12 Lessons on Life and Money

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Last issue I shared how to systematically build wealth by paying yourself first, dealing with life’s obstacles by using insurance to reduce risk, and the need to separate money for its intended use and invest it appropriately for that use. In my last installment in this series, I am focusing on finishing the race of wealth building by achieving financial freedom, continuing to have purpose beyond your career, and how to live a fulfilling and graceful life.

  1. Money = Freedom

According to Proverbs 22:7 (NIV), “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” You can never truly be free if you have not paid off debt and built a nest egg that allows you to choose your day’s activities. When my parents decided they needed a life change around age 50, they didn’t call it retirement. Preferring the term “undefined sabbatical,” they gave themselves the freedom to return to work if they ran out of money or things to do — whichever came first. Their expenses, lifestyle, and spending had barely changed in almost 20 years of marriage despite their income multiplying. That spending discipline allowed them to be hyper-savers, avoid high interest debt, and provide complete freedom to choose their daily activities when they walked away from their careers at a relatively young age. Through sound investing and planning, they have stayed on this “sabbatical” for 27 years and counting!

What does that freedom look like? For many people that may mean starting a dream business, volunteering, spoiling grandkids, or traveling. For my RGV parents, they worked long hours without pay to accomplish something of significance and they loved every minute of it. Many of my business owner clients decide to continue to do what they love, growing their business and helping others through the employment the business provides. There is no right solution for everyone. However, without the saved wealth, there is no choice — just another day of work to pay the bills.

  1. Retire to something, not from something.

There are retirement plans, and then there are plans to retire. Imagine retirement as a long sea voyage. You would not set sail without a destination, adrift in the middle of the wide ocean. However, this is all too common. Too many people reach an age or stage in life where they are “supposed to” retire without something to do, nowhere to go, and no one to spend the time with. It is lonely, unhealthy (physically and mentally), and for many, depressing. Just because you can take social security or qualify for a pension doesn’t mean you are ready to retire. It is important that you have a plan for what you will do when you reach retirement. If you enjoy the routine of work or your business, keep doing it, since age alone should not determine when you stop. If you have had enough of work and its stress, then move on to life’s next great adventure! Experiment with your interests, take your vacation days, and test drive your plan. Start making this plan while you are able to enjoy your blessings and be a blessing to others. Very rare is the person who on their deathbed wishes for one more day in the office.

  1. Give generously in time, money, and grace.

Thankfully, I was blessed with wonderful examples of generosity in my life. I had parents who sacrificed money and time to church, civic organizations, and other institutions that they believed served humanity for a greater good. In San Antonio, I can remember my mom and stepdad volunteering to clean up the grounds at church and doing so much for my grandparents and extended family. In the Rio Grande Valley, my dad and stepmom left successful careers in their very peak earning years to make a real and positive impact on our environment by creating the world’s richest wildlife photo contest to promote habitat conservation. Throughout my childhood, I was provided examples of how to serve others.

At my core, I do not believe you can live a truly happy and fulfilled life if you are only focused on you. Our own joy is multiplied when we show our gratitude for our blessings by volunteering our time, money, and grace. My most enjoyable days have been spent swinging a hammer with fellow Rotarians on a Habitat for Humanity house, sweating with my kids at our church’s Mission Service Project repairing homes for the less fortunate in our community, and working alongside my beautiful wife at our church’s Inside Out projects. I do not bring up these items to congratulate myself; rather, I want to encourage you to experience the fulfillment of being a blessing to others and working for a cause greater than yourself.

Thank you for following me through this journey of these lessons. I look forward to continuing to share stories with RGVision in coming issues. God bless you and your family!

Any opinions are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy selected.  Raymond James & Associates, Inc., Member New York Stock Exchange/SIPC

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