Is “More” The “Safest” Financial Goal?

One of the biggest financial planning dilemmas, for both the professional and the client, is figuring out “enough.” Many financially successful people have an unquestioned money belief, “You can never have enough.” I had this message myself. When I got angry enough to want to quit a corporate career, I automatically ​ assumed it would be unwise. So while my financial health was excellent – my physical, mental, and emotional health were not.  ​But it took years before I questioned this fundamental belief. 

​Others seem to struggle with the same tradeoff. What if you ​are near retirement-age and loving your work, but the hours keep you from transitioning to a new chapter in your life? What if you are newly engaged​, happy in your professional careers, but disagree about the ​ “right” amount to be saving​? ​When does a relentless pursuit of money become reckless? ​Many people I meet are ​being financially responsible by sacrificing.  ​But at what cost? ​ ​Some not only ​sacrifice ​​a​ lifestyle, but ​also physical​ health through​ stress. Or, they sacrifice relationships and emotional health, regretting it several years later. 

​There comes a point where a responsible professional says, “Stop.” We need to question the assumption that stockpiling more and more is the best goal.  ​For 50-somethings​ , if you never get to enjoy it because you are too sick by the time you get off the merry-go-round, why did you spend all those decades saving it?  One of my first client couples were​​ 30-somethings​ working ​long hours and saving like mad, but spending weekends doing lawn and housework to save money on helpers, rather than recharging ​themselves and ​their ​relationship​. I had to ask, what might you have to show for ​that frugality​ five years from now? 

I am honored to be asked the question, “Can I afford to save less/retire earlier?” It ​conveys 2 messages: 1) ​someone is willing​ to ​take a more holistic view – that making money is only one part of making a life; and 2) they are ready to hear​ that it’s okay to let go of an old belief. 

Sometimes I think about how many more zeroes would be in my retirement account if I had pursued the lucrative opportunities in my path. But because I have a financial plan (and an outside financial planner who confirms I’ll be okay), I have confidence I made the right decision at the right time. My life, my health, and my relationships are far richer than those phantom zeroes. It turns out some people have enough already. They just need to be okay seeing it that way.

Holly Donaldson

Holly Donaldson, CFP® runs an hourly and fee-for-service financial planning practice virtually from her Tampa Bay, Florida office. She also works with clients throughout the U.S. (except Texas) interested in retirement and tax planning advice without product sales or investment management. Holly is the author of The Mindful Money Mentality: How to Find Balance in Your Financial Future (Porchview Publishing, 2013) and publisher of the award-winning monthly e-letter, "The View From the Porch."

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