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The unexamined life. Part I

2007-12-18 - 2:15 p.m.

I just finished reading The Number: What Do You Need for the Rest of Your Life and What Will It Cost? Itís about, well, I guess the title is pretty self-explanatory. I suppose I was hoping to find something a bit more concrete than what was there Ė you know, a bit more in terms of actual numbers and how to actually manage to get there in terms of strategies, kind of a crash-course in investing, which I desperately need Ė but the book was thought-provoking nonetheless. It really spent most of the time saying it depends and went a lot more into trying to prod the reader into thinking about what they actually want to do with their money and their lives in their later years. In other words, it strayed more into the territory of what your values are and how money could support a life based around those values Ė what money is for - than what you might actually need and what bonds, vs. stocks, vs. mutual funds, vs. other-investment-tools-Iím-still-ignorant-of-because-the-book-didnít-really-go-into-that you might want to have, in what proportion at what stage of your life.

On the one hand, I donít feel much more prepared to set up a financial plan than I did when I started the book, yet I certainly feel more urgently that itís needed given the scary facts that were included, combined with the earlier-is-better universal truth for such things. On the other hand, this book was very much in line with some thoughts and feelings that Iíve been stirring around at the back of my mind lately, namely what do I want to do with my life? I havenít really nailed that down yet, and I feel kind of like I havenít really made more progress in this area than most anxiety-riddled recently-graduated students. More to the point, even in areas Iíve always had strong convictions (such as I donít want to live where itís cold and snowy for 6 months of the year) I have rarely actually acted on them.

You wouldnít necessarily know that I feel this way, even if you were a fairly close friend. After all, Iíve got a successful full-time career where I think I make pretty good money and Iíve got the respect of my peers, a great (and about-to-grow) family, a part-time job that helps me stay active and fit, a nice house, and a couple of hobbies that I enjoy and Iím reasonably competent at. Really, my cup runneth over, so who am I to whine and complain?

Yet I canít help but yearn to wake up every day feeling lucky to live the life I do. Oh, I certainly do this about aspects of my life, donít get me wrong. As mentioned many times Ė the most recent being the entry just before this one Ė I do count my blessings every day that Iím married to J and what a great kid Iíve got, and I marvel pretty much every time I see them at what great parents he and I have and how much I just enjoy spending time with them and my grandmother. My home life is great. But you know what would make it even more great? To be able to balance it with a professional life that I love. I truly believe that feeling more fulfilled with what I do for a living would ripple positive effects into the other aspects of my life. A happier me would be a better spouse to J and a more patient mom to Grommet. Not that either of them think Iím bad in those roles now, but I know Iíd be even better.

To be continued...

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