Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that money is a means to an end, not the end itself. Having a healthy interest in money is great, but focusing on it too much can distract you from its real purpose. One way to view money is as ‘fun vouchers’, if it can’t be enjoyed what’s the point. Money is also a tool to help others, whether they be dependent family or someone in need. Research conducted by Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse, found that out of the top regrets of the dying, money did not feature in the top 5. She commented on the clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, a clarity so often missing from those who are healthy.
The top 5 regrets she uncovered were:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Lifestyle, Not Numbers
The things we will most likely regret relate to the way we lived, not the money we didn’t make or didn’t spend. On our deathbeds we will lean heavier on our human connections than our financial connections.
While financial planning requires various numerical inputs, it’s vital that those numbers are linked to a desired lifestyle and not a desire to reach an arbitrary level of wealth. You may not call yours a ‘bucket list’, but it’s likely that there are things you would like to do that you haven’t got around to yet. What are you waiting for? They may range from a simple thing like trying a new form of exercise, to larger dreams involving long-distance travel. The important thing is that they are being thought about and planned for. When was the last time you ticked something off your list?
You’ll remember the things you did and the places you went, not the investment charts you gazed at.
The Great Trade-Off
Good financial planning is about balancing the competing forces of planning for tomorrow while still enjoying life today. The recent years have changed how many people view this trade-off. While it was always true, it’s now more apparent than ever that we don’t know how many tomorrows we will have.
Some financial professionals have convinced clients that tomorrow is always more important than today, leading to a prioritisation of the future at the expense of living a meaningful life in the present.
While in some cases the situation calls for this extreme position, it greatly oversimplifies the concept of “saving”. Often reduced to only the money you have to invest, it neglects to take into account the other forms of capital we have at our disposal. These include our time, our energy and our talent. A more comprehensive and balanced approach is what we need during these times of great upheaval. Does your plan include the ability to do the things that will bring meaning to your life now, or are you only focused on the future?
What Will You Change?
While 2022 saw the world returning to “normal”, we encourage you to reflect on the second chance that the pandemic has given us to calibrate what really matters to us. The restrictions placed on our freedom of movement highlighted the activities and people we most missed, as well as the things we had put off doing.
What did you take for granted? Who did you miss? What did you not get to do? Who did you not get to be? We encourage you to take action on your plans. Life, as we all know, is certainly for living.
Enda Brady BBS, QFA, SIA, CFP®
A Certified Financial Planner™ professional