Why I Hate Free Money

Hey guys! I was planning on writing a post for you today, but as I started writing a really bad thunderstorm hit us. My power is flickering and there’s no telling whether or not we will lose our power. Instead of taking a chance I thought I would share this great guest post from my buddy Chris Moore from Fickle Finance. I am back from vacation and our family has finally fully recovered from bronchitis so I am hoping to post a little more regularly. Things have been crazy to say the least. Show Chris some love and I will be posting a review and giveaway on Friday. Stay tuned!

There are, in so many ways, something wrong with the title of this post. While Brad is (in?)famous for the attention-grabbing headlines often associated with his posts, by the time you read through to the end, it makes sense. Well, strap yourself in, because the story behind my title makes ZERO sense.

First, a clarification: I’m not talking about “free money” as in government grants or the like. That’s a different post for another day. The “free money” — there is a such thing — is in the form of the matching funds that the company I work for gives employees who contribute to an retirement account. By now, you may know where this is going. If you haven’t already done a full-on face palm while shouting “Doh!”, then I’ll give you reason to do so very shortly.

The ugly truth behind the hate

See, yours truly has been working for a community-owned, not-for-profit hospital for the past four years. It’s a job, which I’m thankful for in this economy, and the work is rewarding. Now speaking of the economy, the hospital administration has felt the pinch and employees haven’t been given raises for the past two fiscal years. But, there hasn’t been a mass of layoffs either, which is great.

Now I won’t get into the particulars of what a 403(b) is here; it’s basically the non-profit cousin to a 401k. Interestingly enough, the hospital has not cut the 403(b) part of its benefits package at any time during my employment. The package will match whatever I contribute to the fund, up to 4%. What that means in plain English is that I put in 4% of what I make; they chip another 4% in on on top of that. Quickly, you math majors, break out the Ti-86! That’s 8% building in the retirement account! I only came up with 4%! The rest was… wait for it: FREE MONEY!

Only problem is, I haven’t opened an account. Don’t smack yourself too hard (it hurts, and I speak from experience).

I haven’t bothered to calculate exactly how much money I’ve missed out on. Truthfully, if I did, it would probably make me burst into tears like a schoolgirl. All I know is that several thousand dollars have been left on the table.

So how did this happen?

The root of the problem

For all but fifteen months out of the four years I’ve been at this job, I’ve worked 12-hour night rotations. On top of that, I had a part-time job at a funeral home. So you can see that my time is often blocked off into work, eat, and sometimes, sleep. But that isn’t an excuse. I made it to required staff meetings, classes, ect., yet failed to do what would be best for my future.

Its not like the process would have been difficult. Twice a year, the HR department has their retirement account rep come in and help employees get set up. The announcements would be up next to time clocks, so there would be plenty of notice. So riddle me this: what was really going on?

In short, my problem was procrastination. At the risk of being jumped all over here, as of the time I type this, I still haven’t put a penny into a retirement account. Not one stinkin’ red cent.

So it’s finally occuring to me; as a result of laziness, I’ve become a hater of free money.

How I plan to resolve this

“Procrastination is, hands down, our favorite form of self-sabotage.”

Alyce P. Cornyn-Selby

I’ll tell you this much; it’s not my thing to wallow in self-pity; nor was it easy to come forth with this. I don’t feel too bad, as this puts me right along with most young people, who don’t bother investing into an retirement account. Not to mention the numerous articles that mention that retirement account participation goes way down when it’s opt-in.

However, while some young people might be plain ignorant, I’m fully aware of what I need to do. So with that said, I’m taking this as motivation; from here on I consider myself an enemy of inaction. Because the root of many financial problems, I believe, can be traced directly to putting things off. Whether it’s a repair on the house, the car or a checkup with the doctor, these small things can turn into huge problems. That’s why you have to pay attention to financial planning, budgeting for periodical expenses, and taking care of small issues in a timely manner.

My work is cut out for me, so I’ll be counting on you to hold me accountable to this pledge. Besides, hating free money is just bad form.

Are you down?

Chris Moore is the writer at Fickle Finance, a personal finance blog with a Christian slant. When not saving people from themselves at his day job, he’s doing something that involves kicking butt — just because he’s cool like that. If you liked this post, you can follow his journey to define wealth by subscribing to his blog.

About Brad Chaffee

5 Responses to “Why I Hate Free Money”

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  1. Vicki says:

    Dude – wow. Financially I could use the money I contribute to my 401K plan, BUT, it would be so irresponsible of me to NOT contribute or take advantage of my employer matching. (ours is max 3%) So I contribute 6%, and my employer match 3% = 9%. As soon as I am able, I plan on bumping this up.

  2. Brad Chaffee says:

    I’m with you Vicki. This is one of the things Dave Ramsey and I disagree on. While I understand the importance of focusing on one thing at a time, I can’t see not contributing at least up to the match if a match is available. That is why even when we were hardcore intense on paying off our debt, we still contributed up to the match.

    As far as Dave Ramsey’s advice goes, I don’t think you should be worrying about funding your retirement unless you are out of debt, BUT if your company is going to match your contributions it would be stupid not to participate. After all, it’s usually only 3-5%, or something like that, that the company matches anyway so you may as well take advantage of it right?

    Do it Chris!

  3. Come on Chris, I would love to see a great update on this by this weekend! It’s super easy and took me about 30 minutes to set up completely!

    We’ve been on a salary freeze for 2 years too, so the 100% up to 6% matching is the only thing keeping me going here. I contribute 6% and get 6%, so I’m really at 12% without trying very hard at all…all automatic!

    *chanting* Sign Up, Sign Up, Sign Up…you get the drift. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Chris@FeFi says:

    Hey folks!

    First off, a huge thanks to Brad for hosting my first ever guest post! I don’t care what nobody else says – you’re alright with me. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And a big thanks to y’all for the encouragement. This was fairly personal and it does inspire me (the comment button says “inspire others”, after all) to work on

    getting this done.

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