Many of us go about our lives as if we believe we are going to live forever.
When we had three young kids in the house, I would read to all of them together before their bedtimes most nights. We eventually graduated to one of my favorite series of all time, “The Chronicles of Narnia.” The kids loved these stories. We made it most of the way through the series before we had to take a break on account of a long ski trip I took up in British Columbia. When I got back, we did not get back into the bedtime story routine immediately, and by the time I came back around to it, enough time had passed that our older kids were engaged in other evening activities. I still feel sad when I see those C.S. Lewis books on the shelf and wish I had spent more time reading to the kids before that season of life ended.
When my wife, Sharon, and I decided to leave New York City in 1991, we packed our last few months with as many great Manhattan experiences as possible. We saw on and off-Broadway shows, attended sporting events, visited the major museums, and enjoyed many other tourist attractions. We left New York feeling like we had taken full advantage of the opportunities available there and were happy to move on. Why did those two seasons of life end so differently? Jack Nicholson as billionaire Edward Cole and Morgan Freeman as mechanic Carter Chambers starred in the 2007 movie “The Bucket List,” where the two terminally ill men decide to join forces to have all the life experiences they had always dreamed of doing while they still could. Billionaire Cole funds the operation, and together they accomplish many of the items on the list until Chamber’s death when Cole had to finish the list alone. Their terminal diagnoses give them the urgency and focus to drop all their day-to-day activities and apply all their energy toward accomplishing the bucket list. Our moving deadline similarly motivated Sharon and I to make the most of being New Yorkers.
The truth is we all die many deaths before our final biological death. The kids-at-home and firefighter Sean are long gone, and there will be a time pretty soon when the ski patrolling version of myself will die too. The whitewater rowing and Colorado Trail bikepacking Sean will die, and the version of myself who enjoys traveling to the developing world will die. Eventually, I will be physically unable to do most of the things I now enjoy, and some of the people I love most in my life will not be here anymore either.
Australian nurse Bronnie Ware wrote “Regrets of the Dying” after providing palliative care for many years to her patients during the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. She frequently witnessed her patients experiencing profound growth when facing their own mortality, and she asked her patients to discuss their regrets. Five common themes surfaced over and over:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish I’d let myself be happier.
The final line of this famous blog post reads: “Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”
I don’t want to wait until it is too late to design, fund and live my best life, and I don’t want you to either! Sharon retired from T-Mobile in May and we are entering a new season of travel and experiences and going through a life planning process that we are excited to help our clients navigate as well. The goal of this process is to define time-specific buckets (as opposed to a bucket list) to optimize having the best life experiences with the people we love most while we still have our health and energy. In our case, this means spending a lot more money in our 50s, 60s, and 70s, and being content with the possibility of less discretionary income in our 80s and beyond. We feel completely empowered to invest in the most meaningful experiences and relationships before age 80 (somewhat arbitrary age) since we have funded our Long-Term Care Plan and created lifetime income streams that will handle our more modest fixed expenses from 80 onward.
Stewardship can help you dream and define your own time buckets as well as create a matching financial plan to support living your best life. Call us at 303.500.1931 or schedule a virtual meeting at go.oncehub.com/StewardshipColorado. We are able to provide all your planning and investment needs remotely, although our office is also open for in-person meetings.
Note: I get many great ideas from the books I read/Audible, and this month’s article was greatly influenced by a very interesting book I read over the summer called “Die with Zero,” which addresses optimizing the value and impact of money during your lifetime.