Get Rich Slowly, and probably other folks before J.D. , define different stages of personal finance. Some details may differ, but in my understanding, #1 is having a problem. #2 is realizing you have a problem and taking steps to fix it. #3 is only having low interest (or mortgage or some other manageable) debt if that, meeting your savings goals, and having some money leftover to enjoy. #4 is having enough money to live life as you like it on your own terms without answering to a job unless you want to.
I love reading blogs about people in the second stage steadily reducing their debt. I root and cheer. Sometimes if I’m feeling down, I’ll read through the Fiscal Fitness Journals on the Get Rich Slowly Forum and read in (elapsed) real time as people get on track. I love watching debt disappear and money grow.
Third-stage stuff tends to be about work-life balance, taking trips, hiring cleaning staff. The first is definitely a problem for academics whether they’re in debt or multi-millionaires. I’m pretty sick of travel right now (from work) and our visits to the rural midwest to see family are not exactly the type of trips second-stagers dream about. We also don’t have anybody in to clean because I don’t mind living in squalor as long as the kitchen and bathrooms are clean. With the third stage, there’s less excitement and less worry. Emergencies cause annoyances, not drama. There’s more freedom, but not so much as in stage 4.
I wonder if financial postings are more interesting when you get to watch someone crawl out of debt. Increases in net worth aren’t really as interesting, especially if the person has more money or income than you do. Sometimes I think, if only one of us had debt– then we could blog about it. But then my sensible side tells me to, “shut your mouth.” I think my sensible side is quoting a long ago daycare provider and reminding my superstitious side the peril of getting what you wish for. We’ve been poor and we’ve watched every penny… it was doable and had a certain kind of pioneer satisfaction to it, but I’m glad those days are over (even if I didn’t blog about them then). I really LIKE being in the third stage of personal finance. I’d like being in the fourth stage even more, but not enough to throw everything at it to get there.
But that doesn’t mean that my third stage is worth reading about.
What do you think? Are third-stagers boring and smarmy unless you’ve seen them crawl out of a hole?