Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Going Farrell

In the usual writings about retirement planning, financial structuring, investment and the like, where Paul B. Farrell has dwelt most of his professional life, you learn to be cold, calculating and attentive to things capitalist. Your labour will only take you so far and so long, so you'd better do your numbers, plan and prepare to live your life by your financial seat.

So it is a tad different to read some of the things Farrell and others like him occasionally write which tend to be critical of things uber-capitalist. You might recall Guambat's mention of Farrell's loss for words in trying to put a name to "the new "private-equity/hedge-fund/mega-merger/buyout" trend.

Now Farrell is reminding us that retirement planning is about getting a life, first and foremost.
So what really, really matters in retirement? OK, so it's not money or security. Nor health, a loving spouse, teaching the kids right. Don't get me wrong, they're all important. But none of them will ever matter much if you don't get this one thing right.

Money isn't "it." Get-rich-quick isn't it. Neither is getting rich slowly: All that stuff Wall Street and Corporate America want you to believe about working 30 or 40 years, saving regularly, piling up a hundred thousand, maybe a million or whatever, in IRAs, 401(k)s and lots of retirement accounts. Not it.

I was in the career-planning business years ago. I've been around miserable megamillionaires. And around people who are broke yet happy, doing what they love in retirement, and before. I'll bet you know some of both
.
A "new retirement" begins with a new attitude. It's not about money. And it's also not about being "happy." Being happy is a by-product of something else.

You must find the "meaning" of life, the meaning of your life.

Psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl elaborates in "Man's Search for Meaning:"
"We needed a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life -- daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual."


You can have health, friends, family, total security and all the money you'll ever need, but unless your life has "meaning," nothing matters. And no one can give "meaning" to your life except you. Not a million-dollar portfolio, not being debt-free, nor tight abs, low cholesterol, nor a famous guru, evangelist or yoga instructor. All that's irrelevant if you don't know deep in your soul the meaning of your life.

Only you can ever know whether you're living a meaningful life or one of quiet desperation. And let's forget all the new-age nonsense about "life's not a rehearsal" and "you only go around once."

Everyone gets a second chance. We never stop getting chances because "dreams never retire."

When I was helping plan careers, I'd have people spend time covering a wall with a montage of magazine clippings, whatever turned them on (fishing, fashion, golf, travel, music, art, hobbies, you name it), then we'd explore the pattern.

In "The Power Years," retirement guru Ken Dychtwald suggests making three lists. Go buy a big journal. Write in it every day: First, a list of every job you've ever had and what you loved about it. Next, go through your annual budgets, list where you spend your discretionary income. Third, review the key turning points of your life. Get real: Where did your secret dreams take a back seat to your commitments to others, like the kids' college.

Go on a retreat, to seminars, maybe a spiritual pilgrimage, maybe get the advice of a career counselor. Read about other's second-act dreams. Take your time. You're on a journey, explore. Review the lists. Look inside. Trust me, the answers are already in there.

Rediscover your dreams, tap into the meaning of your life. You'll get all the chances you want this time around because dreams never retire!

It's your life, make it a meaningful life. And when you get it, go for it with passion.


PS: He never did respond publicly to his request for the word he was seeking.

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