I was running around the lake and noticed a runner slapping hands and making inspiring comments to everyone he passed. I laughed out loud when he ran by. If he articulated his purpose, I suspect it would be to bring joy to those around him.
"What ultimately shapes our life are the questions we ask, fail to ask, or never dream of asking," writes Richard Leider in his book "The Power of Purpose." Yet most of the time, when someone initially comes into our office, they are trying to figure out how to make their money do better before they try to understand what their money is for. What brings them joy?
Current markets are volatile, making many people anxious. So what if rather than focusing on the markets, you started to ask some questions that you would never dream of asking. One of our clients was wondering whether he should leave a job that was secure but boring for something that would be a much bigger risk but be aligned with his perceived purpose. Should I leave was not the right question; how can I get comfortable with change was. Trading the certainty of something you hate for the chance of something you love is easier said than done. It can require reducing your standard of living in order to produce a life worth living.
This leap requires understanding the obligations you have and what you have created. Some are real — family support, housing and health insurance. Some are imagined — location or type of housing. If you want to live in the city, you will have a smaller home for the same money. If you imagine urban living, then it is worth the downsizing.
Clients may feel like they don't have enough time or money. But Leider says, "Being generative actually makes people feel richer and less in need of more wealth. It also makes them feel less dependent on their wealth for security." Giving comes from abundance — I have enough to share. Scarcity is a philosophy, not a predicament.
One of our clients lost their business during the real estate bubble. They had to file for bankruptcy, scale their lives back, and, in their late 40s, start over. Their financial life is different from what they had imagined, but the rest of their life isn't. The family got closer as they worked through things. They gave their time to meaningful relationships.
I have enjoyed my runs far more since. I wish I had thanked that runner.
Spend your life wisely.
Ross Levin is the founding principal of Accredited Investors Inc. in Edina.