Challenging the status quo and thinking about financial planning differently dominates our minds, it is what makes us different and is how we work with you. Finding balance between today and our future selves is a trick. Financial planning is controlled in our industry by the “future self,” sometimes to the detriment of the “present self.”
Over time we have written well received articles about Redefining Retirement (June 2021) where we advocate for a balance between living today and saving for tomorrow, or Finding Meaning in Retirement (March 2022) talking about a vibrant and meaningful winter of life, or Would of Should of Could of (February 2023) where we talk about living life with no regrets.
Some of you have heard me amusingly say, and I am fond of saying it, that when I die and my life flashes before my eyes, I simply do not want to be bored with myself. But that just doesn’t really capture it, more a symptom of an idea. More aptly put, if I was to give my own eulogy, I would say I lived my life on my terms. That one phrase is my quintessential mic drop, so much so when I say it, I want to spike the mic like a football on the floor.
I lived my life, on my terms.
We do not die with anything other than our memories, our last days thinking about the days that had come before. I can think of no other way to have them than as our own and on our terms, because embraced and accepted by us or not, life doesn’t care.
Obviously, I am not risk averse, but we all define risk differently. In my opinion the greatest risk to us should be missing out, having wanted to do something but deciding not to do it. One life and one chance to make it full, life on our terms. Spike!
“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”
-Oliver Wendell Holmes
But how do we determine “what direction we are moving” and what part does financial planning play in it? Great question and I am glad you asked.
Life and financial planning are a lot like trail running. You must pay attention to where your foot falls every single step you take, but every now and then you must look up to where you are going and plan ever so quickly for where your next steps will take you. Day-to-day life is paying attention to where each step falls, financial planning is looking up to see where you are going.
“The ultimate goal of Stopping is to ensure that when we do go, we go in the direction that we want and that we are not just reacting to the pace of our lives, but choosing, moment by moment, what’s best.”
Dr. David Kundtz
Stopping – How to be still when you have to keep going
We need today more than we need tomorrow, it is the only certainty we have. Steve Jobs once said he looks in the mirror every morning and asks himself the simple question, “if today was my last day, would I do what I am about to do today?” Nice question for a billionaire of course, if I did that, I’d have long hair and be sitting on a surfboard in South America today. 99.9% of us don’t have Steve Jobs luxury. But he is not off the mark in being intentional each day either.
We talk a lot about bucket lists, but those are for tomorrow. Honor tomorrow but then forget about tomorrow. It is time to start taking things out of the bucket and do them today. That is what a real financial plan looks like.
Carefully crafting long-term goals and a detailed budget around them allows us to plan for today while still honoring tomorrow. We enter those goals and budgets into the financial plan, decide how much we need to save to achieve them, how we must invest to reach them, and the best steps to get there. We then dedicate those steps to the long-term financial plan. What is left over today, we spend on experiences and meaningful enrichment in the present, in this moment.
In the classic Aesop fable of the Ant and Grasshopper, we learn there is a time for work and a time for play. The grasshopper played all summer while the ant worked and had a much better winter. Bill Perkins asks in Die with Zero, “Great moral. But when does the ant ever get to play?”
My wife RoseAnne and I have a retirement budget just like you. It is a carefully crafted ideal retirement budget. We can then modify our financial plan so today we honor that future by saving enough to obtain it. We have crafted a debt pay off schedule also to honor tomorrow. But whatever is left over in our budget, that, my friends, gets spent on doing things today. When we reach retirement, I want that bucket to be almost empty with a need to refill it. Spike!
“Money is just a means to an end: Having money helps you to achieve the more important goal of enjoying your life.”
Die with Zero
We all define living or finding meaning in life differently. I’ve never seen two bucket lists the same. But always assuming tomorrow will be there and planning to find fulfillment then, only hobbles today and could rob you of precious memories and the time to enjoy them.
Next time we sit down, let us talk about your list and plan on how to achieve maximum enjoyment in the present, while still honoring the future. And your list doesn’t need to cost lots of money. Finding meaning in life can be in the smallest of things and the grandest of ways, all at the same time.
“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Henry David Thoreau
Let us know how we can help you find clarity and confidence in an otherwise confusing world. It is always a pleasure to be of service.
From the desk of Erik Lawrence CFP®