by Mitch Anthony

Few conversations are more fascinating than what money means in our lives. People constantly mull, study, worry, regret, scrutinize, second-guess, hope, and fantasize over money. At its best, money helps us live fulfilling lives. At its worst, money becomes an obsession.

Consider the following questions:

“What are you invested in?”
“What do you think of the stock market right now?”
“Where are the best returns these days?”

That’s what I often hear when people talk about money, especially those approaching retirement. Their questions often focus on the mechanics: 1) How can we make money?; and 2) How much money can we accumulate? But there’s a more important question we should be asking ourselves—one that gets to the heart of what money’s true purpose is—and that is, “What is the greatest investment you can ever make?” The answer, as some of you may have already guessed, is investing in the You Fund.

How do you start investing in yourself? It’s a simple question that has many, many answers. My goal with this column is to help you get the conversation started, and provide some of those answers. I want you to think not so much about your returns on your (or your clients’) investments, but instead, about your Return on Life™(ROL).

Millions of people are working in jobs they can barely tolerate, toiling away in search of dollars they can’t enjoy because they are stressed, discouraged and struggling to make ends meet. If this sounds like you, or one of your clients, it’s time to take control of your financial life so you can make the most out of your personal life. If your “means” is out of control, your life will never have meaning—and that would be a shame.

I’m not here to argue the merits of having money. Money is essential. Let’s face facts: the more you have in the bank, the more options you have to do what you want, when you want. But as with other things in life, you need to know when to say “when.” If you really think about what life should be about, you would be remiss to not enjoy life’s experiences just so you can amass enough money to allow you to “retire” and do nothing for 30 years. Instead, there needs to be balance—enough to achieve independence, but also enough to enjoy your life while you can.

Many of you may have heard that you’ll never see a hearse pulling a U-Haul; but chances are, you know of somebody who ended up in that hearse because of financial stress. Study after study supports this. In fact, in commenting on a study released earlier this year, Dr. Ilze Bot, Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research, Leiden University, The Netherlands, was quoted as follows:

“In the past decade, more and more individuals experience psychosocial stress on a daily basis. Heavy workloads, job insecurity, or living in poverty are circumstances that can result in chronically increased stress, which in turn can lead to chronic psychological disorders such as depression. These clinical data establish a connection between stress and cardiovascular disease, thus identifying chronic stress as a true risk factor for acute cardiovascular syndromes, which could, given the increasing number of individuals with chronic stress, be included in risk assessments of cardiovascular disease in daily clinical practice.”

Let me repeat: I’m not here to argue the merits of having money, and I’m not against people having money. I just see too many people wasting money on things that add little of importance to their lives, or trying to accumulate wealth while ignoring the rest of their lives. Managed unwisely, money can hinder your chances of living a full life. You work harder—not to enjoy the experiences you want to enjoy—but to pay interest on more debt.

A healthy conversation about money needs to focus on living the best possible life with the money you have—the essence of having a successful ROL. There are ways to have a successful ROL, and most of them are within reach: exercising, spending time with family and friends, reading, volunteering, and having time to just enjoy a sunset or a ballgame. Instead of focusing on a bigger house or new car “just because,” keep what you have and focus on a better life instead.

Chances are your thoughts will stop turning to all those expensive things you bought on credit before experiencing buyer’s remorse, or those investments you wished you hadn’t made, or the deals you missed because you were too impatient. You’ll be too busy feeling fulfilled by experiences.

Invest in yourself, in addition to the market. Encourage your clients to do the same. The best parts of your life probably are not those things on which you make payments, but on the relationships and experiences you invest in along the way.

These experiences and relationships, and the good you create with them, are how you invest in the You Fund. Think about the best ways you can make a commitment to increase your experiences while decreasing your financial obligations and you’ll find yourself on the path to getting the most life for your money…you’ll be glad you did!

© 2017 Mitch Anthony

Mitch Anthony is the founder and president of Advisor Insights Inc.and the Financial Life Planning Institute, the leading provider of financial life planning tools and programs for the financial services industry.

For almost two decades, Mitch and his team have provided training and development for both individual advisors and major organizations throughout the world. Mitch personally consults with many of the largest and most-recognizable names in the financial services industry on both financial life planning and relationship development.

Mitch is a consistently top-rated presenter who has spoken to groups ranging from 10 to more than 10,000. He has been named one of the financial services industry’s top “Movers & Shakers” for his pioneering work. Through the Institute, he has partnered with Texas Tech University, the University of Georgia, and Utah Valley University to develop financial life planning programs for their undergraduate programs.

Mitch is a sought-after expert for the media, and a regular columnist for Financial Advisor magazine. His columns have appeared on CBS MarketWatch and in the Journal of Financial Planning. His original comic strip “Stanley Brambles, CFG (Certified Financial Guru)” has appeared monthly in the print edition of Research magazine. Mitch is also host of the daily radio feature, The Daily Dose, heard on over 100 radio stations nationwide.

Mitch is also the author of many groundbreaking books for advisors and consumers, including perennial bestseller StorySelling for Financial Advisors, cited by “Financial Advisor” magazine as the number one “must-read” book for financial professionals. Mitch’s other books include The New Retirementality (now in its 4th edition), From the Boiler Room to the Living RoomYour Clients for LifeYour Client’s Story, and The Financial Lit-KitThe Cash in the HatThe Bean is Not Green, and Where Did the Money Go?. For information on these books and more resources, click here. Contact Mitch at [email protected].