27,375. This is the number of days an average person lives. “Less if you eat salt water taffy, and a little more if you eat broccoli,” according to Bob Goff in his inspirational new book, Distraction-free.
So according to Bob, and assuming my nets of broccoli taffy consumption run out, I have 10,525 days left, more or less. Here are a few more ways to look at this numerically from my perspective. I have:
– 1,508 more weekends
– 319 other US government holidays
– 116 concerts (approximately)
– 29 other Thanksgiving meals
– 2 (soon 1) more high school diplomas
– 1 more…?
And how many Thanksgivings will I enjoy in the presence of my parents, who I’m lucky enough to still have in my life? My high school and sophomore boys – how many more times am I going to make at least one of them lunch before school and drag my feet? (Approximate count – about 200.)
“How many days do you have left?” Do the math. Who will you decide to be, and what will you decide to do with the time you have left? Goff begs. “We can spend our remaining days focusing on what has meaning, beauty, joy and purpose, or we can drift aimlessly and waste our only wild and precious life.”
Where Financial Planning Failed Us
So it’s not about being morbid about the little time we have left, but about being intentional about the remaining time. And this is where financial planning has too often failed us, by not better linking its recommendations to our personal goal. Yet this lack is also our greatest opportunity, to strengthen financial planning with intention.
But how? It’s harder than you think, but it’s also easier than you think.
It’s harder because you don’t learn someone’s values, purpose, or intentions by asking, “So what are your values?” Your goal? Your intentions?
Values, purpose, and intent are all great, sure, but they’re also abstract. These ethereal notions aren’t part of our everyday vernacular, so even when you do manage to get straight-up questions like these answered, you’re likely to get something that’s canned, more like the a bank’s mission statement than an expression of its unique motivations.
It is simpler, however, when we translate these abstractions into the language of life. For example, you can break down life into four notably non-financial areas that are common to most:
– Relationships (family, friends, colleagues)
– Well-being (physical, psychological, spiritual)
– Work (career, vocation, service)
– Interests (causes, hobbies, passions)
It only takes one good open-ended question to get someone on any of the above topics and most people will talk for 10-15 minutes (often longer), especially using the additional qualifiers listed.
As you navigate through a conversation like this, you’ll start to see a few consistent themes, topics that come up in many categories, and topics that clearly evoke an emotional response. These elements reveal themselves and become the answers to questions about values and purpose that you never had to ask yourself.
The future of financial planning
The irony is that in the realm of financial planning, “emotion” has been (and still is primarily) used only in pejorative terms. And while it’s rarely good to react “emotionally” to a scenario that leads to suboptimal behavior, it is of course usually through emotion that our deepest intentions light up, becoming the compass of our planning. And it’s often through emotion that we discover the determination to stick to the plan as well.
This is, I believe, the future of financial planning. It’s not just about improving a person’s asset allocation, increasing their pension contributions, minimizing their taxes paid, transferring their risk appropriately through insurance, update beneficiary designations or pay for education.
Yes, all of these things are generally good, but not in and of themselves. They are made good by discovering goal; they are made good through the intention who makes them responsible.
The future of financial planning is the infusion of life within it, and it begins with the very mathematics of life itself, at least according to Bob Goff and the psalmist: “Teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (VNI)
How do you plan to spend yours?