One of the concepts I have tried to emphasize with all of my clients, whether they are 25 or 75, is to live life in the middle. At all stages of life there is a middle ground that recognizes that life is a gift that must be lived fully, yet responsibly. It recognizes that there are no guarantees in life, and that an abundant life should not be deferred to some future date.
Having been in practice for over thirty years, I have seen the curves that life can throw you, whether you are young or old. Those who have not lived life fully along the way often miss the joy of a life lived in balance.
In this post, I would like to focus on those clients under age 40, and what living life in the middle might mean for them.
Clients under age 40 have usually not had to face the crises associated with disease and disability. In the 21st century most people in this age range have not experienced the childhood diseases that were prevalent a generation ago, and the majority of them have not experienced the death of their parents.
Although this group recognizes the reality of death, they don’t think about it very much, and often live their lives as if they will never die. This can often lead to extreme behavior where life is lived either predominantly in the present or the future.
Those living life mainly in the present often spend too much, party too much, and over-value life in the present at the expense of their future. It is a time in life when careers are often a primary focus, with little time left over for friends and family.
On the other end of the spectrum are those young people who are primarily focused on the future. They may do a great job of maximizing their 401-K, but never take the time to enjoy a vacation with family or friends or take the time to exercise or pursue other interests. They defer life to some future date, never thinking that life might take an unpredicted turn and their future might be very different than they expected.
The happiest people in this age group have managed to balance work, family, and friends, and are beginning to prepare for a successful financial, social, and spiritual future. Although they recognize that there are times when work takes on a primary focus, they don’t allow this pattern to go on for long periods of time, since they recognize the relationships of family and friends are critical to real happiness.
For those in this age group who have chosen to start a family, they somehow manage to balance the responsibilities of work and family, realizing that future success demands attention to both of these responsibilities.
Those in this group who live life in the middle in financial terms, save for the future, but manage to have fun along the way. They budget, but set priorities which balance living life in the present, with a recognition of the financial responsibilities the future is likely to bring. They are often clients that value the process of financial planning as a way of finding balance in their lives while giving them the best chance of having a successful financial future.
As financial planners we find the planning process to be a paradigm for living life in the middle. Those young people who take the time to identify where they are financially, establish goals and objectives for their life, and develop a plan for success, have the best chance for living a life that is in balance. This is truly the key to happiness and success!