The Cost of Escape
I have been posting several articles over the last year of my engagement and marriage. Things were not always so rosy in our relationship. We broke up a couple of times during our 10-year long relationship. Looking back, I remember feeling intense emotions of sadness and loneliness after the break ups. The most recent break-up was about 2 years ago, I found myself going to my room after work and just watching Netflix. I couldn’t and didn’t want to face my emotions during that time. I just “escaped” from my reality by watching made up realities of other people's lives. Why do most humans avoid facing our emotions and managing them in a healthy way? As a financial blogger, I find myself seeing this “escape” tactic in others and I can’t help but think of what those “escape tactics” are costing them.
I was not raised in a very traditional American household. I was raised devout Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints). There were a few things different about my world view than many children. In many ways, my religious upbringing saved me from some typical teenage struggles but caused great pain in other ways. One of the many things I’m grateful to my upbringing for is that I never acquired a taste for alcohol. At 19 years old, I was working at a restaurant in Alaska. I would jump behind the bar all the time to serve ice cream and pie to our guests. However, my friend the bartender asked if I wanted to taste what the “Alaskan Amber Ale” tasted like. I said sure and took a sip. It was disgusting! I spit it right back into the glass. The next time I tasted alcohol was this last weekend on my “mini moon” (a weekend getaway instead of a full honeymoon). The host of our Airbnb left us roses and a bottle of champagne. We thought it would be rude not to try some. Quoting my wife: “We couldn't even get it down. It just burned our throats and mouth. It tasted like rubbing alcohol.”
To this day, I still have no idea why people would intentionally put alcohol into their bodies. Maybe I’ll try it again in 10 years and discover that I like it. Who knows.
This started me thinking. I have a friend who is very fond of beer. They drink on average 3 beers a day during the week, and approximately 10 beers on the weekend. They are on the heavier side of the drinking scale (if there is one). This person complains that they have no money. Don’t we all. Please know that there is no judgement here, I’m simply fascinated by the numbers. This is how the beer purchases affect my friend’s finances.
We are going to assume they buy their beer in 18 packs (not always the case but let's give them the price advantage anyways). This friend usually purchases their beer at the grocery store. For easy math, I’m going to set the price at $1 per 12 oz beer.
-5 days X 3 beers + 2 days X 5 beers = 25 beers X $1 each = $25 a week or $108 a month (roughly)
Now we’ve got a base number of $108 a month in beer. Let’s run the numbers with a 7% return in a basic S&P 500 Index fund!
-5 years = $7,732.63*
After 5 years, you could buy a used car outright, or put a down payment down on a home
-10 years = $18,578.04
After 10 years you would have a stronger down payment on a home, buy a brand-new car for cash
-20 years = $55,123.85
Now that’s a healthy chunk of change!
-30 years = $127,015.00
I’m feeling good about my retirement with this added income.
-40 years = $268,435.78
Just a quarter million dollars. Buy a sweet little retirement home for cash. That sounds good.
-50 years = $546,632.84
From age 21 to age 71, drinking beer at the rate my friend does, can really cost you some future benefits. I’m not even going to mention the health-related costs, gas and time to make “beer runs”, inflation, etc. (*numbers calculated using "Compoundee" app)
Is there something in your life that seems like a little thing, but really is costing a future fortune? I know for me, it’s sugar! My gosh do I fall for sweet things all the time. Donuts, ice-cream, pastries, etc....I’d hate to go back and add up all the unnecessary purchases of sweets and run the same experiment. Luckily I’ve managed to get my sweets consumption under control. I’m not perfect but I’ve made massive progress from 20 years ago.
If there is something that is your “go to” when you are feeling down, lonely, depressed, or bored; things like, alcohol, smoking, sweets, shopping, drugs, food, sex, or video games/gambling. These things may seem like a wonderful distraction to what we are feeling, but know, there is a real financial cost as well as a cost to your self-worth. They can turn into a habit (aka, a bad habit) that can damage your self-worth and financial future. Worst case, they can become addictions that can destroy your relationships and financial life.
In a society where most people are wealthy enough to purchase “escapes”, watch out for the allure to purchase them, as they can and will make every situation worse. Our society is wealthy, and with that wealth comes the burden of managing our consumption. Society will tell you to “escape” and drink another beer, have a half gallon of ice-cream, or play another video game, but know it’s all a trap. In our attempt to “escape” our difficult present, we are isolating ourselves and avoiding working through our problems. It is the action of working through our problems that gives us strength to manage the next obstacle in our lives. So, by using an escape, we weaken ourselves. Let’s go against the grain and manage our pain/emotions in a healthy and empowering way, and not in a self-destructive way.