What does financial security mean to you? It is a very simple question, but everyone is likely to have a different answer. I am not talking about the ad for the unnamed company that asks the pointless question, “What is your number?” like that means something. You have always been and will always be much more than a number. You are a real living person with hopes, dreams and fears.
I will be the first one to tell you, there is no such thing as a number when it comes to financial security. I have met people with over ten million dollars who are unsure if they can retire and on the other hand have also known people who feel that the $250,000 they managed to save will be plenty to last them the rest of their lives. Financial security is much more than a number or a balance in your retirement account.
To me, it means a “work-optional” lifestyle where you can live without fear of the future. It is different for everyone based on what they imagine their future to be. The old model of retirement (when it was a brand-new invention about 50 years ago) was a lifestyle of permanent leisure marked by endless days of golf or fishing. Retirement traditionally was marketed specifically to males. So, the images associated with it were things like gold watches, a set of golf clubs, or a fishing boat with a tackle box chocked full of lures.
That idea seems comical to me today. I know very few people who identify with that notion of retirement. Most that I know are interested in pursuing passions or hobbies that have long been dormant due to the demands of the day-to-day grind. They pursue experiences and travel in ways that their previous two weeks of vacation would never allow. I have also been amazed and impressed by those who actively seek out opportunities to give back through volunteering in their community in one way or another.
Think about it. In the beginning of retirement, a person retired at age 65 which coincided with life expectancy. Therefore, very little planning was necessary. Today, people are retiring younger and living much longer with life expectancies in the early eighties. In many cases people will be retired as long as they were working, thirty to thirty-five years. It is estimated that, on average, a person will now have 9,600 days to fill during retirement. That is a very big number. How can we make most of those days meaningful? Believe it or not it starts today.
I know you are thinking, “Brian, I just started my career. I haven’t even gotten my bearings yet with my new income. You are asking me to imagine retirement?” You may not be thinking exactly that but some form of it for sure. I know, I was once you (although not nearly as smart because I wasn’t reading books then). What I am asking is that you have an idea of what kind of future you want to live in. I know it sounds touchy feely and not practical in any way, but please just try and visualize your future self and how you are filling your time. Be specific.
What are you wearing? Where do you live? Who is in your life? If you had all the time you wanted and no obligations, what would bring you joy and satisfaction? These are not esoteric questions. These are foundational questions to point you in the direction of your future. Be intentional and purposeful. As you clarify your vision over time (it will take years) you will start to create and manifest that vision right in front of your very eyes. It is magical. The alternative to this exercise is to keep your head down, grind it out for 30 to 35 years and pick your head up at the end and hope that you were facing in the right direction. I have a saying that I use often, “The primary goal of most people is to arrive at death as safely as possible.” That type of thinking drives me absolutely crazy, yet it is prevalent. You are different. You have hopes and dreams. The best way I know to point you in the right direction, is start you thinking about them and clarifying them right now, twenty or thirty years before you need to.
Financial security is much more than a number. You are much more than a number. Spend some time thinking about what financial security means for you. My suggestion is to work with a financial advisor or coach who can stand with you, gaze in the same direction, see your vision and help guide you to the future that you intentionally create.
Go be amazing.