As I’m writing this, it’s a Thursday morning. Two days ago, on Tuesday morning, I had a planning review meeting with a long-time client.
These clients are a happily married couple with two successful adult daughters. They were introduced to me by their CPA almost 10 years ago.
Let’s call them Mark & Mary.
Mark & Mary are wonderful clients. They work hard, but appreciate the restorative value of time away from work, and their family, both immediate and extended, are important to them.
And they’ve had a lot going on in their lives over the last couple of years.
Mary sold her business to a larger company where she’s working currently. And they realized their goal of having a 2nd home near the water in the New England area where they’re from. And on top of all this, they recently sold their home outside of Atlanta and are renting as they contemplate how (and where) they want to spend the next few years of their lives.
While I typically meet with both Mark & Mary together to review their plan, on Tuesday of this week, I sat down with Mark as Mary was up at their New England home preparing for the 4th of July holiday weekend as well as an upcoming influx of family who plans to hang out together for a few days.
Mary & Mark appreciate the value of having a plan and our work, and most of our conversations, revolve around their personal financial plan.
In our Tuesday meeting, Mark arrived prepared to explore a “what if” scenario. These “what ifs” allow my clients to explore possible scenarios based on things they anticipate might happen in their lives or things they’d like to consider happening in their lives.
This particular “what if” scenario that Mark wanted to explore on behalf of himself and Mary boiled down to this: what if we pitched it all in and decided not to work another 10 years into our early 60s. What if, instead, we declared our financial independence this year or next while we’re in our mid-50s and maybe did some part-time work as needed or maybe even just waited tables at a restaurant in the vicinity of their New England home?
I’ve changed some of the wording above, but in simple terms, they wanted to know if they could “retire” now even though they might continue to do some kind of work for a few more years, albeit at a slower pace and with less work-related responsibility than they’re dealing with now.
This is what I think of as a financial independence check-up.
Mark & Mary weren’t asking if they could quit working and spend the remainder of their days sitting on a beach or chasing a golf ball around a golf course.
I think what they really wanted to know is if they could start living (and working) on their terms and be less dependent on hours, stress, travel and more that go into maintaining Mary’s ample salary.
And somewhere during this conversation, Mark said, “you know, this is kinda fun.”
Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve had a client make a comment like this. But I think it’s counter to most assumptions about personal finances and financial planning.
To be clear, I don’t think Mark would consider this fun if he and Mary hadn’t done the hard work of saving and building a profitable company over the years. Many people haven’t done a good job of preparing for their financial futures, so I suspect it would be a stretch for most Americans to ever consider anything having to do with their financial planning “fun.”
But having started early in planning for their future, Mark & Mary set themselves up for success. And I’m not defining success as having achieved a certain level of net worth or wealth. In their situation, and for other clients that I work with, success means having choice and flexibility to live your life on your terms. To be deliberate and purposeful about how you support your lifestyle, where you live and who you spend your time with.
Will Mark and Mary “pitch it all in” and get jobs waiting tables?
I don’t know. It’s up to them.
But the fact that they’ve thought about it and we’ve run some “what if” scenarios demonstrating that they can comfortably and confidently do this if and when they want to will go a long way in giving them the confidence, and ultimately the freedom, to live their best lives on their terms.
And when I get the privilege to have conversations like this with clients, not only does financial planning become fun for them. It’s also when it becomes fun and most rewarding for me as well.
If you’d like to explore some “what if” scenarios around the declaration of your financial independence, get in touch. I’d love to have that conversation with you.