I had a client once who said, “I’m at a point in time where I feel physically fit, and I like to climb up mountains; I like to hike, I like to do a little rock climbing. I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that forever, so I think that I’ve got a very short window of time where this physical fitness that I have is going to stay at this level as I age, and I have to take advantage of that. I want to travel to climb, but it’s going to cost me money to go do these things. I also still owe money on my house and I feel that I should pay that off. I feel torn between paying off the house or going to climb those mountains. So what do I do? How do I make that decision?”
So we have to sit down and ask, what’s really important to you? What’s driving these desires? When it was all said and done, climbing mountains was more important than paying off her house. “I can always find a place to live,” she said. “I can downsize if I want. I can even arrange a rental if I decide to rent a little part of my house to somebody; I can arrange that so that I still have some privacy. What’s really important to me at this point in time is to go climb those mountains.”
"What matters is, what do you want to do? Why is that important to you?"
I’m not going to tell her as a financial planner that’s not the smart thing, and the smart thing is to pay off her mortgage instead. Retirement planning is about a person’s individual journey, not about what’s in a book. It’s about what someone wants to accomplish with their life. If they have worked all this time to get to this point and they are in good enough physical condition that they can go experience climbing, then why wouldn’t we jump on that opportunity if that’s what’s truly important to her? So here, I’ve tried to throw out all the extraneous information of “this is what all the books say you should do, this is what other people think this is what you should do”--really, it doesn’t matter. All that stuff doesn’t matter. What matters is, what do you want to do? Why is that important to you? Is that really a strong value for you? If it is, then let’s honor it. And what does it take to honor it? If there’s something deep within you that drives your life, that drives your being, we need to honor that.