Most likely not. BUT: I did learn that by contributing a very small amount of money that I probably won't even notice each month to a Roth IRA, I will eventually have a substantial amount of money saved. Basically, by giving up buying one article of clothing a month, I can make some kind of fiscal future for myself. Mind-blowing, I know. I guess I always just assumed I was just too far gone. But my friend told me, "No one is ever too far gone. There is always a solution to every financial problem." Which brings me to my friend, Scott, the financial adviser. The picture below is not actually a picture of Scott. 

This is just how I used to picture financial advisers.
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Even though I had never met with one, I always had an idea of what I thought financial advisers were like. I imagined them as crotchety old men who find joy in reprimanding young people for their frivolous ways. I also thought they were only interested in working with rich people. Neither of those assumptions turned out to be true. Scott and I have been friends for almost ten years. You would be hard-pressed to find somebody who describes him as uptight. During our entire conversation, I never once felt judged or belittled about my admittedly questionable financial habits. To tell you the truth, I feel like he genuinely wants me to have some money in my old age. 

Scott's vision for my future. 
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Before meeting with him, I had always been supremely intimidated by the idea of "investing for retirement." By the end of lunch, not only had I realized "Hey! I can actually do this," I also felt the strangest sensation of relief from the financial worry demons that have been plaguing me since college. As corny as it sounds, in that moment I started taking control of my future. If, like me, you too feel that little twinge of guilt telling you that you need to take control of your financial situation, but you don't know who to go to, you can read all about him and how to contact him here.  He's also a lawyer, so you may be able to squeeze some free legal advice out of him, just FYI. Another plus to Scott is that he can actually explain the series finale of LOST to you which is pretty major if you really think about it. 

Bottom Line: There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to managing money. What's right for one person may not make any sense at all for someone else. That being said, no matter what your lifestyle/financial circumstances are, keep these things in mind: 

1) You are never too far gone to fix the problems.
2) It is possible to save a substantial amount of money over time without having to deny yourself most of the things that you want right now.
3) You will always feel better about money in general if you have some saved.

This is the face of someone with a retirement account.
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Thanks for Reading!

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