Astronauts and space exploration still hold a combo of magnetism + mystery for me, as I suspect they do for many people. It's always a bit of a thrill when I get to travel down NASA Road 1 and see all of the space-travel road, convenience store, and bowling alley names.

That's why when I was listening to NPR a few years ago and heard they were interviewing an astronaut, my ears perked up. And thankfully they did, as something he said really captured my imagination.

What an Astronaut Has to Say About Personal Finance

Unfortunately I can't seem to find the interview itself, but it was of an astronaut talking about his upcoming journey to space. The interviewer must have remarked on something about how he should have a fun time on his upcoming trip (as if he's headed to Nantucket or something).

At this point, the astronaut chuckled to himself.

He went on to explain that this type of fun was “Type II” fun, meaning you don't necessarily enjoy it during the process; the true fun comes after it's over with.

I thought this was a brilliant insight, and immediately saw its use not in space exploration but in personal finances.

Because how many of the money things we do really aren't too much fun while doing them, but offer a lot of enjoyment after the fact when you get to reap the benefits?

Like...

  • Paying off debt: During debt payoff, I know intimately how sucky it can be to work just to see huge portions of your paycheck go towards stuff you purchased years ago. Debt payoff can be such an un-fun time that I added in an entire module to my course, The Debt Manipulator 3.0, called Social Triage. After all, you'll be far less motivated to continue your gazelle-intense debt payoff if you're bored and cranky.
  • Saving for retirement: Saving a significant portion of money each month towards a date that may be 30+ years away? Oh my. The fun definitely comes from getting to quit your job, having your coworkers throw you a retirement party, and doing what you want.
  • Saving up for a big trip: When you save for a big trip, the rewards are definitely sooner than you'll typically find with debt payoff or retirement savings. But still, you have to make sacrifices today for that enjoyment tomorrow.

How Understanding Type II Fun Could Change Everything in Reaching Your Financial Goals

An astronaut catapults their bodies through air (inducing space motion sickness), subject themselves to hundreds of hours of grueling training, sub-par temps, and all other kinds of things to get into space. But their glory — what they will eventually experience as ‘Type II' fun once all the icky stuff is over with — is being a member of an elite group who witnessed the earth dangling in the blackened sky from millions of miles away.

How many more things might be bearable to us if we know that one day we'll get to enjoy that kind of Type II fun as well?

For personal financial goals, your Type II fun will be even greater than what you could possibly enjoy today. That's because, typically, delaying gratification allows you to achieve so much more than your current resources can give you.

Cascading Effects that Add to Your Enjoyment Include…

  • Paid Off Debt: Not only will you save interest you were paying towards your original loans each month, not only will your cash flow increase dramatically, but you are now ahead of the pay-cash curve (meaning you can save up for all future purchases and never pay interest again).
  • Saved for Retirement: By putting aside money today, it grows its own money. So you end up needing to put less of your own money into retirement savings the earlier you start. That $400 this month you're sacrificing from your pay to put towards retirement will be worth $2,297.40 in 30 years (at 6% interest) Pretty sweet when your own money works for you (and will buy you that trip to Italy you want to take in your 60s).
  • Saved for that Trip: Setting aside $300 each month for 10 months for your $3,000 trip can save you a lot of money versus putting it on your credit card and paying the minimum (at 18%, paying a 2% minimum would keep you in debt for 451 months, and will have siphoned an extra $4,931.11 in interest out of your pocket).

This astronaut (I wish I knew his name) has figured out a huge key to reaching long-term financial goals. Sign me up for Type II fun, as I've already experienced all its goodness in my own life and know what incredible power (and fun) it holds. I hope you can enjoy Type II fun as well!

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Amanda L. Grossman is a Certified Financial Education Instructor, Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Frugal Confessions. Over the last 10 years, her money work helping people with how to save money and how to manage money has been featured in Kiplinger, Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, Business Insider, LifeHacker, Woman's World, Woman's Day, ABC 13 Houston, Keybank, and more. Read more here.
7 replies
  1. Heather
    Heather says:

    My previous goal was to pay off my car and I thought it was FUN to be able to drop $1,000 on the loan here and there. I was working on it aggressively and I was thrilled! Then when it was paid off and pay day came and I realized I didn’t have to use any of the money for my car loan…that’s when the real fun began! What a great feeling!

    Reply
  2. Courtney
    Courtney says:

    I love the concept of Type II fun! As someone who is all about delayed gratification I feel like my life is full of it. When I try to explain to friends that I religiously take care of my health (doctors, dentists, eating well, forgoing that donut etc.) even though I often HATE it they can’t understand why. It’s because I want to LIVE when I’m older and retired (and saving for retirement is another of my Type II fun) and not be limited by my past choices. My health in my later years will enable me to have a lot more FUN. I’m going to be using this concept all over the place. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Amanda
      Amanda says:

      Health is so important!! I recently trudged through my annual checkups, and am so happy that I did. Dermatology, dental cleaning, vision exam, etc. It wasn’t terribly fun, but now I feel great about my health.

      I’m glad you love this concept! Thanks for telling me:).

      Reply
  3. The Bearded Dragon
    The Bearded Dragon says:

    I really like this. The idea that even though you are putting in hard work, it’s really because you are after future fun. This mindset should help keep you grounded in the fact that you aren’t working just for work’s sake, but for whatever goals you have in mind. Nice article.

    Reply

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