IF you can sit pen and paper in hand to work through your dreams, ideas, values, goals, ambitions and desires to leave a lasting legacy, you will join a microscopic minority of humanity. Most people never bother to do so.
It is natural for us to spend more time planning a five-day vacation than a five-decade life journey!
I suspect that boils down to two reasons: We find it easier to drift than to chart a course, and we tend to focus on the urgent rather than the important. Combining both negative traits explains why so many of us run ourselves ragged in the rat race.
The cure, I think, is in this pearl from Albert Einstein: Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. Ill expand that to man or woman of value.
One such person was my friend Mary Thanabalan (nee Mary Goh). She died prematurely two weeks ago, but the legacy she left is multi-dimensional: She shone as a wife, mother, sister, businessperson, employer, hospice volunteer, Seremban icon, and friend! And all without trying to appear successful. Instead, she blossomed into a person of tremendous value by giving of herself.
One of the most poignant memories I have was of her about a month ago laughingly state that her three kids had to put up with a lot because she had a tendency to raid the home kitchen for items like the blender and microwave oven if something similar broke down in her Seremban landmark Curry Leaf restaurant.
Mary is no more. But her sacrifices, big and small, have enriched the lives of thousands. Her business lives on, growing on the well-placed foundation she and her husband T. Thanabalan established through intelligence, sacrifice, the leverage of money through capital invested, and the leverage of time through well-trained staff.
Burke Hedgess book, The Parable of the Pipeline (2001; INTI Publishing, USA), contains an Appalachian expression that illustrates the difference between money leverage and time leverage: There are two ways to get to the top of a giant oak tree. You can sit on an acorn and wait. Or you can climb it.
We need both leverages to make our financial plans work. Putting cash into bank savings and conventional investments, and waiting patiently accomplishes money leverage. Time leverage is achieved by using technology and other people, usually in the building of what money guru Robert Kiyosaki describes as a true business one that does not need your direct involvement 100 per cent of the time.
We must use both such leverages to lay claim to success and value. Christopher Morley observed, There is only one success to be able to spend your life in your own way. I dont agree with Morleys statement on every level. A shallow, selfish individual would take Morleys opinion and use it to justify empty, hollow pursuits. But for someone like Mary, who was in touch with useful dreams, values and ambitions that grew out of her sterling character, Morleys definition of success (to spend your life in your own way) is worth pursuing.
Of course, you should first find out what your own way is! The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards states: Financial planning is the process of meeting your life goals through the proper management of your finances. The emphasis is not on finances but on life goals. So, first list down all ambitions big, small, sublime and ludicrous. Then narrow down the list. Finally, if you think it would be useful, seek out a financial planner in your vicinity who is more interested in you than your money.
While doing all that, also compile a list of your weaknesses, things you are likely to do to yourself that hamper your progress. Then figure out how to counter those negative tendencies. By way of illustration, let me give you a real-life example involving another Christopher.
Executive chairman of property consultants Regroup Associates Christopher Boyd is a long-time friend, and more recently a client. He instructed me a few weeks ago to liquidate a portion of his portfolio built from a judicious channelling of his account with the Employees Provident Fund (EPF). Thankfully, he made a profit in the process that was above EPFs returns. I, however, was not too thrilled at the single-digit percentage gain, and told him so.
Chris e-mailed me a startlingly Einsteinian response in a bid to cheer me up! Here is an excerpt: There is a black hole in my life which envelops free money electrons and compresses them into oblivion. The trick is to keep money outside its gravitational pull. This I have done.
Working and planning in a manner that blends well with our personalities is a prerequisite of success. If you are committed to financial and lifetime success, I urge you to do four things of value: One, focus on leaving a legacy of love; two, understand your weaknesses; three, dont let short-term losses derail your long-term portfolio plans; and four, grow your intellectual capital even as you grow your finances.
l Rajen Devadason is a certified financial planner and CEO of financial planning firm RD WealthCreation Sdn Bhd, which specialises in retirement planning for 30- to 45-year-olds. He invites feedback at email@example.com