It seems to be a given that Americans don’t save enough. But only one side of the “enough” equation is explored in public—“enough” being the sum total expressed these days as a “Number.” On the other side of the equation are the hard questions that require introspection and sometimes professional financial planning assistance, like, “With whom, where, and doing what am I truly happy?” If we focus only on “the Number,” as a lot of media and influencers encourage us to do, we are left with the perpetual sense that we are behind, falling short, and jeopardizing our future.
Financial advertisers know fear is indeed a powerful sales tool. In our culture, are we ever fast enough, big enough, strong enough, or rich enough?
I’ve met many people who have saved what turns out to be more than “enough” based on their simple goals for financial independence. The dilemma in their stories, however, is that they often deprive themselves, their children, and their communities of their ample resources because of unwarranted insecurity. Constantly thinking, “I’ll never have enough,” can stress us out enough to shorten our lives. I suppose that is one way to make sure you do have enough, but I don’t recommend it.
While running out of money in our 80s or 90s should be a bigger concern than dying with too much in the bank, both of these outcomes can occur from a failure to define our true life goals, or from the relentless pursuit of “more.”
A mindful awareness of trading off “more” for “enough” was my catalyst for leaving corporate America. I entered the banking industry at the age of 20 as a commercial credit trainee and left at 40 as a senior vice president in private banking. Throughout my career, I enjoyed being a client advocate.
After the bank merged with another institution, however, new policies were written. First there were new rules about account size. If certain clients’ accounts fell below a minimum level within a specified period of time, I was required to refer those clients to another department in another city for service. Then came a rule to sell a certain number and variety of financial products, such as insurance, investments, deposits, and loans, to keep the clients and to keep our jobs. It no longer felt like the clients’ best interests were coming first.
By 2005, I had decided to jump ship and had formed a business plan to operate as an independent consultant. Over the ensuing years, my financial independence came from saving and spending wisely, but also by making tradeoffs, like moving to a smaller house outside the city for a while. While my savings and investments today will not put me in the Forbes 400 or even 400,000, I know my likelihood of running out of money is small. And I have my own financial planner to keep me mindfully in check.
Having the freedom to spend my time where and how I wish has been a higher priority than having a bigger investment account, a bigger house, and an unsatisfying job. By some, but not all, measures I have “a lot,” but, more importantly, by my own individually unique measures, I have “enough.” How about you?
Excerpted from The Mindful Money Mentality: How To Find Balance In Your Financial Future, (C)2013 – available on Amazon and Kindle at http://amzn.to/1s2qXny.