Maximize Your Lifetime Utility

FUN!  LA County Fair 2007

Don’t forget to have some of this in your life!

“I think Smithers picked me because of my motivational skills. Everyone says they have to work a lot harder when I’m around.”
–Homer Simpson

When we hit PIRE, we plan on doing a lot of world travel rather than seeing places in the United States that we haven’t seen. It’s not that we don’t think that the U.S. is a neat place or that there aren’t tons of sites to see in our own country.

We think we have a more pragmatic reason for choosing international travel.

It doesn’t have to do with cost of living arbitrage, although that’s a nice benefit about some of the places that we want to see.

It’s not because we’re worldly bon vivants.

It’s because, we figure, we’ll still be relatively young and healthy. The toll of long travel and adjusting to new climates and environments won’t be as bad when we’re in our 40s as when we’re in our 70s.

That’s not to say that older people can’t travel. They can. They do. But, it does require more planning and support. When we went to Rome, we walked all over the central section. We only rode public transport to get to and from the airport. After that, we got everywhere on our two-legged people movers. We walked most of Barcelona. We walked all of Reyjkavik (not that it’s much of an accomplishment, but it is more difficult in December).

In our 70s, it’s doubtful that we’ll be able to do that. Plus, we can still hop on an overnight flight to Europe, sleep on the plane, and, after a couple of cups of coffee, be ready to go the day that we land. Again, later on, we might not be able to do that.

Thus, while it’s difficult to face and acknowledge our own pending decline and mortality, we have tried to plan for maximizing the time that we have to be active and physically sound and can take in more leisurely activities when we’re older. It’s easy, relatively speaking, to drive through a national park. That’s why Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Arches will be itineraries later in life.

I’m starting to see a pattern with my clients that flips this paradigm on its head.

They’re working until their 60s, retiring, and traveling.

So far, so good.

Except that there’s one problem.

They overshot the mark in accumulating their wealth.

They’re at the point where they have far more money than they can ever spend in their lifetimes. Even accounting for bequest motives, they are likely to die with lots of money.

Meanwhile, in the present, they have a small and shrinking window to do all of the things that they wanted to do. They are running out of time, and will run out of time long, long before they’d run out of money.

The Money Happiness Continuum

Perspective

Perspective: It's the Law!

Sometimes, the right move is just a matter of perspective.

“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”
–George Eliot

I’ve had a tricky back for a long time. I remember first going to the doctor about it when I was a plebe. It didn’t really bother me much and would occasionally spasm up, but then the spasms would go away, and I’d carry on. I finally had a chiropractor do x-rays on me and he discovered that my right leg was ½” shorter than my left leg, causing me to tilt my pelvis, and make my back unhappy.

I recently was at my chiropractor getting treatment (by the way, if you’re in Fort Worth and want an awesome chiropractor, I wholeheartedly recommend Dr. Brian Mulhall). When I first went to him after we’d moved to the Fort Worth area, he said something that was music to my ears, not only because of a potentially lower cost of care, but also because it’s how I try to run my financial planning firm.

In an ideal world, I’ll see you one time, and we’ll figure it out and send you on your way, and I’ll never see you again.

Sometimes, that doesn’t happen, though. Some issues, such as my lifelong back issues, take a little more work to iron out.

While he was kneading away at me, I asked him if the subsequent soreness was similar to a workout and due to lactic acid.

He said it wasn’t, that he wasn’t really working the muscles; he was working on my connective tissue – which is why it felt like he was trying to grind my pelvis with his thumb.

He went on to explain that trying to solve back issues was really a matter of perspective. Some people think it’s due to misalignment of joints and bones, and if they can get aligned, then the problem goes away. Others think it’s a muscular issue, and if they treat the muscles with massage or electric stimulus, then the pain will go away. Others think it’s an issue with core muscle strength; weak core muscles cause the back to overcompensate, and by strengthening the core, the problem will go away. Even others think it’s a matter of treating the pain with drugs, and if the drugs can make the muscles relax, then the problem will go away. He thought my particular issue had to do with my fascia – the connective tissue – and likened it to trying to iron my body out flat and deal with the problem of bunched up fascia. If that wasn’t the issue, then he’d test out another theory and perhaps take a different perspective to get at the root cause of my back issues.

My first thought upon hearing this was “Gah! You hit a spot! Oof!” but then I had another thought. Financial planning is similar – people have different perspectives about what is causing them problems, and the same blunt force approach with everyone (“I’ve got these great investments I can put you in!”) doesn’t work. By the way, that “I’ve got these great investments I can put you in” approach never works.

The Kaleidoscope of Financial Planning

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