What scares you? It’s not a comfortable question for me to ask, I know. The answers are difficult. So I’ll just tell you about an illuminating conversation I had that made me think about this. A friend said that they feared dying with regrets. Oh, what an impact that thought had on me. Especially since I had recently read a book written by a nurse on exactly that subject.
I don’t know if you’ve seen it already, but this is a wonderful book. It’s called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying and pulls together the experiences of a nurse as she looked after people approaching the end of their lives. And it occurred to me that a hugely significant part of living regret-free is creating a financial plan.
Let me explain.
When we realize our time is running out, wouldn’t you love to be able to look back and know that you have few regrets? Looking at the top regrets of the dying can bring into clear focus what we may need to be doing now, in order to live a completely fulfilled and contented life. And what greater blessing is there than that? You can use your financial plan to truly make the most of your resources to give you that, and more.
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret that the nurse, Bronnie Ware, heard during her years of experience as a nurse. Would it not be the biggest privilege to be able to look back on your life and know that you had made all the right decisions for yourself? And would it not be a huge regret if you had not lived a life that was truly yours, that you had had to dance to somebody else’s tune?
Financial independence is key to this. And I mean financial independence in a broad sense, in the sense that you are empowered to make your own decisions, to spend on what is important to you to make a life that reflects who you are.
That doesn’t mean that you have to be a single woman, seeking their truth. You might be, but you may also be happily married and a parent to growing or grown children. Having control over your own finances, now and for the future, is the key component of financial independence.
Make a financial plan that is tailored to you and your circumstances. Make sure it allows you some control of yours and your family’s finances so that you can enjoy doing some of the things that make you you.
I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
Sometimes it feels like life is passing us by, doesn’t it? It just all moves so quickly. And we spend so much time at work. Our kids can grow up in the same time it takes to get a decent promotion – blink and you miss it.
I think there’s three ways to use your financial plan to make sure this isn’t one of your deathbed regrets. Firstly, scrutinize your circumstances. Get plenty of advice. Do you think it might be feasible to retire early? Use the 4% rule to see if you are already sitting on enough wealth to generate income after retirement. Or work with your financial advisor to see if bringing your retirement forward might be a possibility.
Second, track all your work-related expenses such as clothes, commuting, childcare, trips, even medication associated with work problems. Can you adjust your work life so as to bring these expenses down? Maybe look for a new role, or see if you can negotiate a change in hours, or a pay raise. Make sure that your work is worth it.
Finally, could you actually just work less? Can you afford to take a pay cut by reducing your hours spent at work? Are you well on track to meet your goals, and finding a surplus at the end of each month? Or could you revisit your idea of what ‘enough money’ means, as Vicki Robin encourages us to do?
Could you just do without some things that you’ve grown accustomed to and simply spend on out of habit? Have you got a gym membership you pay for but don’t use? Or any subscriptions? If you make sure that you are only spending on things you truly need and want, you may well reduce the hours that you need to work.
I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Life is too short to hold things in, isn’t it? And to me, this means having the courage to express how you feel. It means being vulnerable enough to share your emotions, both positive and negative. Perhaps you don’t tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Or maybe you don’t want to tell them that they have hurt your feelings.
We also express ourselves through hobbies, art, music, cultural consumption, and even how we decorate our homes, present a meal, and how we dress. Some of this might seem materialistic. But I think if it makes you feel that you are expressing yourself, then it is so much more than that.
This is about creating a proper sense of purpose, and creating a life you love with full self-expression. And once more, keeping a fully updated financial plan can help you to live this life.
A financial plan not only helps you to make sure you are making the most of your resources now and for the future, but it helps to create real peace of mind in your life. When you know that you don’t have to worry about debts or unpaid bills, that you have adequate insurance policies in place to cover all the emergencies, then you can free up time and cash for all the things that are important to you.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Oh, this one makes me sad. I know that there are some people I no longer see. I hope that with some chance meeting, our paths cross again in the future. But as for everyone else, my friends are extremely dear to me. Time spent with them is hugely valuable and adds such joy to my life.
Just as it is with my family. I want to be able to see members of my family regularly, and spend quality time with them. And some of them are far away – it’s not just a question of meeting at a local cafe for a catch up. Keeping up with my friends and family sometimes involves big trips, and I’m sure it’s the same for you.
Don’t let this be one of your regrets. Make sure your financial plan frees up enough time and allocates enough money for you to be able to do that is important to you with the people who are important to you. Make lasting memories for yourself, but also for your friends and family.
I wish that I had let myself be happier.
I think that this one just encompasses it all. It says don’t sweat the small stuff and find joy in each day. Sometimes, one’s finances can cause such stress it makes everyday living a huge challenge. This is why I believe it is so important to explore the opportunities you may have to decrease this stress by meeting with a financial advisor to help you get back on track with a financial plan.
The purpose of spending time with an advisor is to make a financial plan. I could sum it up like this: Spend money on what matters. Don’t waste money on things that don’t.
It’s said that living with purpose is the true route to happiness and one of the best ways to achieve this is to take a look at your spending habits. Are you mindfully spending money on things that are important and enrich your life, or are you wasting money on things that add nothing?
Our expenditures reflect our values as well as our vices. Are you spending money on a gym membership because you value your health, but also spending money on junk food? Are you spending money on a gym membership now but not planning for adequate healthcare coverage for the future? Align all your spending with your values, to create the life you want and the future you deserve.
Stop spending money on clothes you don’t need, and start saving for a family holiday instead. Maybe you can downsize your home to reduce expenditure on upkeep, and see how the released equity could impact your retirement date. Make conscious spending decisions that reflect who you are and what you value, and change your financial lifestyle. Ensure that every single time you spend money, it’s being spent with purpose.
Live Regret-Free With Your Financial Plan
Would you have thought there was such a clear link between regret-free living and making a clear and comprehensive financial plan? Now it seems simple, doesn’t it? Making sure you are making the most of your resources means that you are making sure you are making the most of your life.
As a professional, knowing that I can help women to forge these lives for themselves is the biggest privilege I could have. I love helping people to revisit their financial circumstances, creating security where there was instability, creating optimism where there was worry.
If you think that revisiting or creating a financial plan could help you to live regret-free, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.