By Richard Yaskinski
Special to the CDCR
The philosopher Satchel Paige asked: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” This question explores the central issue in our life’s journey. Age is really about how we feel.
We’ve met 40 year olds that plod along and end their day in front of a TV and 80 year olds that have a twinkle in their eye and a schedule so busy you have to book an appointment. However many still view aging as a time in our lives where we relax, ‘enjoy’ life and slowly decline in health, activity, productivity and contribution.
Much scientific analysis has been done on the ‘limit’ of the human body. Dr. Bortz summarizes five separate lines of scientific evidence suggesting 120 years is our true lifespan. Current estimates suggest a male child born today will live to about age 79. A difference of 41 years is a lot of time to waste! What’s happening that prevents us from living to our true limit?
Baring genetic predisposition to disease or an unfortunate accident, maybe it’s the choices we make regarding what we eat, how we exercise and what we fill our time with that reduces the years we can truly live. We know what those choices need to be – yet do not always choose what’s best for living a longer, healthy and fulfilling life.
Here’s a thought. “Will a constant and unwavering purpose in life encourage us to maintain our health like nothing else can?” Maybe replacing ‘a life of leisure’ with a ‘life of purpose’ is the answer. A purpose that causes us to focus our physical and mental energies to achieve something important to us. A purpose that encourages us to make better health decisions because we need many years and a strong and active body to achieve that purpose. We could call it ‘our life’s work.’ Why can’t all of us have a ‘life’s work’?
“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” ? Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov.
Many spend more time planning a vacation than planning the rest of their lives. Others rush through everything in life without really thinking about what they truly want. Maybe having a life’s work or a purpose that continues beyond what we currently do for a living will help us plan for those 41 years, or the extra we may be fortunate enough to get. You don’t have a life purpose? That’s your life purpose —to find a life purpose – you get to try anything!
As a financial life planner one of my roles is to help my clients achieve and maintain their financial security as they age and transition through their lives. My life planning clients don’t see retirement as a date when they will need to have a portfolio from which an income will be drawn for the rest of their lives. They see no reason why they couldn’t continue to earn well into their 70’s and 80’s. They expect the income they earn and need will vary and see a gradual change in the type of work or amount of hours worked as they redefine their purpose.
Some time may be spent not earning any income – then returning to another type of work. At times the income earned is sufficient to cover their expenses and at other times they need to draw on their financial resources. Of course an unforeseen health issue may prevent them from continuing to earn a living so a base level of financial resources is always necessary.
If they are fortunate to have sufficient financial resources, their focus may be personal growth or volunteering. Downsizing, pensions, inheritances must all be included in their cash flow. Financial planning for this type of life involves regular cash flow planning and requires an intimate knowledge of all expenses, assets, the ability to project correctly and to complete “what if” analysis. Being able to calculate and estimate the financial impact of a life decision is valuable to life planning and ultimately to fulfilling a purpose.
Time is worth more than money – you can always make more money.
In his book, Dr. Bortz asks why our lives cannot follow a more consistent path where our interest, drive, creativity and productivity is maintained throughout our increasingly longer lives. Then, in our tenth or eleventh decade we expire exhausted but complete rather than worn out.
We will be living longer. We need to ‘fulfill’ rather than just ‘fill’ the time we will be given. This kind of life requires a different kind of financial planning. Choosing a purpose in our life, something we feel most important, may just be the answer to encouraging us to do all the other things we need to do to live long and die short.
“I don’t have a problem with dying, I just don’t want to be around when it happens!” — Woody Allen
“Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.” — Stephen Vincent Benét
Richard Yasinski is an independent financial planner with his own firm, Financially Sound Inc., in practice in Ottawa since 1996. He can be reached by email at ryasinski@financiallysound. ca or by phone at (613) 271-9994 ext 101.