As some doors open, other doors close

  • Article by: ROSS LEVIN
  • Updated: August 29, 2009 - 4:53 PM

Life's lesson: Only when one chapter ends can another begin.



Not that he cares, but I am no longer annoyed with Brett Favre.

The fact that he is assuredly a Hall of Fame quarterback and possibly capable of leading our Nordic warriors out of Super Bowl humility is not that important to me. What I realized about this on-again, off-again saga is that he is painfully and publicly human. He struggles with the same type of indecision we all do. His reluctance to move onto the next chapter of his life is something that each of us has faced as we left college for the workplace or left one job for another or left the workforce entirely. We all have had to let a part of our life die so that a new phase could begin.

Yet one of the first questions that clients are now asking me is "When do you think my account will be back to where it was." Answering "not as soon as you would like, but sooner than you think" is probably the closest to the truth. But who really knows? The fact that this question cannot be answered is not important; what matters is why it is asked.

Now is the time to confront the death of the 1980s and 1990s, whose values were first depicted so beautifully in Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities'' and again so desperately in the television show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.'' Money was easy, wants insatiable, and the stock market oh-so-accommodating. The world was safe and xenophobic. We should rightfully mourn our abilities to trade up homes, companies and portfolios. But let us celebrate the dead and get on with living.

In his book, "What Matters Most, Living a More Considered Life,'' Jungian analyst James Hollis writes, "Goals ... often become tempting stopping places for the soul, places where we decline the invitation to trade still more mystery for security." Security can never be about what we own. Paradoxically, the act of trying to maintain security keeps us on pins and needles.

People who feel the most comfortable with their situations have resources beyond their needs, but frankly most of us are already there. We may not have the size house that we imagined, but we probably have food on the table and clothes on our back. Yet we often want the one thing that life can't give us -- certainty. As we continue to focus on what we have lost, we cannot see or understand what we have. And if we refuse to accept that things have changed, we sacrifice the potential of the mystery that lies ahead.

I was talking with a friend who has launched a concept that will help adolescents create vision statements for themselves. He believes in the idea so much that he has structured it as a nonprofit, thereby forgoing any riches that may come from this laudable mission. I asked him how he would feel if he did not receive attention for the success of his company. He said that it is more important to him to have an impact than to have notoriety. Doesn't this sound like someone who is rich?

"All who have preceded us have had the identical issues that we do: to claim self-hood, to find and nurture relationship, to work creatively within the limits of a contingent world, and to live more fully in the shadow of death," writes Hollis. While we all need to be responsible and to try to make good decisions about our finances, it is only a small piece of what matters most. Sadly, this piece not only takes up much of our attention, but it detracts from the richness of real living. In accepting that things are different, you can devote some of your new focus on what you really want in this finite life.

Where does money fit into this different worldview? I suspect that when you think this way, you may choose to use a portion of your money as a tool to elevate others less fortunate. You may decide that you need less than you thought. You may wish to provide a safety net for your children, but not pay for things that they would value more if they earned it on their own. And you may ask yourself how is what I am doing making me bigger or smaller. Every moment provides such an opportunity to decide.

Are you ready for a new game?

Spend your life wisely.

Ross Levin is the founding principal of Accredited Investors Inc. in Edina. He is a certified financial planner and author of "The Wealth Management Index." His Gains & Losses column appears on the fourth and fifth Sundays of the month. His e-mail is

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