Of Value, Worth and Wealth

We have people in our family who aren’t actually related. However, no holiday gathering would be complete without them. Ben and Pam are like that. Ben went to high school with John who, with his wife Stacy, hosted the family for Thanksgiving this year.

John and Stacy aren’t technically related to us either. John’s the nephew of my husband’s brother-in-law. Sound complicated? Well, it is! Then, again. it’s all pretty typical. Take a look around your holiday gatherings — bet your characters and relationships are as equally complex as ours. Any family worthy of the name is like that!

We love Ben and Pam’s energy, adventurous spirit, and clarity about their priorities. One of their goals is to retire in about twenty years. They would be 55. Because my husband and I have both retired within the last couple years they indulge our willingness to talk about our experience.

Same was true last Thursday at John and Stacy’s. “What’s it like? Any surprises? What should we do to get ready? How much money do you really need?” Questions abound! My answers, in order of the questioning: “Better. Many. Save. Less than you think.”

Do you catch the apparent contradiction? It’s between the third and fourth questions — Save more! You need less! My limited 2-year experience of retirement places me smack, dab in the middle of that paradox. Yes save, save, save! But the best way I can explain it is, “If enough is your standard, you’ll never have enough.”

Ben and Pam will be okay. They understand the need to speak with more than a good financial planner. Of course, we are delighted they regularly seek our avuncular advice! We want them to understand, yes, you need a modicum of security and the capacity to pursue your dreams. But, retirement is about so much more than money!

Like the crazy-quilt composition of healthy families, retirement is a complex mixture of pursuing your deepest values and living in a manner you find worthwhile. Ultimately, it’s not about monetary wealth. Financial planners are important, I’d say indispensable. Yet, nothing and no one other than ourselves can bring a deep sense of worth and value to our lives in retirement.

In the end, retirement is not about how we spend our money. It’s about how and with whom — even for whom — we spend our time. And with each passing year, time is our most precious resource.

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