“People are afraid to celebrate winning the battle, because the war hasn’t been won yet.” – Kent Singletary
I was having a conversation with Kent, our Momentum Coach, and we were talking about completing the Financial Peace University (FPU) Baby Steps. That’s when he shared with me the above quote. (Yes, I could have written it into this paragraph, but it’s much better as a stand-alone quote.) He said people (especially men) are hesitant to celebrate accomplishing Baby Step 1 of FPU, which is getting $1,000 in an emergency fund, because something might happen and they would have to use that money.
He pointed out that people don’t celebrate what can be taken away. Think about the kinds of cards you can buy at Hallmark – birthday, anniversary, etc. But you don’t see a “Great job losing 10 pounds!” card. The same thing is true for emergency funds. Something might happen, and they will be forced to pull money out of their emergency fund for…wait for it…an emergency!
But that’s what it’s there for. The sad thing is, people feel like they’ve failed if they have an emergency and they have to use the emergency fund. How is that possible? Well, to be honest, it’s because of the financial roller coaster we’ve all been on with our money since we started our lives as adults. We started using debt. We didn’t watch where we spent our money. We’re a culture that celebrates permanence; therefore, we don’t place as much value on the things that might last only a short time.
According to The Wall Street Journal, 70% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. That means that all the money coming in is going right back out again. With life being this tight, any unexpected event is going to be a financial crisis. And what do we do when we have a financial crisis? Well, considering we don’t have cash to handle it, we go into debt. Thus, the pensive feelings when we finally have an emergency fund. These crises leave such deep mental scars that we’re still just waiting for the next bad thing to happen.
We get confused thinking that unless the fund stays at $1,000, we weren’t successful. The truth is, most people have never had that much money in their account on purpose! We also worry that if we have to use the money, and someone finds out, they will look at us as failures. It’s just not true! And if someone does, get that dork out of your life. Look for people who enjoy celebrating milestones.
So what do we do? Here are some suggestions:
- Celebrate – Make it a point to get excited that you have that money! (Especially you men!) Get up and dance a jig. Or the Hokie Pokie. Or the Macarena. I don’t care, just get happy!
- Celebrate with others – Again, as humans we are naturally concerned with what others think of us. If you see somebody doing something right, go crazy telling them how well they’ve done. They’ll soon begin to feel it as well. Then it will be okay for them to experience the fun! And don’t be afraid to celebrate the same win again if you have to go backward temporarily.
- Plan for emergencies – Planning for an emergency doesn’t mean one will happen. It just means you are prepared. What if there is an emergency? What then? Well, since you’ve been working like crazy to protect yourself against emergencies, then it’s okay if you need to use that protection. By the way, stop calling this failure!
Always remember that we don’t get into financial trouble overnight. Therefore, it will take some time to get out. Celebrating the Baby Steps is just a way of saying along the way that you have no intentions of going backward for good. If we do for a time, it’s only for a time.
Question: Have you ever felt this way before, or noticed someone who has? Is there someone you need to celebrate with today?