Many things have been written about what makes us happy. One that stands out to me is Bronnie Ware’s “Top Five Regrets of the Dying.” She also did a blog post on the subject to condense her material.
Some of you might be surprised by what she found. I believe if you think hard enough and are honest with yourself, this will make perfect sense.
The top five regrets of the dying she found are:
- “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.”
Where Did We Go Wrong?
I work in an industry that feeds off the “American Ideal” that more is better. Not just more, but more than your neighbor, friends, coworkers…etc.
Who has more in their 401(k)?
Who got the best return last year? Last month? Last week?
Who has the biggest house? Nicest car?
Who took the best trip? Stayed in the nicest resort?
The longer I’ve been in the industry, the more I’ve learned. With that, I increasingly struggle with the notion that this is the right way or even healthy.
I believe there are other things more important to your financial well being than what return your portfolio gets or how much stuff you accumulate.
What Does This Have To Do With Being Thankful?
If your family is anything like mine, you will take some time this Thanksgiving and go around and share what you’re thankful for. If that’s not something you do, I would encourage you to try it. Especially if you have young kids. It’s always fun to hear what they say.
I would also encourage you to take some personal time to reflect and think about what you’re thankful for. If you’ve never done that before, do it now.
What did you think of? What came to mind?
My guess is it was a WHO more than a WHAT. Your family? Your friends? A reconciled relationship? Your health? I think you get the picture.
If we actually took the time to make a list of what is truly important to us right now and compared it to the list above, I believe there is a lot of overlap.
- Being authentic and true to ourselves is something we all desire. Pursuing what’s in our hearts instead of what’s expected is freeing.
- If we’re honest, we know that we work too much and put that ahead of more important things.
- We wish we had the courage to share our true feelings.
- We wish we created more time and space to spend with friends and family. Quality time, not just being together.
- Most importantly, we all want to be happy. We lie to ourselves though. We say things like: I don’t deserve to be happy. I don’t have time to be happy. My happiness can wait.
So What Now?
If your financial advisor isn’t talking to you about these things, I would encourage you to find someone who will. I don’t think you want to get to the end of your life and look back and just have a bunch of stuff to show for it.
Let me be clear. I’m not advocating for anyone to quit their jobs, downsize everything, or live a minimalist life. If that strikes a chord with you, go right ahead. What I’m suggesting is to find an advisor will challenge to think deeper. To ask about more than when you want to retire, if you want a vacation home, and how much money you want to live off of when you do retire.
Those questions can be helpful, but they don’t come close to telling the whole story. Find someone who will take the time to understand who you are and what is truly important to you. They will then let that shape how they guide you on your financial journey.
What Does That Look Like?
Many people today live under the false assumption that adult life is about working hard and saving up enough money so one day you won’t have to.
That’s not living in my opinion.
What if that assumption really is wrong? What if there was another way?
I believe there is. It may not always be the easiest path and we might have to give up some things we’ve gotten used to, but there is another way.
I’m living proof that it’s possible, but I’m not even close to the best example. I will use mine to illustrate though.
I used to work for a large financial institution. It’s a very well respected company and I genuinely enjoyed working with the people there. That being said, the commute, production expectations, philosophical differences in planning, the expected dress code, and most importantly the time it required was zapping my happiness.
My family is very important to me. I wasn’t my best self when I would get home from work. I left before the kids were up. I came home late most days and often missed dinners. My health was at an all-time low. This was also impacting some of my other relationships.
I knew something had to change.
Once we decided that I was going to start my own financial planning practice, my wife and I sat down and had a lengthy, but helpful discussion around our finances. We’ve never been crazy spenders but had stopped tracking what we were spending.
After doing inventory on our spending in 2019, we realized we were going to have to make some changes for this to work. We put some agreed-upon guidelines in place and made preparations for the move. We also agreed to sit down and discuss our spending every week as well as at the end of every month to make sure we were tracking well.
I can tell you without a doubt I have personally been happier this year than I have in a while. Even with all of the issues we’ve faced as a country. I’ve been able to spend more quality time with family, be more involved in serving in my church, deepen other relationships, and have higher quality conversations with clients and prospects.
This is just one example of choosing a different path. There are many more. I’m still on that journey and I’m committed to guiding my clients down the same path.
Challenge the assumptions and find someone you trust to help you chart out the path towards happiness, contentment, and fulfillment.