Protect Monday Me
Another concept that nobody taught young Will Smith is what we call Monday Me.
This is the idea that when you spend money frivolously today, you’re borrowing (you might even say stealing) from a future version of yourself. If you spend money on Friday purely out of boredom, what happens when Monday comes and you need that money for something important?
Friday Me will have cheated Monday Me.
Imagine you’re saving up to go on a camping trip with friends in a couple of months. Birthday money, cash from odd jobs—whenever you come into a few bucks, you put the money right into your camping-trip fund. So far, so good.
Then one day you go to the mall, wander into the Apple Store, and fall in love with the new iPod Nano. You already have an iPod (a pretty old one), but this Nano is so sleek that you can’t resist.
You plunk down every dollar you’ve saved and buy it.
But there’s someone else involved
Fast-forward two months.
That camping trip is now just a couple days away and you don’t have enough money to cover your share. You’re going to miss the trip you’ve been excited about for months. All for an iPod Nano that isn’t so new anymore. Hey, you already had an iPod—and that one still works just fine.
This is the concept of Monday Me.
You’re still you two months later. In the scenario we just described, think of yourself as Today Me. Now, don’t you think Today Me is going to be pretty angry at Two Months Ago Me for wasting all the money you were counting on to pay for this camping trip?
Teens spend most of their money on clothing, food, entertainment, appearance products, recorded music, and transportation.
But remember: something always comes up.
Some expense you hadn’t thought of will appear out of nowhere (you car breaks down, you realize at the last minute it’s a friend’s birthday) and you’ll need cash on hand when it does.
That ready cash is your money cushion, and everybody should have one.
You’re in the Before
“People in the 1300s used to walk around thinking, ‘This is a long time ago.’” — Comedian Gilbert Gottfried
This great line from standup comedian Gilbert Gottfried gives us an important insight.
We laugh at this joke because, of course, we all know that nobody ever said, “This is a long time ago.” Just like nobody’s ever said, “This is a long time from now.” It’s never a long time ago. It’s always now. In the 1300s, the 1300s were now. Remembering this joke is another great way to remember the importance of protecting Monday Me.
Just remember that in six months, it will be now, just like it is today. And Six Months From Now Me will definitely want to have a healthy whole money picture, just like you do today.
Give Monday Me a gift
Another way you can look at longer-term money decisions is to think of saving money as giving yourself a gift down the road. We know it’s hard to imagine that next year will ever get here. But it will. You’ll still be you, with all the wants and needs you have right now—and probably a few new ones too. Think of how happy you’ll be that Last Year Me gave you this gift.
“I bought everything,” Will Smith told TV Guide in an interview about those years when he spent through his whole fortune.
Smith failed to Protect Monday Me. Even though he had a lot of money, he obviously couldn’t afford “everything.” Eventually he’d run out of money. Still, he spent without thinking about Next Year Will. Or 25-Year-Old Will. Or 40-Year-Old Will. So he ended up hurting all those future versions of himself.
You’re older than you think
Smith earned back his millions and more. But what if he hadn’t?
Plenty of child stars and teen musicians were not as lucky as Will Smith. They made lots of money when they were young, spent it all foolishly, and then lived the rest of their lives wondering where it went. Imagine what would’ve happened if Smith never became an actor, a TV star, and ultimately one of Hollywood’s A-list movie stars. What if that $6 million he made as a teen was the only fortune he would ever earn?
Today, 40-Something Will might still be furious with 17-Year-Old Will for wasting all his money.
“The younger you is there to take care of the older you.”
—Writer and economist Ben Stein
Another way to think about Monday Me
Imagine: You’re at Best Buy with $15. You could buy a CD you’ve been eyeing for weeks and really want. Or you could buy a piece of software, which you know you’d probably use only a few times and then toss. Which do you choose?
The question is ridiculous. You want the CD, so you get it. The answer is easy because you’re choosing between two things you’d get now, for Today Me. But what if you walk into Best Buy and the CD isn’t out yet—so you buy the software just because you want something now? When you do that, you deny Next Week Me the chance to get the CD, when Best Buy finally gets it in stock.
That’s why the Monday Me principle is valuable. You’ll clearly see how each money decision really affects you—you today and you in the future.
Protecting Monday Me changes your life
One more example. Imagine it’s today—you’re Today Me—and you set a goal that when you reach 22 years old, you want to be able to buy a house. You start putting cash into a bank account you think of as your account for First Home Me.
You often hold off buying little things that Today Me always wants—like DVDs and cool NBA jerseys and posters—and you put all that cash into your First Home Me account.
When you get your first job, you set aside a certain amount of every paycheck and put it into the account. The best part is, you have fun for years watching your First Home Me bank account grow and grow, knowing you’re on target to get that house.
The benefit for Monday Me
Fast-forward a few years. You’re now 22 years old. And from your point of view, you’re Today Me. You have enough for a down payment on a nice starter house in a great neighborhood—and plenty left over for furniture, TVs and other stuff to make your new house comfortable.
Aren’t you grateful to The Last Few Years Me?
By the way, where are those friends of yours who always thought only about Today Me? The ones who always bought themselves DVDs and cool NBA jerseys, sometimes just out of boredom? While you’re furnishing your new house, they’re renting tiny apartments—or still living at home with Mom.
You need to understand Your Whole Money Picture before can know if any specific purchase is a good idea.
Make it a habit
Get into the Monday Me habit. Make it fun for yourself.
Say things like: “I’ll save this for Saturday Me,” and
“Thank you, Last Week Me, for leaving me this cash.”
Always use the Monday Me concept when you’re not sure about making a purchase.
Have fun with it.
You can use it on the tiniest scales. When you’re shopping at Amazon.com, tell yourself, “I’m not sure I want this CD, so I’ll let 15-Minutes-From-Now Me decide if it’s a good idea to buy it.” The concept also works well for large decisions: “I’m going to take on some extra work whenever I can for the next couple years—so Two Years From Now Me can buy a condo.”
Protecting “Monday Me” will…
- Help you make smarter money decisions
- Make saving easier—because you’ll know it’s a gift you’re giving yourself
- Keep you from finding yourself without money when you really need it
Who is Monday Me?
One more takeaway
The Monday Me concept actually makes it fun not to spend money, because you can think about how excited the future you—Next Month Me, Next Decade Me—will be when you see all the cash you’ve been given.
And like the Whole Money Picture principle, the Monday Me concept becomes even more valuable as you get older.
So start practicing now.