I think almost every person who writes about saving and retirement planning also writes about balance. Everything about money demands balance. You have to balance your income and your spending. You have to balance your cheque book so the amount in the account matches the amount being withdrawn. You are encouraged to balance your investments between various choices for risk and return, and re-balance your portfolio when it tips out of true. It’s also important to talk about balancing the present and the future.
While it’s good to save for future plans and for retirement, it’s important to balance that with some spending in the present day. Some people use the risk of not living to see another day as an excuse to over-spend and run up massive debts. That’s a ridiculous,
But it is essential to do some of your joyful living today.
Recently I found out acquaintances of my parents have got the news many of us dread to hear. The husband has stage 4 cancer. While he is young and otherwise healthy and therefore prepared to try any treatment that may result in remission, the truth is his future looks very uncertain.
Fortunately, this couple has always tried to live a balanced life. They didn’t wait till retirement to start enjoying the benefit of their difficult but well-paid jobs. They have already moved to a home that fits their ideals of being on the water in a rural, natural setting. They have travelled not everywhere they want but to some of the places they most want to visit. They have taken time to enjoy their lives and their family and friendships.
Imagine if they had lived differently? Imagine if they had postponed all of their travel, their new home, their evenings of wine and fellowship till they reached a goal of early retirement? How would they feel now if their bank accounts were full but the clock was slowing to a stop?
Finding the balancing point of any object is a meticulous exercise. If you’ve ever balanced a pencil on your fingertip, you know it can’t be done without thought and care. And conditions can change: a breeze can develop; a tremor can begin. Keeping the object in balance requires a steady stream of minor (and sometimes major!) adjustments.
I encourage you to face your life with that same mindful search for balance. Don’t end up over your ears in debt by trying too much too fast. But plan for and include as many moments of joy and personal satisfaction as you can within your daily life. Every so often, ask yourself the clichéd, “If I should die tomorrow, what would I truly regret not having done?” and then take measured steps towards reducing or eliminating those regrets.
I hope my parents’ acquaintance finds a return to good health. He’s a good man and deserves to continue to enjoy his life with his wife, family and friends as they had all expected and planned.
If you haven’t in a while, take some time tonight and reflect on what you hope to achieve while you are here and what goals you can afford to accomplish sooner rather than never.
Have you or a friend faced bad news? Was there any comfort in looking at how you had balanced your life so far, or were you left wishing others could learn from your example? Please share your experiences with a comment.