Some of my favorite memories of childhood involve cars. Like the time I was ten and working on the family car with my father. From under the car, Dad called out the tool he needed, and I would fetch it from the toolbox for him. The car was up on ramps in the driveway, Dad was covered in grease, and – aside from the occasional bloody knuckle and curse word – life seemed perfect.
Often our neighbors would gather to work on each other’s cars. If you didn’t know how or didn’t have the right tool, one of the neighbors would gladly help out. I can still see David Seals’ blue 1969 Camaro and Bobby French’s red 1955 Chevy. At twelve, I got a job cleaning a small real estate office a few times a week, and I started saving for my own car. When I was finally 16 years old, Dad and I went looking for my first car. The roar of that big V8 had me riding on Cloud Nine as I drove up our street for the first time in my midnight blue 1968 Chevelle. All the neighbors came out and fawned over my ride; it was like a big party and my car was the belle of the ball. Classic cars are works of art from a bygone era when chrome and steel unquestionably ruled. Cars can awaken long forgotten memories and evoke feelings of simpler times. But as I recently reflected on my own passion for the automobile, I realized they are so much more than mere objects. To me, cars represent family, friendships and community. At a time when one could be forgiven for believing we have more differences than commonalities, cool cars just seem to bring people together.
As I got older and life got more complicated, sensible transportation was a priority, but I never lost my love of cars. In my early thirties, I set a goal to buy another classic car, so I started putting aside money in a separate account. My priorities were clear, – I am a financial planner, after all. I had money set aside for emergencies, I was saving for my retirement (even though that seemed so far away at the time) and I had already purchased a home. So, when there was a little left over, I plopped it into my “car” account. My ability to save had its ups and downs back then, but eventually, I was comfortable setting up a small automatic monthly transfer into this account. Now the savings happened behind the scenes and I hardly noticed it. Well, as the years went on, my priorities shifted. Marriage, a different home, our daughter and of course, my jump from the bank to EBW. All these changes were fantastic, but each meant that my car goal would have to wait a little longer.
Fast forward almost 20 years, and the time finally seemed right for me to make my goal a reality. But something was holding me back; I just couldn’t gather the guts to spend the money.
I mentioned that I’m a financial planner, right? I’m practical and analytical when it comes to finances, and this purchase would be neither. It might even be considered frivolous and unnecessary. I was so close to talking myself out of it. At the encouragement of my wonderful wife (who has known my dream since our very first dates) and some very good friends, I made the decision. On an exciting day in late October, with the help of some fantastic people, I finally realized my dream!
Many of us have financial goals that are beyond the basics of day-to-day finances, college saving and retirement. And not every financial goal has to be practical. Maybe it’s saving for a beach house, a big trip or a boat. I recently met with someone whose goal was to purchase a very expensive piano. Whatever the dream, there are ways to save for it without jeopardizing the other important goals in life. Prioritizing and adjusting when circumstances dictate are the keys to realizing your dream while balancing good financial wellbeing. My journey to fulfilling this dream had its peaks and valleys, and it took much longer than I had planned. But all of this just made the day that much sweeter.
There really is nothing like the analog feel of driving a 1966 Mustang with a manual transmission. It’s like a stagecoach compared to our modern spaceships that practically drive themselves, but the experience is intoxicating. When I drive her, smiles follow me down the road, and waves, applause, and thumbs’-up are in abundance.
Whenever I stop, whether at a light or to park the car, people want to talk about her and often share memories of cool cars in their past. When I drove her home for the first time, my daughter came with me. She loved the ride and the waves from other drivers, but perhaps most telling in today’s digital world, she said it was the first time she didn’t want to bury her nose in a book or a phone while in the car. This is what my Mustang represents to me: family, community and the realization of a long-held dream.