The Nirvana and Dilemma of Financial Freedom

When a 50-something tells me the age at which they can retire, I say, “Great! How will you spend your time then?” Expressionless, they often respond with, “I never thought about it.”  In over 20 years of asking this question, “How will you spend your time, once you are financially free?”  “I don’t know” has been the most common answer.

According to a study by United Capital, when asked about their financial life stories, most people defined them by decisions they made about working and spending. Over the decades of our lives, many of us follow a disciplined formula: Work. Spend. (Save). Repeat. We do this knowing one day those (savings that we don’t think about) should equal a nice sum, (hopefully) enough to reach the nirvana of “financial freedom.” Along the way, we get trapped into planning meals and vacations, but put off planning a potential 25-year chapter of our lives. If nothing trips up the formula (divorce, premature death, disability), then when we either turn a certain age, lose a parent or partner, or get a new boss, we dial up a financial planner and ask, “Am I there yet?”

To which the answer should be, always, “That depends.” That depends…on where “there” is. Good financial planners are simply translators. Tell us what “there” is – in terms of how, with whom, and where you will find purpose, meaning, and happiness in life after Work-Spend-Save-Repeat – and we can translate it into financial terms. If you don’t know what that looks like, then any attempts to answer the question are merely rough guesses. More important, if you don’t know, you’re not likely to enjoy that supposed nirvana time nearly as much.

There are many thought leaders contributing to discoveries about the time of life past “Working” and before “Old.”  That time of life, which will be 25 or 30 years for some, goes by many names: Your Third Age. The Third Stage. The Encore Years. Your Life’s Next Chapter. Planned well, it has the potential to be a time of life’s peak fulfillment. Not planned, the potential paths lead to boredom and even depression and illness. The dilemma is in figuring out the tradeoffs and choices required to get “there” – the definition of how you will spend that unknown amount of finite time, a more precious resource than money.

This kind of planning is not something you can find on your 401K statement. It’s found inside of you. Stay tuned here for more resources on solving the dilemma of financial freedom, or in the meantime, check out the little e-book, How Does Your Money Flow? A Mindful E-Guide to Common Saving, Spending, and Sharing Decisions. ($3.99, found at Smashwords:

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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