But let’s explain what is the messy middle. Yeah, when we talk about this period of time, it’s really this period of time that exists where your commitments begin to increase, the things that pull on you increase, but your disposable income decreases. Also, your disposable time decreases. The two things we’re going to talk about, money and time, get less and less, and yet more and more is required of you. So, it is this period of time where you feel like you are being pulled and stretched in a thousand different directions to do a thousand different things, and you either run out of money or run out of time. It’s hard to figure out how to navigate that well.
And I get it, all the noise out there. We’re even part of that. Is that here we are, we’re encouraging you to save and invest 25%, but then in the background, maybe you first start off, if you look at this, I like looking at the graph and seeing the ages and the things when we’ll go over when this all happens and kind of builds upon itself. But yeah, it starts so simple, you know? Yeah, you don’t have money, but you also don’t have a lot of commitments. You know, so you’re like, ‘It’s all right.’ But then it comes at you so fast. In the fact that you’re getting married, a family starts, you’re also getting more responsibility at work, you have the desire to buy a house, the kids’ activities, and it’s just, boom! I mean, you are right in the middle of the messy middle. So, give them some, ’cause we want to give perspective, you know? ‘Cause it’s not always an age thing, but it does seem like a lot of this stuff happens right around the same time.”
“Yeah, I think it’s so interesting. When it comes to the messy middle, you said it’s there’s not specific parameters around what age it is, but when you’re in it, you kind of know that you’re in it because there are common stresses that we all face. We just might be facing them at different parts in time. But statistically, if you just kind of look at the averages, it seems like there’s a common thread of when these things start. The average age that people get married right now in this country, as measured by the US Census Bureau, is 30 for men and 28 for women. So right there in the late 20s, right there at the beginning of the 30s. The median age for women having their first child is now 30 years old. The average age that people start investing is at 33 years old. And then, now with what’s going on in the housing market, even the average first-time homebuyer is 36 years old. So, it seems like somewhere between this, like mid-20s to maybe early 40s, again depending on your timeline, depending on where you are in that path, this is kind of when it starts to happen. These things start taking place. And again, you just feel stretched so thin. You start thinking, ‘How on Earth am I going to navigate it through this?'”
“So, but I know just from our conversations, you’re a successful guy. You’ve got a great planning firm, and we’ve got everything we do over here with the Money Guy Show. But I just know from talking with you, you’re in this to a degree just because of time. Yeah, commitments, babies in the house. You kind of reflect this.”
“What I think is so interesting about the messy middle is that you can have one part or piece of your life kind of okay, right? So maybe, ‘Oh, you know what? I’m drinking a gallon of water every day. Check, good.’ Or, ‘Oh, I’m exercising every day.’ Or maybe, ‘I’ve got the money thing figured out.’ But then you get home, and the kids are crazy. Or maybe, ‘I’ve got the kid thing figured out, but the money stuff is tight. Or, I’m in the house, or I want to.’ No matter what area of your life you might have under control, again, the messy middle is this just resounding thing that the other 15 areas around that just get all kinds of out of whack. So, I think a lot of people feel that way. A lot of people feel that pressure and that tension that, yeah, not everything’s crazy, or not everything’s bad, but everything is crazy. And it’s just all over the place. And I certainly feel that way a lot of times.”
“Can’t take away all the stress, but we can at least start giving people the framework for how do you do better and maximize the financial opportunity. So, let’s kind of give the framework. How do you win even in the messy middle, financially?”
“Yes. So, I think the very first thing that you have to do is you have to give yourself grace. You have to just take a nice deep breath. I’m not the only person going through this. I’m not the first person going through this, and this probably won’t work forever. This probably won’t be this way forever. So, you have to give yourself grace. You have to recognize that there is no perfect circumstance to work through this. You know, I don’t have to get married on this date and make this income at this date and have exactly this many kids on this date, and then I’m going to buy the house on this. That’s just not the way that it works. But I think for a lot of high achievers and perfectionists, they get so wound up in that. They feel like it has to be that way. If you wake up one day and you recognize life is not playing out exactly the way I wrote in my journal it was going to play out, that’s okay.”
