Friday, August 9, 2013

The Road to Pumpkintown

A vector is a mathematical entity that contains both direction and magnitude. For example if you are driving from Slater, SC to Pumpkintown, SC you will be headed west on SC 288 at some velocity between 35 miles per hour and 55 miles per hour depending on the speed limit. This is not unlike the pursuit of any life goal. Unfortunately in life many of our goals also have magnitude and direction. The amount of money required for a comfortable retirement changes over time as the value of the dollar drops. As our dreams and the demands of practical necessity change over time, our life can be described as vectors in pursuit of vectors.

Often there are many paths to the same goal. During our recent stay in the mountains of North Carolina, we planned to take the Pickens Highway from Rosman, NC as the most direct route to Travelers Rest, SC. Unfortunately, the road was closed. I could have attempted to follow the detour down a winding back road or first drive to Brevard and then take the road down the mountain to Travelers Rest. As I was familiar with those roads and did not wish to be late to our appointment, I selected the longer but “safer” route. On the way back, time was not a consideration. I really kind of enjoy exploring back roads, so even though I have seen the movie Deliverance, I wasn’t too worried about getting lost. Even without GPS I don’t believe that I could get so lost that I couldn’t find some location that I could identify on a map. As a friend once observed, “All roads come out somewhere.” On our second trip down the mountain, I knew the detour would cut 30-40 minutes off the time required to drive to Travelers Rest. I was now familiar with the roads that comprised the detour, so there was no confusion or risk involved in following this new path that did not appear on any of my maps.

Are you following directions from a map or a GPS on your way to your goals or are you just wandering aimlessly around the back roads of life? If you want to get out of debt, ask yourself, “Am I spending less than my take home pay?” If the answer is no your vector is pointed in the wrong direction. A budget can quickly point out the magnitude of your mistakes. The first step in learning to control your money is often finding our where you are spending it. Then focus on how to get from where you are to where you want to be. Begin to repay your debt in some orderly systematic method. The debt snowball (smallest debt first) and the debt avalanche (highest interest rate first) both work. However, neither will work unless you keep your foot on the accelerator and your car pointed down the road. The trick is to stay motivated and focused even when the twists and turns of a mountain road are starting to aggravate your tendency towards motion sickness.

What happens is you hit a detour? Perhaps your current job does not pay enough to cover your monthly expenses. You might need to take a part time job until you get your expenses under control. You might want to work harder and smarter at your current job. Who knows, you might get a promotion. You might want to look for a new job that pays more than your current job. Actually, unlike a car and a road, you can follow all three of those paths simultaneously. What might happen if your answer to a detour in life is, Yes! Yes! and Yes! Try applying the multiple Yes! to any kind of problem, building a relationship that could lead to marriage, saving for retirement, or finding a way to do what you love even if it has no commercial potential.

So, if you ever need to drive from Slater to Pumpkintown just turn on to 288 West it’s right there by the Burger King. You can’t miss it. If you find the road is blocked, just turn off at Oolenoy Church Road or State Road S-39-298 (it don’t have no name). They both connect to SC 135 just turn right and follow the road to Highway 8, the Pumpkintown Highway. Turn right on 8 and you’re almost home.

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