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Money Will Not Fill The Hole In Your Soul | Retirement

  |   Baby Boomers, retirement

I was having coffee with a financial advisor (Jerry) recently talking about clients and their sometimes irrational decisions. Jerry’s client said that he wanted to retire at age 68 (about 7 years). He and his wife make about $900,000 a year and he wanted to know if he could retire in that time frame. (Sounds like a nice problem to solve). Jerry looked over his savings and asked why it was so low, relative to their income. The client’s answer essentially was, we really enjoy our life live (aka – we like to spend our money now).

Jerry asked the client why spending was so heavy, and he blamed his wife (not sure that is fair, but that is what the client claimed). The client asked if Jerry could make the 401K savings grow much faster over the next 7 years to make up for low savings rate earlier. Jerry said that he could try to do so, but then asked the client what made him think that his wife’s spending would change in retirement. The client had no answer.

The pattern here is all too common in our society (and the West in general). People spend money based on two things: how much they earn and how much they want. Too often how much they want is not related to how much they earn (witness our horrendous savings rates and absurd amount of debt – both personal and government).

The Big Question is “Why?” – I feel that too many affluent people fill a void in their life with money (aka things they buy), rather than digging deeper into why they are alive and what to do with the gift of life itself. Sir Ken Robinson (of TED talk fame on the theme of education) was recently asked about why seemingly successful people in mid to late career keep asking “what’s next?. His answer was so simple (paraphrasing) – “People think they need to ask the meaning of life, or What’s Next? and spend gobs of money on stuff, but what they should be doing is dancing, singing, or writing”. In other words people should be doing those things that only humans can do: to be alive and know it. I really loved that answer.

Back to Jerry’s client – Although I do not know Jerry’s client, I suspect that he and or his wife are spending so much money now (and not savings enough for later) because they think that they “need” things that are really just ways to spend time, or fill a void. This does not have to mean things at all – it can be the “experiences” that so many people rave about on Instagram (dinners, cruises, trips, etc). The process of buying them and using them fills a void of time, but to what effect? I call this void the “hole in the soul”.

Maybe it is time for some introspection – I relate to Jerry’s client in terms of being a Baby Boomer close to his age (if not his income), but I feel that he and his wife could benefit by focusing on what they want in their life (not more stuff) such as security, love, hope, friends, and joy. They could also benefit by taking a deeper look at their common values to help them reveal why they spend too much money. In doing so, they may discover the hole in their soul they have been trying to fill with things, and can now fill with life-affirming values.

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