Life is like a game of Chutes & Ladders

If there is one thing I have learned in the last few years about finance, it’s that gaining wealth and financial security is a long, arduous road. It’s like the childhood game I used to play, Chutes and Ladders. You take little steps forward, only to find yourself on the next turn sliding down, further from your goals. And isn’t it unfair that the ladders advance you instead of the chutes? It’s way easier to slide than it is to climb a ladder.

Unfortunately the real game of life is no different from my childhood game. For example, my life at the moment. After J and I got married, we received monetary gifts (ladder), saved money from our wedding budget (ladder), only to realize three weeks into our marriage that we needed to replace my car (chute).

Since both of us had old cars (1994 & 1996), we decided to buy a newer, more expensive car that should last for the next 15 years, and J would use his car only for work and back. We took out a small loan ($4,000) and paid the rest in cash on a 2009 Mazda3. I absolutely hate debt and it took a lot of calculating, but we figured that we could pay it off by January and keep our $5,000 emergency fund stable.

Fast forward to this week, a month after buying our Mazda. We had just put together our grand plan to pay off our loan and start saving more in our emergency fund, when J’s car broke down. And the real kicker: it will cost $1,600 to fix (chute). At this point, we would rather invest that money into a newer, more reliable car, but it’s still money that we don’t want to part with even if we fix it.

Life is just unfair sometimes, just like the game of Chutes and Ladders, where the steps are chosen by a dice. Cars break down when you need them. People who do less work seem to get the promotions. Emergencies happen. But the best thing to do in these situations is acknowledge that it sucks, see how far you’ve come since you started the game, and quickly move on. Because after you slide down a chute, there’s usually a ladder coming up. And the only way to win the game is to keep playing.