My daughter will be four years old in a few weeks. I don’t know why, but while my own birthdays don’t make me feel much older, my daughter’sdo; in fact, they make me feel quite ancient. As I see her learning things, having new experiences, and growing from a baby into a little girl, I feel every bit of my 30 years; I feel the burden of my adult responsibilities.
Being an adult is tough; being responsible is even tougher. I’m not an overly scriptural person, but one of my favorite passages from the Bible is this from 1 Corinthians:
When I was a child I spoke as a child I understood as a child I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things.
(1 Cor 13:11)
Now that I’m not only adult, but a mother (of two!) as well, I feel like I’ve put aside the childish things of my youth – the all-nighters that characterized my college years, the indecision that plagued my 20s – and have started looking at being responsible in a whole new light. And, in many cases, managing finances and my household characterize my new-found maturity.
Being Responsible #5: Buying Life Insurance
When my husband and I were newlyweds, we briefly considered buying life insurance policies. At the time, my husband was a promising NFL prospect, and we figured he’d be earning hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of dollars in the near future. One catastrophic knee injury later, and buying life insurance didn’t feel like such a priority; it felt like another useless expense.
Once we had our children, though, our mindset towards life insurance did a complete 180. We bought life insurance for both my husband and myself, even though at the time I was planning to become a full-time stay-at-home mom (yeah, things changed!). Once I started working as a freelancer, I upped my policy to reflect the income I was bringing in.
Being Responsible #4: Funding Our Emergency Fund
The sad fact of the matter is that 42 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. I’ve rarely found myself in that boat, thanks to the simple fact that (1) my parents supported me financially until I started my first real “grown-up” job and (2) my husband and I opted to bank all the money we received as wedding presents, allowing us to start our marriage with a hefty sum in our savings account.
As you can see, funding our emergency fund has been a priority for me and my husband since Day One. These days, the standard rule of thumb is to have enough money for 6-12 months worth of expenses in your emergency fund. My husband and I have always maintained at least that amount, sparingly using the funds it contains for car troubles or house repairs, and immediately refunding it.
Being Responsible #3: Buying New Underwear
OK, don’t take this one at face value, because the idea of buying new underwear is really just an umbrella-concept for a much wider range of adult responsibilities. I’m talking about doing things like replenishing your wardrobe when a t-shirt gets a hole in it, instead of wearing it around for another year and calling it a return of the “grunge” style. I’m talking about buying new socks when the dryer mysteriously eats one of each pair, leaving you with mismatched socks peeking out from under your trousers. When I was younger, I merely relied on my mother to do these types of things for me; as an adult, I’ve shouldered the mantle. It may be mundane, but hey, do you really want to walk around in a bra that’s missing its underwire?
Being Responsible #2: Retirement Planning
I have a friend – who shall remain nameless (and un-linked to) – who is just starting to fund her retirement account. She and her husband are both in their mid-40s, have each been working for 20 years or longer, and have yet to put a dime into their employer-sponsored 401(k) accounts. They literally don’t have a nest egg, and with two young children to put through college, they’re starting to panic about how – or if – they’ll be able to catch up.
Retirement planning is another one of those incredible unsexy adult responsibilities. On one hand, it kind of sucks to know that we’re sending $500 a month to our 401(k) and Roth accounts each month, especially when that money could be put to such fun use: vacations, designer clothes, dinners out, etc. On the other hand, though, it’s comforting to know that my husband and I won’t be playing catchup with our retirement accounts years from now.
Being Responsible #1: Learning How To Say “No”
In the first three years after we were married, my husband and I were invited to no fewer than four out-of-town weddings every year. Whether the big day was for a college friend, a family member, or a buddy from back home, we never said no. By the time we reached our own third anniversary, we did the math and discovered we’d spent more than $15,000 to watch other people tie the knot. It was incredibly sobering to see that number. What could we have done with that money if we’d said “no” to half of those RSVPs?
The weddings were just the tip of the iceberg. My husband and I found ourselves saying “yes” to fancy dinners out that we couldn’t afford, spoiling even casual friends with lavish birthday and holiday gifts just because they did the same, and going on overpriced vacations so we could keep up with the Joneses. It wasexhausting; it was alsoexpensive. Even though we were doing so well managing finances in other respects, we were failing miserably when it came to setting our financial priorities.
I don’t know when it happened, but my husband and I started to learn how to say “no.” He’d turn down an invitation to play a round of golf at an expensive country club. I’d show restraint in the face of peer pressure during a trip to a trendy new boutique. We learned that our friends would still be our friends even if we bowed out now and then. We learned that it wasn’t necessary to attend a cross-country wedding for a sorority sister or former college dormmate we hadn’t seen or talked to in five years. We stopped being “yes” men and started to be responsible adults.
Reader, what does “being responsible” mean to you? How has that changed as you’ve aged?