To give advice that helps people make their best financial decisions, financial planners need to understand what is important to each client. So, we ask questions like “What are your goals?” or “What do you want from life?”…questions not many of us have a good answer to! Results: blank looks, crickets, or “I want to put my kids through college” or “I want to retire at 63-1/3”. It turns out that these are not the best questions to get us moving where we want to go.
In his book The 4-Hour Workweek, author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss explains that the opposite of happiness isn’t sadness, it’s boredom! The right question to ask yourself isn’t about goals or wants, it is simply “What would excite me?” Tim describes how practical goals aren’t inspiring enough to keep us committed through the inevitable problems that arise. While this feels like sacrilege for me to be writing as a financial planner, it resonates with me and fits my life experience. Ron and I spent three years in New York City preparing to sail away to the Caribbean while I worked as an institutional investor. Some parts were fun and exciting—buying a sailboat, getting her fitted out for ocean sailing, dreaming about warm clear water and sunny days. But a lot of it was inconvenient—saving every penny by not eating out, taking taxis, getting haircuts or buying clothes. Some of it was just hard—not telling my colleagues that I was planning a drastic life change. We did it successfully, though, because we were excited by this dream.
It turns out that practical goals, while important, are most achievable in the service of what excites us. Take some time today to think about what excites you. And then, take a step or two toward that exciting vision. I think you’ll see those practical goals falling in line on your way to a life you’ll love.