Imagine that you plant a tree. For the next 40 years, you water it and protect it from harsh weather and animals. You never pick its fruit or 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 wide spread 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.
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. Eventually, your tree is going to stop growing. 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.
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. Having enough money isn’t enough.
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