PF Fantasy World vs. “The Real World”

Imagine that it is me and Clinton standing side by side...

Reading Ashley’s post at A Story of Debt  “Preparing for the Real” really got me thinking.

In the personal finance world we have created these images of how our life will be when we’re out of debt. I loved that she mentioned all the amazing clothes she would wear, I can definitely see myself doing this in my imagination, too.

In my PF Fantasy World life this is how I imagine my life without debt to be:

  • I will suddenly stop using all cards to pay for anything. Cash will be king and I’ll magically keep track of every little expense.
  • Strangers will stop me in the street and congratulate me on having no debt. (Hey! This happens in real PF world!)
  • I will always have enough money to pay for everything I want, whenever I want it.
  • It will never snow. Ever. (I can apparently also afford to change the weather in my PF Fantasy World.)
  • I will have enough money to buy a house in about 5 years of saving.
  • I will have enough money to buy a new Mercedes in about a year of saving.
  • I’ll suddenly develop a (until debt-free hidden) sense of style and be on my own personal finance/style show co-staring Clinton from “What Not To Wear.”
  • I will magically weigh 123 pounds. Dunno why having no debt makes me thinner, but it does.
  • I will become a nicer a person all around. Children will flock to me. Coworkers will envy me. People will want to be friends with me.
  • People will suddenly “know” I’m debt free and start coming out of the woodwork asking me for financial help. I’ll probably be asked to teach the Personal Finance class here on campus knowing my luck…

The reality? The “Real World” reality? None of that will probably happen.

In Personal Finance world this debt is seen as a REALLY HUGE DEAL. However, in the “real world” – no one really cares that you have debt. In reality, none of my coworkers or many of my friends will even KNOW that I’m debt free. The difference between the last day of debt and the first day of debt free will probably be exactly the same.

I know (especially making $51,000 a year) that I won’t be able to buy my dream items immediately. A house in 5 years – paid in cash? As if!

But in my mind… oh in my beautiful mind… life will be so wonderful and so grand when this debt is gone. Life will just be BETTER…. or will it?

In some ways debt is a security blanket from “real” financial life. Right now the financial game plan is simple: Get out of debt.

The biggest concern of personal finance bloggers who are in debt is this: Emergency Fund/Freedom Fund Savings or Debt?

That’s it. That’s the big question. Which to do.

But after that debt is gone a whole new WORLD is opened up. Investment options. 401(k)s. IRAs. Stocks. Bonds. Mutual Funds. College savings funds. CDs. High interest savings accounts. Etc. Etc.

And to be quite honest – the “real world” of life without debt is – well – a little scary! Those decisions are huge. They’re big. They’re frightening. In a lot of ways it is just EASIER to stay in debt. You don’t have to worry about what to do with your money because you don’t have any to worry about!

I’m also pretty sure that once I’m debt free it will still snow in Kansas City.

That doesn’t mean I’m not going to press on. This whole journey is about freedom.

Right now I have no freedom with my money. It goes, every month, straight to living and debt. Some day I’d like to be able to CHOOSE where my money goes. I want to be able to make MISTAKES with my money. I want the freedom to invest when the market is high and to pull out when the market is low. I want the freedom to not contribute to my Roth and instead go on a killer vacation. I want the freedom to max out my 401(k). I want the freedom to save up to buy a house in cash if I want to.

It isn’t as awesome as hosting my own TV show – but it is a lot better than being straddled to debt.

What are your illusions about life after debt? Am I the only absurd one here who imagines a perfect, completely unbelievable existence when the debt counter reaches 0?

6 thoughts on “PF Fantasy World vs. “The Real World”

  1. This post is so true it’s scary. (Also, thanks for liking to “The Story of Debt.” I had never visited this blog, and it looks great!) My coworkers don’t give a rat’s ass that I’m paying off my debt. No one in my life would know or care if I didn’t tell them. And the ones I do tell think I’m crazy for not “living it up” with my money instead of being responsible.

    In my debt free world, I have a ton of money to do whatever I want with. I can save for a new car in a year, fully fund my Emergency Fund in a year, save up for a house in cash in less than 10 years and still manage to retire with plenty of money.

    In reality? I could do all of those things, but I couldn’t do them all at once. My problem is that I’m very singular in purpose. I’ve never been the type who can read three books at the same time, and I usually can’t focus on multiple goals at once. I like to fiercely attack one goal until it’s accomplished, and then move on to the next one.

    In reality, I’ll have over $900 free every month. I won’t be rich. I won’t pay for a house in cash for A DECADE! Talk about a long-term goal! The only real difference is that I’ll be able to choose where my money goes. Hmph. Thanks for crapping all over my fantasy world! 😉

    1. Hahaha I’m so sorry for bursting your fantasy world bubble!

      But I’m glad that I could introduce you to “The Story of Debt” – and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have. =)

  2. I like to think about how much money I’ll have extra when I’m not making debt payments. But the reality is, it’ll all probably be going into savings and investment….booooriiiing. But maybe I’ll keep a little extra for me.

  3. I know what you mean – the world of investing is truly big and scary.

    For me, it’s finishing the EF, then travel, then…house, wedding etc. I’ll admit I did sometimes have illusions of how much easier life would be, but I know I’ll always have something else to save for.

  4. I love this! I feel the same total excitement and complete terror at the thought of being out of debt. I’m scared of the mistakes I’m going to make once I’m out of debt, because I think I should know enough to be perfect now, but I know it’s not going to happen that way. And I got a letter yesterday telling me that if I want to make a change to my 401k contributions, then I need to do it now, and I’m not sure what to do, because that’s one of those things I’ve been putting off dealing with until I’m out of debt.

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