Many people simply spend the day of their birth as a "free day" to enjoy and spend money. Maybe that wasn't such a bad idea when I was 10 years old. But as I get older, each birthday that comes and goes, my responsibilities have grown and my worry that I may not meet my responsibilities grows even more. Although, I do not allow my worries to paralyze me from actions, stress myself out or not be a fun loving person anymore, I do, however, give deep thought to what steps I need to do to take care of them.
My birthday is a special reminder to me that time is moving and I better get going about my goals. It is also a reminder that I had set some goals for myself last year. Have I met them? If not, what do I plan to do about them? It is also a reminder to set goals for the next year.
Last year, when I hit the big 30, it weighed me down quite a bit. Now, I feel the years slipping through my fingers like sand on a beach. I feel a sense of urgency towards my unfulfilled responsibilities of the past and present. I also feel the need to plant "trees" of investment for my future so that I may eat from their fruits when I won't have any trees except the ones that I planted.
I will just shed light on two biggest forces that push me forward everyday and make me wish I had more time.
Obviously, the most urgent responsibility (and a huge driving force) for any man with a wife and kids is to provide for them all the things that allow them to be wholesome in every way. For me, providing for family goes well beyond the finances however bringing home the bread and butter is the primary responsibility before we can have the luxury of thinking about education and a good future. The fact that I do not know how long more I have worries me about the time I will not be there. Will they be left behind in need? I ask my Lord to take care of them and guide me to plant the seeds that my family can harvest after me.
Another worry that weighs me down is the thought of not making a difference around me. Just the thought of being another person who lived and died like billions of other irrelevant souls makes my heart sink. I even feel it sinking as I write this article.
So with that in mind, what do I plan to do on my birthdays and especially this birthday:
1. Revise my will and make it available for people to reach it. This is my usual practice for many years now. Since, birthdays make us realize that death is coming, why not take care of as many lose ends as possible while we still can? There is a famous Islamic Will Template that is available widely on the internet. This template covers all the important aspects that one needs to cover in his/her will. One can use this as a sample and write his/her own will.
I believe the only part that is missing is a "passwords" section. I believe it is important for others to be able to close one's accounts and download useful data in case of your death but that will only be possible if you leave them your passwords. In my opinion, it is also important for one to maintain a list of passwords even without the posthumous concerns.
2. Organize my documents so that I can have them when I need them. It is common for many of us (especially me) to go through life so fast that we invite a sense of chaos in out lives. My car, my garage, my office, and my documents at home can use some serious organization time. It is also important to get rid of your junk and your birthdays might be a great time to declutter. It saddens me to witness other people coming and throwing away "trash" that the deceased person was holding so dearly.
As a result, I plan to organize my house papers, tax papers, car titles, medical and travel documents in one easily accessible and well organized place. As a matter of general practice, I also scan all of my important documents and send them to myself Drive or Email with the title clearly labeled so that I can at least have a quickly accessible copy when I need it.
3. Organize my finances by eliminating debt, building an emergency fund, setting a budget, and savings/investing for future. All praise is due to Allah that I have very little debt to begin with. I do not believe in financing or leasing cars, furniture, or electronics. Home mortgage (halal) is not considered bad debt nor is it considered to be over due. I personally consider it like rent and just pay it by bank draft every month automatically.
After eliminating debt, emergency fund is a very important stress reliever. Things can go wrong and I can't say enough about this. If you want to learn more, just google search "emergency fund" and a plethora of useful information will come up. Generally speaking, you should have three to six months of basic expenses sitting on the side in case of an emergency. If you happen to lose your job or your house is destroyed in a hurricane, dont wait until you are at the end of your emergency fund to start looking for ways to get off it. Start on day 1.
Along with having an emergency fund, its important to have a monthly budget. A good rule of thumb is the 50/20/30 rule. It means that 50% or less of your monthly income should go towards taking care of all your necessary expenses such as housing, groceries, utilities, insurance, car payment, etc. If this part of your monthly budget is more than 50% of your income, then you need to either increase your income or decrease these expenses.
20% of your monthly income should go towards savings. Anyone who knows anything about money will tell you that this might be the most important part of your budget. This is called "paying yourself first." Through this 20%, you will invest and eventually become financially independent from having to work a full-time job. It will also be what you can lean on in your retirement. There is much advice available on halal investment whether its in stocks, investing in real estate or starting your own business. If you have any debt, this part should initially go towards paying off your debt.
The last 30% go towards your optional expenses which are only done if the other two categories have been met. This includes your dining out, optional shopping, hobbies, etc. The people who are drowning in financial problems usually allow this 30% to grow to the point that they can't fulfill their basic obligations.
My plan on my birthday is to sit down and take care of these things so that I can get closer to my goals and reduce my long-term worries. I would love to hear what thoughtful things you do on your birthdays?