“I also think giving yourself grace also means seeing through the fuzz of social media. That doesn’t… because that’s the thing. It’s real. We’ve talked about this on many shows. Social media is the highlight reel. Nobody ever gives you the reality of their situation, their struggles. It is definitely for the vast masses to see how awesome your life is. Nobody ever… you know, yes, some people are vulnerable, but then even then, you question, ‘What? Why is this person crying on camera?’ But it is one of those things where give yourself grace. Don’t let the comparison be the thief of your joy and your success. Because we can actually… there are so many paths to success that I want you to know. Don’t look for perfection. You make mistakes, and it’s going to be okay. Because I’ve made mistakes, I’ve shared my struggles in my 30s, and it still comes out okay. You don’t have to hit everything perfectly.”
“I love that you said that there are so many paths to success. And while the path itself is narrow, it’s not so narrow that if you make one misstep one way or the other, you’re going to fall off. That’s what I love about it. And so what we’ve tried to do is, as we think about how we help people, how we provide guidance, we wanted to provide sort of the best path through the progression. We wanted to figure out if we can help you figure out what’s that next step to take. There’s a really good chance that you’ll stay on the path that you ought to be on.”
“So, one of the things that we’ve developed here is the Financial Order of Operations. The low-hanging fruit, the easiest path is to know what to do with your next dollar. And so if you can figure out how to figure out, okay, where am I? Where am I on this journey? Okay, what’s the next step I need? Oh, I took a step back. Oh. And you can start answering those questions. It will prevent you from being that person that wakes up one day and says, ‘Holy cow, I’m 50 years old. I’m finally out of the messy middle. But man, I wish I would have made some different choices, different things 20 years ago when I wasn’t in the messy middle.'”
“I think it’s important. Most of our audience knows this, but we always have new people coming in. Go to MoneyGuy.com/resources. You can download your free copy. But I do want to give a word of caution. A lot of us think when we think about the financial order of operations, our steps one through nine, I think a lot of us visually think it’s just going to be a staggered step straight uphill. You just get through step one, two, three, four, and you just go right up the numerical numbers and have success. And you reach your best point. That’s not the reality of how it works. And as you can see, we actually created a chart of what people perceive the Financial Order of Operations to be like. But actually, how life goes through life is what I think is great. BR is there are tons of financial mutants that listen to this. I mean, if you’re out there listening to a personal financial podcast, you’re probably naturally an achiever. You’re naturally someone who likes to set a goal and achieve that goal. I, Brian, this self-confessionally, it’s hard when life or finances or the journey looks like the right side.”
“It’s hard when there are setbacks, one step forward, two steps back, three steps forward, one step back. Because we all just want to go from the next checkpoint to the next checkpoint to the next checkpoint. Again, I think it’s reassuring to recognize that more often than not, this is what it looks like. It’s a process, not a straight path. And the sooner you figure that out, the more comfortable you can be with the circumstances that you’re in.”
And I also, I want to make sure I put this to words because we have a lot of podcast listeners too. Because what we show on the chart is like, you might be in step five, you know, you’re finally excited. You get to fund your Roth IRA, but then the car breaks down. You have to replace the tires or maybe a transmission goes out, and you have to go a step back because you used emergency reserves to kind of make that repair. You have to take a step back. And then we all know when you buy that first home, a lot of you will get to the point where, yes, you’re loading up, and you’re getting into the higher steps, maybe even maxing out retirement. But then, when you buy the house, it costs more than you thought. Your down payment was more, and you had to kind of focus on that for a moment in time. But then we know there’s steep inclines in the Financial Order of Operations, like you get a promotion, and things feel like all is on the upswing. But then, you get like my father did right in your mid-40s, all of a sudden, you lose your job, and you have to now rely upon those financial assets. And it takes you right back down to step four. That stuff happens, but that’s okay, as long as you have the plan and you can understand what each step can do in maximizing your journey to make the most of your army of dollar bills, you’re going to be prepared for whatever comes your way.