Time is our most valuable possession. You’ve no doubt heard that before but most people don’t fully take it in. We are all subject to aging and mortality – unfortunately both being totally out of our control – but what is well within our control is our time and how we choose to use it.
Johann Coetzee, the author of the book It’s About Time, talks about getting a “quality of life definition” and reminds us all that it’s never too late to be happy. Triggered by serious illness, his book contains messages that are reflective and thought provoking. Coetzee explains how one night in hospital he “engaged in some arithmetic” and realised from his calculations that over the years, his time spent on work had “short-changed” his family.
One of his profound messages is not to postpone your joy or wait for your retirement to discover your freedom to do the things you enjoy. He explains that his message is not to discourage ambition but instead to encourage meaningful engagements in life and not to lose talent and potential, at any age.
Like all things in life, using one’s time wisely and well is all about balance. Each person may find a different sense of what balance looks like but you will know it when you have it because your life will be joyful, meaningful and rewarding. To re-iterate Coetzee’s “it’s never too late” message – we are always afforded the freedom, at any age, to re-evaluate and make significant changes in how we approach and handle ourselves, our personal relationships and our personal finance which will not only affect our today but all our tomorrows too.
How does this tie into financial planning?
The demands of corporate culture have the potential to leave some of us feeling deprived of having lived, as Coetzee intimates. Having a financial plan allows you to make decisions about your life armed with the right information: it clears the haze and sharpens your perspective. It gives you a sense of control by giving you an understanding of your position. Which doesn’t mean it is static – it can change from one stage of your life to the next, or even each year. But, the idea is that it provides the information you need to make big decisions that impact the quality of your life.
For example, having a regularly reviewed financial plan could help you:
- If you are offered an early retirement package (Will I have enough money to last my lifetime?)
- If you are selling your business (How much do I need to sell the business for in order for the money to last my lifetime?)
- If you are changing jobs (What do I need to earn to find the right balance between financial and lifestyle?)
- If you are considering slowing down (Can I afford to do this and what do I need to earn, and for how long?)
- If you are considering starting your own business (Can I quit my current job and what can I afford to risk financially to see the new venture realised?)
- If your kids live overseas (Can I afford to visit my kids in Australia once a year?)
Keeping up the ritual of regularly updating and revising your financial plan according to how you want to live your life is perhaps the most powerful way you can realise that time as you wish, and it is our role to help you determine what is really important to you. If after the careful evaluation your plan affords, you decide to stick with your highly demanding job because you love it and you are at the pinnacle of your career, and it gives you fulfilment, then that’s fine. But, if you decide it’s time to slow down and you can afford to give up some or all of your income, that’s also fine. In the end, how you choose to spend your time needs to make you happy, and it’s far easier to be happy when you are both informed and secure.
A final quote by Stephen R. Covey summarises things perfectly: “The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.”