Amidst the soil and seeds lived a pumpkin farmer. He spent his days working the fields, tilling the soil, planting his seeds, tending his beloved crop.
One day, as he walked through his pumpkin patch he found a glass mason jar lying in the field. Curious to see the interesting result, he pushed the freshly sprouted pumpkin inside the jar to grow.
Weeks and months went by, and the farmer forgot all about that tiny little pumpkin in a jar. Until, one day at harvest time, he walked yet again down that row. To his surprise, that tiny little pumpkin had grown. It filled the jar, a perfect mold of the shape. Sitting beside the enormous pumpkins, the perfect jack-o-lantern carving type pumpkins, this tiny jar-shaped pumpkin looked rather odd.
And it certainly was.
Here was a pumpkin that could easily fit in the palm of your hand, while the pumpkins that grew to the left and the right were enormous, the size of a basketball and considerably heavier.
But what was different about that pumpkin? It grew from the same seeds, in the same soil, drinking the same water. Why was this pumpkin unable to grow beyond the jar, into the big, beautiful pumpkins we see sitting on store shelves?
This problem presents itself in your life too. No more so than when you start to look at money.
For so many of us, values in our lives have been boiled down into dollars and cents. It’s how we spend our time, investing those precious few hours each day for a paycheck. All in the hopes that one day, we no longer need to make that trade. But, when will that be? The question of “how much is enough?” has plagued us for all time, and likely always will.
Have you ever said, or heard someone say, “If I made that much money, this and that would never be an issue for me.”
One of the problems with writing about personal finance is exactly that. How much is enough?
Each of us is currently living inside our own mason jars. Some bigger, some smaller. But each of us is just like that little pumpkin. We grow until we fill our jar. No bigger, and no smaller.
It’s very easy to look at another person’s jar and say, “I wish I had that much.” And just as easy to look elsewhere and say “I could never live in a jar that small.”
This is why, when we start planning your personal financial plan, it is important not to look at someone else’s jar. You need to only focus on what you have, the size of your jar. If there are chances for you to increase the size of that jar, that’s fantastic, but the measure isn’t in comparison with someone else, but rather with what you used to have.
How Much Is Enough?
How much should you put away then? The target isn’t a million dollars. It’s not 5 million, nor 10 million. The target that you need to aim for is only in proportion to the size of your jar. Because that’s what you know. You know your jar. You live there.
When you’re looking into planning your personal finances, don’t covet thy neighbor. Examine what you have, and build your plan around that.
The Right Size Jar
What is the right size jar for you?
Start where you’re at. Take a portion of what you make right now, and set it aside for the future. No matter the size of your current jar, you need to be filling that piggy bank for the future too.
Estimate the amount of earnings you’ll be making at the peak of your career. 80% of that number should be the amount you plan on drawing when you’re no longer working full time for a paycheck.
Finally, take that number, and divide by a reasonable number between 2.5 and 4%. That will estimate the size of jar that you’re working towards, in your life. Your target, based on you. Not your neighbor, your family, or your friends. Your jar, for you.
This will put you on the right path towards financial independence. After all, this is your life, your journey.
There is no need to look at the pumpkins growing on your left and right. You only need to become all that you were meant to be. To grow into as big a jar as you can, without discouraging yourself by comparing yourself to your neighbor, and certainly to not sell yourself short and living in a jar that’s a few sizes too small.