Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It has all the good characteristics of Christmas – family, food, tradition, and celebration – with none of the stress – gift buying, gift wrapping, house decorating, and toys that require ‘moderate assembly’. I also love the idea of a day dedicated to being grateful. Gratitude is scientifically shown to improve mental health. It helps us center our minds on what really matters; what it’s all about.
I speak to investors all the time who are laser-focused on their portfolio’s relative returns. These investors have accumulated more money than they will ever spend in their lifetime. I ask them, what is the money for? No one has a clear answer. Sometimes words like legacy and charity get thrown around, but few have ever stopped the think, what IS IT all about?
Money is a funny thing. It is a human construct and a very helpful mechanism created to move goods and services around efficiently. We need enough of it to survive, a little more to be comfortable, and maybe a little extra to chase our dreams. But somewhere along the path to earning, saving, investing, and growing wealth, most of us lose sight of the bigger picture. The saving and investing part becomes addictive. Our good behaviors with money have been rewarded, and we watch our wealth grow. How could we ever get off this hedonic treadmill, and why would we want to?
Because you can’t take it with you when you die. Egyptian pharaohs tried, and their graves were robbed thousands of years later.
And here’s the other kicker – if you don’t decide how to spend it, someone else will, after you are gone.
I take an annual break from the internet at Thanksgiving. It’s a tradition I started several years ago that I’ve come to cherish. This Thanksgiving, I hope to take some quiet time revisiting my priorities in life. What are my priorities today, for the next few years, and for the rest of my life? How should I spend both my time and money in a way that serves those priorities?
I have found George Kinder’s Three Questions to be a helpful method for tapping into my priorities.
In the funeral liturgy of the Episcopal Church, a phrase is read at the burial site, “earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” It serves as a reminder to me that humans are a miraculous organization of atoms, chemicals, and matter. But that organization lasts only for a lifetime, and the atoms return to earth, ready to form into something new. The only constant is change. Our lives are a fleeting moment in the long arc of history. When you put it into perspective, most of the things we spend our days worrying about become inconsequential.
The numbers on the screen won’t love you back, even if you check on them 15 times a day. After you’ve won, you can grant yourself permission to stop playing the game. Once you reach the top of the mountain, take a pause. Look out over the rich life you have created and plan for a safe and enjoyable descent. If you haven’t created a plan to spend your fortune, perhaps this Thanksgiving holiday is a good time to start.
I am not talking about frivolous spending, but purposeful spending. Allow yourself to dream big and develop creative ways to stamp your legacy on the Earth. Envision the conversations that will take place at your funeral, and figure out how to shape them. Most importantly, figure out how to maximize the minutes you have remaining. Think about where you will be, when you want to be there, and what you will do. Make sure you account for where each and every dollar will go, once you release it. Unless of course, you’re trying to build Scrooge McDuck’s swimming pool of gold coins …
It seems like every year, I have more and more to be grateful for. Perhaps that is the mark of a life well-lived, one where your gratitude grows each year? I am thankful to this community of readers who opted in to receive my ramblings in their inbox. Thank you for hitting the subscribe button. Thank you for your comments, and thank you for taking some of your precious time to read my thoughts.
I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.