It’ll Be Okay

Hi, I’m Mrs. SpiritualFI.

That sounds so official. Obviously, I’m a big fan of Mr. SpiritualFI, my husband of 9 years.

When we met, lo these many years ago, Mr. SFI was working hard to build his business as a financial planner. In the time it took to date, get engaged, and get married—one year total(?!)–he chose to leave his job and start seminary. I was on board with this, but I remember feeling a pang for the big bucks we could have been raking in had he stuck with financial planning. My dad, who grew up a pastor’s kid, teased, “I thought she was marrying someone well-off.” All three of us laughed, because we all knew we’d be fine.

So we walked each other to school for two years. He’d drop me off at the high school where I worked as a math and science teacher, then he’d head across the road to be a student. School isn’t Mr. SFI’s favorite pastime, so I knew he really cared about this new path.

When Mr. SFI became Revered SFI, I quit teaching in favor of homemaking. Babies one, two, and three came. We moved a handful of times. We rented apartments and bought and sold houses. We were careful with the modest single income, we shopped at thrift stores and Aldi (my second true love), and we hummed Alan Jackson’s “Livin’ on Love.”

Fast-forward to two weeks ago. Something happened that I feel embarrassed about. I’m going to tell you about it because it has bearing, but I feel dumb even as I type it.

Remember the part about me teaching high school for two years while Mr. SFI was in seminary? Even though we were not making much, we contributed the maximum allowable amount to the retirement account I had through the school because it was The Right Thing to Do.

An aside: I didn’t think deeply about the moral imperatives of finance until becoming Mrs. SFI. Get Mr. SFI going on the ethics of health insurance or the importance of charitable donation some time.

Sooooo this month we got a nice email from the nice company in charge of my nice little retirement account. Turns out I’d never been officially terminated as an employee and so the index fund we’d invested in for two years had just floated in limbo, growing and unclaimed, until now. How could I have not dotted that particular financial “i” way back when? I cringe.

Besides being a cautionary tale with a happy ending, I hope this story drives home the power of compound interest. It’s like those word problems we all encountered as kids: “If Jane contributes to an IRA for two years, then forgets about it for seven, how much money will she have if someone reminds her that she had it?” Answer: lots of dollars.

But because this is SpiritualFI, I hope this story also drives home the power of trust. Finances and relationships rest on it. We invest. We marry and raise children. We throw our material wealth and tender hearts decades into a hazy future, hoping for a soft landing. Whether we are putting our faith in the resilience of mankind or the existence of a merciful God, there’s a Kierkegaard-ian leap we make, consciously or unconsciously. By mindfully working, saving, and loving, we tacitly acknowledge that life is worth living well because things are going to be OK in the end.

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