YOLO stands for you only live once. The term itself is derived from social media uses and is relatively new (c. 2012), but the mantra has been around for decades. The rapper, Drake, brought the YOLO term to the masses with his popular song – The Motto.
However, Mae West, a famous actress born in 1893 (yes in the 19th century) was quoted saying, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
I’ve actually grown quite fond of this quote from Mae West. In fact, I used it in my book You Only Live Once: The Roadmap to Financial Wellness and a Purposeful Life.
The quote supports my mature millennial mind that we must make the most of the life we’re given. It’s not about being careless, or making impulsive purchases, or taking life-threatening risks. The opposite of these things is true.
You only live once is about awareness that you have an opportunity to create a meaningful life in this lifetime.
The mantra is a reminder to make better decisions so we “do it right.”
The YOLO Money Mindset
Now, what does YOLO have to do with money? As a millennial, I used YOLO as an excuse to party all night during the workweek and buying things on credit. Back then I thought it was about satisfying impulses. I soon realized I would be paying a high price for YOLO living.
When you live your life based on short term gratification, you’ll find yourself unable to achieve long-term satisfaction.
Every YOLO financial decision you make can have an effect on the quality of your life. Remember, that 50in LED TV you bought on credit? It now occupies 20 years of your life. It seemed like a great YOLO moment but soon turns out to be just a daily reminder of why you need to wake up early to head to work to make money to pay that minimum monthly payment.
The rationale for YOLO is that we’re young and we shouldn’t have to worry about the consequences. Time is on our side and because, you know, you only live once.
YOLO Saving, Spending, and Investing
I’ve learned that YOLO is actually a very helpful mindset when it comes to living, saving, investing, and consciously spending today.
There is no better day than today to start learning about money and creating wealth.
YOLO isn’t about an impulsive moment, but an actual sustainable lifestyle when you mindfully aware of your financial decision-making.
You only live once, so make decisions that support a healthy financially stress-free life.
I’ve used the term YOLO during seminars.
I would always hear chuckles from the crowd. As an older millennial, my experiences and education have given me a different take on a seemingly jovial term. I value living life and experiencing the moment. These moments, however, are no longer about valuing purchases over purpose and impulsiveness over satisfaction.
The YOLO mindset has influenced our millennial behaviors around banking, saving, spending, and investing.
Saving is delayed for instant spend gratification
We all know that saving money is important, but spending money is so much more fun. We can easily associate the hours we’ve worked with a physical item. As millennials, we grew up in the age of continuous marketing that shaped our perceptions of what we need. The result is confusion between what we need, what we want, and what actually brings us joy.
Do we really need a new smartphone every two years and in many cases every year? Since we worked hard for our money, shouldn’t we have the right to spend it any way we choose?
Choosing to spend mindlessly rather than save purposefully will keep you from achieving financial wellness.
Learn how you can save purposefully to achieve your short, mid-, and long term goals.
Spending more requires allocating future hours to work rather than fun
I don’t really subscribe to the idea of never spending. I do want you to spend where it matters. You’re exchanging your time for money and what you buy says a lot more about your values. Are your bills, monthly expenses, and things you buy reflective of things you value. If they are not, then understand you’re exchanging your time for money on things that don’t matter in your life. That is not YOLO living.
YOLO is about controlling your time and giving you the opportunity to do more of the things you love. You can do this by spending mindfully.
If you’re spending most of that time working to pay for things you don’t value, then how much life are you actually living? Are these purchases worth the extra hours you’re required to work at your job?
Debt is a ball and chain, and your time literally becomes money
Debt is a ball-and-chain and once shackled prevents you from YOLO experiences like fancy dinners, exotic vacations, and luxury goods. When we don’t make enough money but continue to spend using credit we create long term debt. Whether it’s student loan debt or credit card debt, any type of debt obligates our time to work.
If you make $10 an hour and have $10,000 of debt, you will have to allocate 1000 hours (or 25 weeks) of your life to that debt. Credit is a useful tool that can help you achieve life goals.
However, mindless credit usage can lead to long-term debt. The more debt you have the less time you have to enjoy your life. In debt? Learn strategies to achieve debt freedom.
Not investing in your future because of uncertainty
The key to living YOLO is to regain control over your time and that can be achieved when you make money with money. This can be done through investments in the stock market, index funds, and bonds.
Growing up through two economic crashes has had a profound impact on how we view investing in the stock market. We’re less willing to take market risks, but wealth is often created through wise investments. Fortunately, investing is accessible for many more people with micro-investing apps and discount online brokerages.
Make sure you’re contributing to your company’s 401(k) plan and taking advantage of stock options and Employee Stock Purchase Programs (also knowns as ESPP). Speak with your HR department about retirement benefits. It’s your life so you want to plan to retire well too.
Remember, you have the opportunity to live the life you’ve dreamed of by making informed mindful decisions. You only live once, so YOLO.
Parts of this article are from my book, You Only Live Once. Grab a copy for yourself to learn more.