Ross Levin

There are a million things to worry about, and most of the people who come into our office interested in financial planning express them. Mark Twain said, "I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened."

The problem with worrying is that it gives us excuses to ignore the real issues. Worry is suffering in advance, and allows us to fool ourselves into thinking that we are doing something about those worries instead of actually doing something productive.

Often clients come in expressing worry about their spending. While worrying is an action, it's not the appropriate one. If you are worried about your spending habits, then you need to change them. And the only way to change them is to actively review things.

If you kept a weekly spending journal, you would have data that would help you understand whether you are spending your money on the things that have the best chance of bringing you long-term happiness. You will see patterns such as rewarding yourself through spending when you have just finished a stressful period at work. You can then determine whether this reward is appropriate for what you want from your life. I have talked with a number of people who worry about their spending but who are unwilling to make attempts at capturing and evaluating it. No points for suffering in advance.

Some of our clients express worry about whether they will have enough money to do the things that they want when they retire. Worrying may help them save more, but it may also cause them to live less. Rather than worry about an uncertain future, see if you can better incorporate some of those things earlier. You are saving your money to either spend it someday or to give it away. Money gives you freedom only to the extent that you don't worry about it.

Each year you should evaluate how much you are saving personally and in retirement plans. The more you spend from your income, the more you will need to replace when you quit working. If you are not willing to work longer, then you need to save more. The interesting paradox is that those who spend the most need to save the most. You can save a bit less if you are spending your money now on the things that you would have waited until retirement to do.

Finding an appropriate middle ground is important because saving too much and spending too much are two sides of the same coin — money has a hold on you. And both of these behaviors come out of fear. Live intentionally and your worries will be over.

Spend your life wisely.