One of the challenges facing financial planning is that, however helpful, it has an unavoidably boring vibe. Sure, big financial companies have attempted to wrap it in a veneer of golf courses, sailboats, and marine mammals, but just beneath the surface are spreadsheets, allocations, illustrations, and boilerplate plans that lack a certain…je ne sais quoi.
It’s a challenge that even we, as financial planners, face. In a recent discussion with my colleague and friend about his own planning, one of the better advisors I know chuckled through an apparent footnote financial goal—a very cool idea of owning a beach town food truck featuring his favorite cuisine. When I asked him to tell me more about it, he replied, “Well, I’m not not serious about it.”
As we drilled down a little further, I came to believe that this was precisely the type of goal that, however seemingly small and unserious, could infuse his entire financial plan with a thread of vibrant color. While all his goals—most of which were in service of his family, community, and team at work—were deliberate and purposeful, the food truck was the one that put a smile on his face. The one that allowed the fullness of his personality to shine through. The one that made his financial plan truly unique and distinct from other successful plans.
So, what is that “not not serious” goal that would make your financial planning more…you? What is the goal—big or small—that puts a smile on your face, that you almost have to chuckle when you say it out loud?
For one of my clients, it was renting a Slingshot trike for a week to scratch that itch. For another, it was taking the sabbatical that would allow her to finally write that book. For another, it was retiring from a successful yet stressful career to fulfill a dream of teaching at the college level. For one, it was downsizing the primary residence and buying a beach home, while for another, it was selling the beach home to spend more time with grandkids.
Hedge fund manager and author Bill Perkins is regularly asked by friends of means, “Is this a good investment?” His response almost certainly surprises: “Forget the money…and let’s just talk about what you’re going to get out of it.”
Perkins suggests that “life is the sum of our experiences” and insists that the only purpose of money is to fund those experiences. Yes, we may use money to live today, we may grow our money to fund our tomorrows, we may choose to give our money to others, and we may dedicate a portion of our capital to protect all those other aims—but ultimately, it is all in service of funding experiences.
Perkins implores us to consider not just our Return on Equity but our Return on Experience—because when the money’s gone, it’s gone, but the memories derived from experiences pay compounding dividends into perpetuity. He says there’s nothing special about earning an extra 3%, especially if you’re already on track financially, but “Investing in experiences, on the other hand, really could change your life.” And the lives of those you love, I’ll add.
I invite you, therefore, to consider how your financial planning might shift if you looked at it through the human lens of living, growing, giving, and protecting for the sake of maximizing your life experiences. Or start even simpler:
What is one goal that you could consider and/or discuss with your financial advisor that might fall into the “not not serious” category to make your financial plan more interesting?