It's not about what you think it's about . . .
As I enter my 30th year of advising clients (Wow, just now writing that hit me like a ton of bricks), I recently took time to reflect on what's happened with my clients, my practice, and the markets.
I started in financial planning on a wing and a prayer. I had just graduated college with an engineering degree and was working in a career that could have easily provided me job stability for life. Why did I decide to throw that away and start fresh as a financial advisor when I worked with one of America's largest and steadiest Fortune 500 companies? Something was missing, and I couldn't put my finger on it.
I wasn't happy.
I loved the work but hated the environment I worked in. I've always been good with numbers, but the human connection was painfully absent. I was miserable. After months of exhaustive research trying to find a career that offers both numbers and human connections – I discovered the perfect fit for me – Financial Planning.
I had found my purpose and my passion.
I was lucky I found it when I was still young and ambitious. Discovering my purpose has made this 30-year journey seem like only a fleeting moment. It was only yesterday that I started my career in financial planning. I think it must be the same for my clients – where a multi-decade retirement passes as quickly as a moth brushes across the cheek.
I knew money was important; however, in finding my purpose, I never really focused on having it. It never crossed my mind whether I could support a family with my new career choice. I only knew that it felt right.
Which got me thinking about helping our clients with their retirement journey. Is there more to retirement than just money? What if the concept of retirement goes way beyond just money? Financial journalism is obsessed with the concept of retirement and money. They make it sound so simple – just invest wisely, and you'll have a happy life.
Money is just one aspect of a happy and fulfilling multi-decade retirement.
In my experience in working with my clients to shape their retirement plans, I see three more components that are at least as, if not more, important than money.
They are in no particular order:
- Your health.
- Your purpose.
- Your relationships.
Because without any of those three, happiness will likely elude you no matter how much money you have. Isn't that what matters most in retirement – Doing whatever you want, when you want, with whomever you want, for as long as you want? Couldn't that be the definition of happiness in retirement?
I mean who wants to give their blood, sweat, and tears for a 30+ year career only to retire with plenty of money and not be happy?
I've always understood money from a numerical perspective. That was the easy part, but it took me a LONG time to understand the emotional component of money. I thought my job was to help and advise my clients in implementing and monitoring strategies for their money, and while that is important, I've discovered that it goes WAY beyond simple numbers. Everyone has a unique story about money. Understanding your relationship with money is essential for a happy retirement.
Financial Journalism fails to understand, either through ignorance or willful indifference, what a happy, fulling multi-decade retirement might look like. It's not just about investing and money; it's about so much more. They only view your retirement through the narrow lens of investment returns.
Building a complete retirement plan should encompass your health, purpose, relationships, and money. Building all four can genuinely be a retirement that brings happiness and fulfillment no matter how long your retirement lasts.
Stay the course, my friends.