Our Life in the Middle Series addresses the philosophy at Sampson Investment Management that at all stages of life there is a middle ground that recognizes life is a gift that must be lived fully, yet responsibly. There are no guarantees in life, and an abundant life should not be deferred to some future date. Today, we address the prime working years.
As clients move into their prime working years, age 40 to 65, it’s particularly important that they continue to live “life in the middle.” The pressures of career, family, and health increase for almost everyone during these years. Without proper planning, one or more of these areas can suffer, reducing potential happiness and success in life.
In Stephen Covey’s book “The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People,” he says that successful people “begin with the end in mind.” In other words, successful people have a vision of where they want to end up, and develop a plan for getting there.
One of the exercises he suggests is to visualize attending your own funeral. This exercise zeros in on what is really important in life. I would encourage each person reading this blog to try it out.
For example, how would you like to be remembered in terms of work and career? Even though most people’s behavior in life often results in long hours spent on their job, few would be hoping their friends and family would say they should have spent more time at the office! They would, however, want to be remembered for their integrity, how they cared about other people, and a sense that what they accomplished in their careers was something beyond just accumulating money. For these things to occur they need to have balance in their lives.
If work is pursued to the exclusion of friends and family, they would be unlikely to achieve true happiness and success. Similarly, those who ignore their health by never finding the time to exercise or take regular vacations, are not likely to be successful in either their jobs or their relationships with other people.
Balance is particularly important in the prime working years. Those who are too concerned about making as much money as possible to amass material wealth, are often disappointed when they reach retirement age without close relationships, or the good health required to enjoy a vibrant retirement.
An over-emphasis on relationships and leisure activities during these years can lead to a retirement without the financial resources necessary to survive. Once again, balance, and a plan “with the end in mind” offers the best chance for success. The consequences are never more critical than in the prime working years.
As financial planners we tend to focus on financial success and planning for the needed resources by retirement (critical mass). After thirty years in this business, however, I recognize that true happiness and success in retirement is based on living “life in the middle” in all the important areas of life. Adequate retirement resources without the health to enjoy it or the relationships with friends and family to share it with is shallow and unfulfilling.
With a balanced approach to life, particularly in the twenty or so years preceding retirement, clients have the best chance for meaning in their later years. If life doesn’t proceed as planned, and throws curves along the way, then at least a “life lived in the middle” offers the opportunity to “smell the roses along the way.”Life never provides guarantees! Living life as full as possible, in a balanced manner as we proceed through the years, gives each of us the best chance to be remembered by those who are most important to us for the things that really matter!