My daughter has always been an inspiration to me. When she was a toddler it seemed to me that she had one simple goal, and that was the continuous search to have fun. Now, on the verge of teenagerdom, she’s not much different, just with a bit of cheek mixed in.
It’s something I have taken on board. Some stories have become a cliché, such as the man on his deathbed who looked back on his life and realised that if he could have a bit more time, he wouldn’t spend it in the office. But clichés emerge because they resonate with so many people.
This was brought home to me a few years ago by Paul. After 35 years running his own legal practice, Paul was retiring. A bachelor, we helped him organise his finances in a way that suited his plans, drawing his pension in a flexible way.
One day, early on in the process, I asked him what he intended to do once the practice was sold. Paul answered that he wanted to travel and watch the England cricket team on tour, and that he intended to write poetry. I asked him why he hadn’t written poetry before, and his answer has stayed with me always. He said “You need fresh mental energy to write prose.”
Sadly, Paul died from cancer two months later. He never got to express his lifetime of experience in the medium of his choice.
Not everyone wants to write poetry, but we all have dreams. I honestly believe the purpose of financial planning is to help people not only to achieve their dreams, but to recognise that they exist. Indeed, for many people a major step is accepting that achieving those dreams, and the personal happiness that results, is actually permitted.
For me, I have spent the last ten years focussing on three things in addition to the business. Music (I play guitar in Mangetout, a party band, plus several others), writing (I spend my Wednesdays writing a novel, which is almost finished) and family (I watch my daughter play cricket and my son play rugby, amongst other things). I’m not rich. But I do feel fulfilled.
Of course, for one person happiness may well be spending all their time in the office. For others it might be simply working a little less and spending the extra time discovering whether they really do have a talent for impersonating Elvis.
Whatever gets you excited, I firmly believe that accumulating wealth is not a goal in itself, but is to support the pursuit of happiness. And that financial planning should hold this notion at its very core.