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Avoid self-created financial hardship

Two of the most challenging questions I’ve ever been asked were:

1) How will you be remembered?

2) What have you contributed?

After being asked those questions and contemplating the answer, I overheard someone talking about me.  They said, “Jason is very driven.” While I appreciated that what they said was meant as a compliment, I realized it was not what I had hoped someone might say.

A friend of mine is contemplating divorce. I am always sad and a little scared when I hear a long-time marriage is coming to an end. I’m reminded that it really takes two people to make a marriage work. I’ve learned that usually one person is committed to the relationship while one person wants out. As we talked, I asked him to reflect back on his past 20 years of marriage and share with me any insights on what he would have done different to try and avoid this painful place in his life.  

He said:

1) I should have made it a priority to set aside more time to go out on dates with my wife. He said looking back he realized that she needed a little time away from the kids; time to connect with him.

2) I should have created a vision for our lives with my wife and revisited that vision for our lives together on a regular basis to make sure we are on the right track and making progress toward our life goals together.

I share this with you for a couple of reasons: First, as a financial adviser, let me just say that divorce is probably the most expensive, most costly financial choice you will ever make; second, I’ve read that financial strain is one of the top reasons for divorce. If you are experiencing financial hardship, then you need to be more vigilant than ever regarding your marriage. I’ve heard it said that often people will leave 80 percent of something great to chase the 20 percent of something they hope they will find in someone else. Once they find the 20 percent they were looking for, they realize that the new person isn’t perfect either and so they begin the search all over again. They are always searching for the missing 20 percent.

Falling in love is easy. Being in love for a lifetime is a choice and it takes work. At a summer barbecue a few years ago, I was talking with a woman whose husband had recently passed away. When it was just me and her sitting at the table she told me how she had a shoebox full of love letters her husband had written her over the years. Even though he was gone she was still in love with him, and when she needed a little pick-me-up to be reminded of his love for her, she would pull out one of those letters and remember. She said to me, “Jason, don’t ever underestimate the importance of those little notes you write to your wife.”

What I realized at that moment was that I had not written very many love letters to my wife. So after hearing her words of wisdom, I decided to take action. For one year I kept a love journal. I made it a priority to spend the first few minutes of my day to write one thing I loved about my wife. It was usually just a sentence or two about what I remembered from the day before. Over the course of the year I found something new to love about my wife every day. At the end of the year I gave the journal to my wife for our 17th wedding anniversary.

In the Bible in Matthew there is a verse that reads, “seek and you will find.” It’s amazing how we tend to find what we look for. When we focus on the good and when we choose to be grateful, it impacts our hearts in a significant and meaningful way. Learning to be content comes in part from learning to be grateful for all that we have. While keeping this journal I had thought I was writing it simply as a gift for my wife so that she would always know how important she is to me. But what I found was that in keeping this journal, I fell even more in love with her. The real gift was for me to be reminded of just how lucky I am.

If you are investing in your retirement plan, but you say you can’t afford a babysitter, or a night out, or a bouquet of flowers, then I’m afraid you might end up with a lot less than you were planning for and your retirement vision could be completely lost.

If you are considering divorce, please let me encourage you to look for ways to repair your marriage. Perhaps you could begin by keeping a love journal. Love is worth it. It will be your greatest achievement, your most prized possession and your greatest legacy.

At the end of my time, if I am only remembered as a man who was driven, then I’m afraid it would not be a life very well lived. For what is it to gain all earthly possessions, but in the pursuit of acquiring more stuff lose the relationships that matter the most? Let me encourage you to create a vision for your life. Begin with the end in mind. Invest in your relationships and plan to leave a legacy much greater than money.

• Jason Parker is president of Parker Financial LLC, a fee-based registered investment advisory firm working primarily in wealth management for retirees. His office is in Silverdale. Parker is insurance-licensed and holds his series 65 securities license. He offers annuities, life and long-term care insurances as well as investment services. Follow Jason’s blog at www.soundretirementplanning.com.

 

 
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