Have you ever stopped to consider the role that status plays in your life? Of course, status is evident in our work relationships; supervisor, manager, and president are titles that make it easier to know our place in the hierarchy. But I wonder if you’ve considered how status impacts your financial planning. Is it possible that subconscious pursuits of status possessions may be influencing many of us more than we’d care to admit?
Imagine for a moment a world where we strive to accumulate what we need for survival, but no more. In this crazy world, once we have the things we truly need, we immediately find contentment and are able to focus on other areas of life like recreation and relationships. Blind ambition and the chasing of status symbols in the way of diamonds and pearls, and all of the expertly-marketed latest gadgets just slip away, no longer holding their status appeal. Can you even imagine? Instead, I’d argue that we’re all on a path that leads to much, much more stuff than what we need for this arguably utopian enough-is-enough world I’ve described.
Perhaps to your surprise, I’m not advocating that you or I stop pursuing the luxuries in life. Not at all. I enjoy those things just as much as anybody else. Instead, I’d like to use this illustration to demonstrate that we’re not required to be trapped in such pursuits if they don’t fulfill us. If we’re chasing these things unconsciously, and they’re keeping us from what it is that we really want, then why are we doing it? Instead, consider having a tool available that allows you to step outside the material world for a moment to help ensure that you’re keeping your desire for status in-check, that you’re being deliberate in your status journey.
What would a tool look like that takes us to a place of contemplation and measurement of our true desires? How would we test ourselves to see if what it is we’re pursuing is that which we really want out of life? Can that even be done?
The tool I’m describing is a detailed financial plan. Going a step further, I’d suggest calling it a financial life plan. This is your best weapon in a winning campaign against the status forces that are compelling you and me to spend and accumulate in ways that don’t really help us achieve our desired outcome. And by frequently engaging in a review of your financial life plan and life priorities, you give yourself a fighting chance to see your life more clearly through a new financial lens.
Specifically, a financial life plan includes tracking income and expenses very, very carefully to allow yourself the clarity of knowing where it all goes. And taking it to an entirely different level, you’ll apply a set of questions to each expenditure to allow you to evaluate whether you’re living your life or a life that someone (or some marketer) wants you to live. For example, a person wishing to retire someday should consider this question, from the mind-altering book, Your Money Or Your Life:
How might this expenditure change if I didn’t have to work for a living?
In other words, if you knew that reducing or eliminating this expense would allow you to retire from paid work much sooner (and stay retired), would that give you the necessary incentive to make the change?
By looking at each expense you choose to incur, and asking this question of that expense, you reframe that purchase into the context of your desired outcome – not having to work again for money; otherwise known as retirement. This type of detailed financial tracking and questioning is the weapon, the antidote, to spending in ways that are out of alignment with your life purpose. It can be a really big deal.
As Stephen Covey taught us in his book, The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, we should begin with the end in mind. Thus, if a successful retirement and a regret-free deathbed are objectives you care deeply about, you’ll have to develop ways to identify and combat status pursuits from distracting you from what you really wish to achieve.
I suppose retirement from paid work is a status symbol just like anything else. The key though is to be clear about the ‘status’ you hope to achieve, and battle for it rather than allow others to choose for you how you should spend your life. The difference isn’t subtle, it’s a war out there. Equip yourself and fight the good fight.
All the best,
Adam Cufr, RICP®