Welcome back to another round of Meg’s random thoughts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy.
We can’t guarantee Enough.
When you’re going through an IPO (or other big event) that is going to dump a bunch of money in your lap, your mind could go quickly to “Could this be it? Will I never have to work again?”
Of course, the FIRE movement has helped popularize this notion that we can in fact do the work and the calculations now to give us independence for the rest of our lives.
[Can I just comment on the complete ahistorical weirdness of this notion? I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad, just so tremendously anomalous for humanity. Almost all people for almost all of history have simply worked from the moment they could until the moment they couldn’t.]
Here at Flow, we work with people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. Said another way, we work with people who have up to 80, 70, and 60 years left to live.
Think back over the last 10 years of your life. How much changed during those 10 years? Now project that 10 years forward. And another 10 after that. How much might change during those years?
Well, I’ll tell you: Your life and the world around you is going to change a lot over the next 5, 10 and more years. Maybe your parents will need your support. Maybe not. If they do, maybe it’ll be a lot of money, maybe a little. Maybe you’ll want to go to school. Or move to another state. Or have more kids. Maybe not.
I absolutely understand the desire to believe you have “enough” for whatever comes. It’s comforting, calming.
But no one can honestly tell you you have Enough for the rest of your life. I believe we can figure out if you have Enough to make your own choices and react to the transitions in your life that you will invariably encounter.
That’s the kind of Enough I want.
I had conversations with several Airbnb employees recently over the course of a single week. So it stood out to me when every single one of them mentioned that they’re seeking out a financial planner in part because they’re afraid of the “unknown unknowns” in their financial life.
[As an aside: Is “unknown unknowns” a talking point at Airbnb corporate? Because that was weird.]
It’s a totally legitimate concern, too, given how freaking complicated modern personal finance has become. You no longer have to simply report to work and do your job, and you’ll get a pension and retire comfortably. (Or so goes the legend.)
Nowadays you have to know how to invest your 401(k) and your non-retirement account. You have to think about life insurance and disability insurance to protect yourself and your family. You have to evaluate and understand the pages upon pages of employee benefits during open enrollment. You have to know to evaluate an offer of equity at a new job. You have to understand complicated tax rules. There are so many variables!
It made me wonder “How does one catch the Unknown Unknowns?” And while it’s folly to suggest that anyone anywhere could ever identify all of them, it was cool to realize that the best protection is a thorough, systematic, and knowledgeable process that steadily marches through every aspect of your finances. Which is to say, what you get from working with a good financial planner.
“My company didn’t IPO and make me rich. I’m behind!”
I have seen a challenging conflict in the hearts and minds of several of our clients who didn’t have a giant windfall from company stock. IPOs and direct listings are impossible to escape nowadays. As are stories of friends or colleagues getting millions of dollars out of those events. Suddenly, your friend is 33 years old and worth $2M. And you’re not. You chose the “wrong” company.
“Why not meeee???”
The feelings of envy aren’t surprising in the least (though I can tell you that having $2M in no way guarantees that you will feel any more content or less stressed out). Our sense of affluence is always and forever relative, not absolute.
And it’s not just envy. It’s fear. One of the things we track with all our clients is their net worth. We have 30-year-olds coming to us with a net worth of $200k thinking they’re behind in accumulating wealth and anxious about “catching up.”
Those not-so-nice emotions co-exist with an honest intellectual acknowledgment that, if you’re earning $150k in salary and getting another $50k in RSU income every year, you’re still doing Really Well compared to the vast majority of people in this country, and possibly even compared to most of your friends and family “back home.”
If you enjoy the occasional armchair philosophy, we’d love to hear from you. Schedule a free consultation.
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Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Meg Bartelt, and all rights are reserved. Read the full Disclaimer.