I often notice that a lot of commercials and ads have one big message in common: if you’re not buying or doing or subscribing to or wearing such and such, your life is not as good as it could be. There seems to be almost a moral pressure to consume the advertised thing. It’s easy to wonder if I’m good enough, doing the right thing, living life the right way, or consuming the “right” things. These ads seem to advise that if I follow their suggestions, perhaps I’d be able to get control over a small corner of life—and in so doing, to live a little more abundantly, be a little more in the moment, and overall, enjoy life more.
One of the things that I feel pressure to be better at is saving financially, especially for the sake of retirement. My family situation, as of this writing, is such that I’m the only full-time worker. That means we’re living off of my income alone. It’s sufficient to live, to be sure. But it’s not quite sufficient to save for the long term.
I consider this cost against the fact that my wife gets to be a stay-at-home mom. My wife and I believe that her regular and reliable presence at home will be invaluable for our children as they grow.
But as a father and the one who is responsible (for now) for providing financially for everything my family needs, I inevitably have those days when I wish I could do more. When those feelings creep in, I get a little anxious about the future. Saving for retirement is supposed to be a form of control, at least somewhat, over a little corner of life that isn’t here yet, but is coming nevertheless.
When I was growing up, I saw a lot of people who seemed to work all the time, taking little time off. For a while, this became a model to me, causing me to assume that this is what I was supposed to do with my own life.
Of course, one can be driven to approach work in this way for a variety of reasons. Perhaps one started with nothing, and never wants to let that happen again. Perhaps there was a time when one was out of work, and there’s always that lurking fear that it could happen again; so, (over-) working becomes a way to protect oneself from future unemployment that may or may not come. Or perhaps they felt the same pressure that I often feel when I think about saving for retirement.
As I consider the various kinds of pressure that are always before us, calling us to improve our lot in life, I find myself wondering if there’s something deeper at play. Perhaps there’s a spiritual anxiety that gets hooked into everything that promises to make our lives better. I wonder if, in some unwitting way, we’re all trying a little bit to save ourselves, to secure a future that is free from certain kinds of anxiety, pain, suffering, or lack of meaning.
For me, while I am undoubtedly haunted by a similar kind of pressure to do something about my own future by saving for retirement, I also feel a reticence to invest too much of my own emotional energy into it all. It may seem careless, but I’m fairly confident that there will come a day when I’ll be better able to put some money away toward retirement, rather than only live off of my current income. (I hope I’m not wrong.) So, when the anxiety comes that makes me wonder if I’m doing the right thing for my future (or doing enough), I find it easier to shake it off than others might.
But this has nothing to do with carelessness. For me, it has everything to do with where I place my hope. As a Christian, I take seriously Jesus’ call to worry less about the things of this life and more about the age to come. But I also admit that I don’t always know how that’s supposed to look or feel. And furthermore, my take on how to live it out might be rather different than someone else’s.
Where are you struggling with these things? Are you anxious about having some kind of control over the future, perhaps in terms of financial security? What effect does that anxiety have on your daily life?
Or are you trying to live more in the moment, and worry less about the future (but not live carelessly so as to put it in jeopardy)?
Or is there some other approach we should all know about?
I’d love to hear from you.
This post reflects the views and experiences of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on money and wealth from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.