The Joy and Utility of Lifelong Learning
In our culture there is a sense that children learn in order to prepare for adulthood, and young adults learn in order to prepare for a career. While these are certainly good reasons to become educated, allowing learning to stop there is too limiting.
The human mind has a remarkable capability to absorb information, through formal and informal education and experiences. Greater still is the volume and variety of information waiting to be absorbed. What a shame to think oneself “finished” with learning. The closed mind grows cold and dull. The open mind, always gathering new information, stays alive and active.
The world, and our place in it, is ever changing. Lifelong learners are more able to make sense of an evolving world, adapt to change and help others do the same, leading to greater opportunities, joy and fulfillment.
Do your best to maintain a learner’s mind throughout your life.
Expanding Our View of Time Horizon
The question of “time horizon” is central to financial investing. That is, how long the investor expects to keep their funds invested before drawing on them. Time horizon dictates the amount of “risk” the investor should tolerate, and thus informs investment decisions. Someone investing for one year should allocate their capital quite differently than someone investing for twenty.
Time horizon, however, is an equally useful concept to apply to the rest of our lives and our family interactions. Far too often our decisions are based on a short-term time horizon. Decisions such as a young person’s education path, career choices, when and whether to start a family, how to address conflict or resentment in one’s family, where to live, how to structure one’s estate plan and so many others are too often made in the moment without considering the arc of one’s life as a whole. The average American lifespan is about 78 years. Over the course of our lives most of us will connect directly with roughly five or six generations other than our own.
What would change if we reorient our decision making to a hundred-year time horizon instead of the day-to-day or year-to-year perspective most of us bring?
Relationship with Financial Capital
One of the first things we help our new clients do is assess their relationship with financial wealth. It may seem strange to think about being in a “relationship” with your money, but you are – each of us is. Let’s imagine our connection to wealth like a marriage:
In a healthy marriage, each spouse contributes to the growth and well-being of the other while retaining a strong sense of self. Each spouse is somehow made more themselves by connecting with the other. In the surprising math of successful marriage, by giving something up of oneself each person somehow grows into something more. In some unhealthy marriages, on the other hand, spouses lose their separate self in dependence on or service of the other.
The relationship of people with their financial wealth fits into similar categories. Some, in health, experience their money as a resource to make them freer, healthier, and more themselves. In return, these people are able to contribute to the growth of their financial wealth through a combination of low spending rates, informed investing habits and calculated risk taking. Others, lacking health, grow overly dependent on the money and begin to become less free, less themselves, more isolated and less willing to take risks. In return, their money seems to fall into parallel decline.
How is your “relationship?”
Transfers, Gifts and Impact
Our clients have “estate plans.” Most estate planning focuses on “how” and “how much” of one’s assets will be left to heirs, charity, with special attention to how much will be paid in taxes. We find that most people do not enjoy this process.
When given the opportunity however, clients do want to talk about the impact they could have on people they care about. Thinking about how to transfer assets is a subject with only a few possible answers. Thinking instead about how to positively impact the lives of family, employees or neighbors next door and around the world – this is a conversation worth pursuing with vigor and creativity. Making a “transfer” of financial assets is a transaction without spirit. Impacting another person by enabling him or her to live more freely or more fully or with greater health or vigor or creativity, this is a legacy and a gift.
What is your legacy? What will be your gifts?