How Do You Calculate Your “Return on Life?"

Did you ever know someone who had “retired” – only to return to work just six months later?  It happens all the time!  People receive gratification from their work and realize after they call it quits that it wasn’t “all about the money.”  Social stimulation and intellectual challenge is a benefit of our work.  Recently, we hosted a well-recognized thought leader in the areas of relational and communication skills named Mitch Anthony.  Mitch’s programs are currently being used in hundreds of corporations and in over 40,000 schools worldwide.  He spoke to our group about the importance of a successful retirement hinging more on life balance than it does on account balance.   

At the end of the day, money is a utility.  It is a tool.  We save for retirement in hopes that we can use the money we have saved to spend on the people, things, and places we love.  Mitch  reminded us that there are so many non-financial benefits to working that the thought of deferring all of the things you want to do, the places you want to go, the people you want to connect with, and the health and well-being you want to focus on until you are “retired” is not wise.  Instead, plan and prepare for your retirement now but think about how you can have a fulfilling life today.  

Work in a vocation that fulfills you; find a way to vacation and experience the things you want while you are working; carve out time to connect spiritually with those who are important to you now; and make time for health and wellness always.  Too often, people only focus on their vocation and working life as they prepare and set aside a retirement nest egg.   Then when they retire, they have nothing left to give to any of the four areas Mitch identifies as very important aspects of a person’s life balance (Vocation, Vacation, Connection, and Well Being).   We have all witnessed the person who worked their whole life sacrificing relationships, health, and experiences so that they can build up their nest egg.  Then they retire and they have no meaning or purpose, they have no friends or family to spend time with, they have poor health and they have no one to travel and experience new things with.  That person has essentially lost their sense of meaning and needs to start putting the “me” back in meaning.

Mitch suggests that the best use of your money is to “own your own time.”  Each person has 168 hours per week to allocate to: family/friends, work/career, downtime (TV, music, etc.), sleep, health/fitness, and personal growth (hobbies, learning a new skill, etc.).  The first step is to become aware of exactly how and where you currently spend your time.  After that, you can then determine how to better allocate your time to bring more balance and meaning to your life.

When you start the next chapter of your life, how will you turn your know-how and intellectual capital accumulated throughout your career into what you love?  Retirement can be whatever you want it to be.  Growing old with lots of money is no longer the goal.  As Mitch tells us “dying rich can’t compete with living rich, and making a living doesn’t measure up to making a life.”  Mitch asks us an important question: “What is the expiration date on our intellectual capital and our experience?” 

It’s encouraging to know that we can continue to do what we love, even when we “retire.”  Mitch preaches that an investment in yourself is critical in calculating your own “return on life” and you should never let your intellectual capital retire. 


Matt Armstrong, CFP®, CRPS® is a financial advisor with Savant Capital Management.

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