There's probably a better forum for this somewhere on the internet, but what the hell...
I'm 24 and getting married in a little over a week. My future wife just graduated in May and started her career. My career situation could be a whole thread in itself, but suffice it to say that I'm working and we're finally going to have enough money that we can start investing soon.
The basic dilemma is that on one hand we want to save money and secure our futures, but on the other hand we don't plan on having kids for a few years and there are a lot of things we'd like to do before we get too old. I'll give you an example. One thing we'd love to do is go skydiving, which we're thinking about doing to celebrate our marriage.
Skydiving would cost $239 each for a total of $478, which doesn't sound so bad. However, if we invested that and got a 5% return, that $478 could be $3,365 after 40 years. That means if we wait we could afford to sky dive 7 times when I'm 64. Sounds good and I take care of myself very well, but things happen and I could even die before that age.
How do you decide what's worth it and what's not? The cost of skydiving is low enough that it seems to make sense to go ahead and do it now. You only live once, right? But things get trickier once more expensive adventures are considered. My biggest cycling dream is to ride across the country. This would cost me at least $3,000 the way I want to do it. After 40 years that could be over $21,000. That's a pretty big chunk of change. But again, would I be in good enough health to do it at 64 years of age? Would 40 years of dreaming but never doing cause more than $21,000 worth of stress?
When it comes to financial goals, our #1 goal is to save up enough money to buy a house within 5 years. We can have a set dollar amount, which makes decisions simple. Want to go skydiving? Only if you've put in your $X per month and still have enough money left over. But how can you decide how much money you want to have for living expenses when you're 65 or so? I easily lived off of $11,000 a year as a grad student, but what about inflation? What if I decide to work past retirement age?
How do you weigh investing for the future versus living for the present? I don't want to be 65 and not have done anything exciting with my life, but I don't want to be 65 and broke, either.