Would you like Joy or Happiness with your Financial Planning?Submitted by Dorval & Chorne on August 27th, 2018
By Daniel Dorval, CFP® | Monday, August 27, 2018
It is that time of year again when summer is winding down and kids are getting ready to go back to school. It is also the time when fall sports begin, so my younger daughter, Alaina, started her high school volleyball practices last week. They have a new coach that wants the girls to focus more on personal well-being and development this season. Their theme for the first week of practice was JOY and they talked every day about the differences between joy and happiness. I had not really considered that difference, but as Alaina described some of their conversations to me, I was struck by how similar our group focus is in helping our clients from a planning perspective. We talk a lot about quality of life financial planning, which is really all about helping people develop a plan to build a foundation of joy in their lives. That foundation then allows them greater freedom, security, and flexibility to more actively pursue happiness on a daily basis.
Joy and happiness are both great things to experience in our lives and many people think they are basically the same feelings, but they are actually very different. Joy is an internal feeling we are able to develop and cultivate on our own. It is an understanding of who, why, and how we are as individuals and feeling good about who that person is inside of us. Happiness is more of an external feeling triggered by other people, things, places, activities, and events. The idea of “happiness” is what advertisements often use in the hopes of influencing our actions to buy more things!
"Joy is not in things, it is in us." -Richard Wagner
Alaina is learning it is not always easy to be a volleyball player. Workouts are hard. Games are harder and sometimes officials make mistakes! Sometimes there will be drama with the other girls (almost always the case at 13!). There are always challenges to overcome, but she is being taught to find joy in the midst of those struggles and appreciate the process of growing as a player.
I appreciate what her coach is trying to teach because it is really what we do as financial advisors. Life is hard! We all experience challenges whether in our personal relationships, our work, or our health that can steal away our daily happiness. Financial circumstances in particular often feel out of our control. Cars break down, phones become obsolete (or break if you drop them!), kids have lots of unexpected expenses, it is almost a law of life that contractors will never come in under budget (or on schedule), and there are definitely times when investments lose money! Yet we believe prudent financial planning can help us face the inevitable difficulties of life with greater joy by building a more secure foundation to better weather life’s storms.
I could give many examples, but one of the best is planning for retirement. One of the most common questions we answer for people is, “Can I retire?” We work with a lot of nurses and most of them love what they do, but can’t stand their jobs because of managers, bureaucracy, or maybe physical challenges that make their work tough to do. They might get a great sense of joy from being a nurse, but might feel very unhappy most days at work. When we are able to show them how they have the financial ability to make the decision to retire on their own terms, they often continue working, but with a much greater sense of joy in knowing they are working because they want to, not because they have to! Work becomes surprisingly tolerable when you know you can leave whenever you want.
The role of planning as it relates to retirement is to determine what you want from a quality of life perspective and then determine the actions necessary to become financially able to make the decision to retire. That doesn’t mean you have to retire at a specific time; it means you have the ability to make that decision on your own terms when it feels right to you. Advertisements, social media, and even our friends and family often make retirement out to be a time of great happiness as illustrated by dream activities, events, and things. While all of those things can be wonderful and can definitely bring periods of happiness, the most successful retirees usually find a real sense of purpose in their newfound time. Sense of purpose is the key to having more consistency of joy and less dependence on potentially fleeting moments of happiness.
The decision to retire triggers different emotions in different people. Some desperately want to retire and others fear that big life change. One thing we know is human beings are not well designed to make great decisions when feeling highly emotional! We want the people we help to set goals so their actions are guided by a specific purpose that gives life more meaning. We often say, “Control the things you can control,” which means you have the power to influence your outcomes in a profoundly positive way even when times get tough. We want that purpose to be based on your own unique ideas of quality of life and then control the things you can control to reach those goals. Planning is an ongoing process and can feel like work at times, but being able to live your life on your own terms with a great sense of joy is so worth it!