Imagine that you’re living in a tent on an open plain. One day you plant a tree. For the next 40 years, you water it. You protect it from harsh weather and animals. You never pick its fruit. You don’t climb it for fun. You don’t take a break and rest in its shade. You don’t even cut down some branches to build a house. You never go anywhere or do anything else because you’re focused solely on growing that tree bigger and bigger.
Finally, one day, just after your 65th birthday, the tree stops growing. You look up at its enormous trunk and widespread of branches and say to yourself …
“What was that for?”
Many of us treat our financial planning in a similar fashion. We become so caught up in the work that goes into “growing the tree” that we never think about harvesting the apples or timber to make a better life for ourselves. As long as our tree keeps getting bigger, we keep putting in the work of growing it, even if that work doesn’t engage our interests or put our unique talents to their highest purposes.
Then retirement rolls around. Faced with the prospect of no longer working, some soon-to-be retirees feel lost. Their sense of purpose was so connected to working hard to make more money that they never stopped to ask themselves what that next dollar was really for.
Some of these folks push off retirement as long as they physically can to keep chasing after more money that they don’t really need and will never actually spend. Others become so concerned about running out of money that they live too conservatively and never enjoy their retirement. And others putter aimlessly around the house re-arranging the furniture for the 10th time.
A better sense of purpose.
There is a purpose to having money and growing your wealth. But what money can’t do is create purpose in and of itself.
Because eventually, your tree is going to stop growing. You’ll be able to live comfortably off the money you’ve saved and the income that your investments will continue to generate. After a lifetime of working hard and following your financial plan, your return on investment will be financial security in retirement. That’s when it’s time to stop worrying about the tree and start harvesting. That’s when it’s time to stop focusing on your return on investment and start enjoying a better Return on Life.
But here’s the thing—the earlier you’re able to make this shift into a Whole Picture Planning mindset, the sooner you’ll be able to live the best life possible with the money you have. Don’t wait until you’re 65 to start harvesting that tree and enjoying life. You can trim that tree a bit each year, enjoy life today, while still growing it for the future.
Enjoying life along the way will make your eventual transition to retirement even easier. Instead of struggling to replace work with leisure, you’ll be ready to pour even more of your time and energy into the activities that really matter to you.
Start by asking yourself, “What is my money really for?” Is it for going on dream vacations with your spouse? Is it for taking classes that enrich your mind and body? A second house on the lake for weekend getaways? As much golf or tennis as you can squeeze into a day? The freedom to volunteer your time and professional expertise at an organization that’s making your community better? Finishing a major home renovation you’ve been putting off? Seed money to grow your own business?
Your life will take on a brilliant luster when you start to use your means in a meaningful way. Let’s talk about the interactive tools and exercises we use to help folks find that meaning and put their lives at the center of the Whole Picture Planning process.