Making the Most of Your Empty Nest Years – Part 2

The kids have gone to college or moved away and now you enter the Empty Nest Years. Will your empty nest years resemble “empty nest syndrome” (complete with a sense of loss, perhaps depression, alcoholism, identity crisis and marital conflicts)? Back in July 2014, I shared a conversation with a client in my first Empty Nest blog. They described their empty nest like this: “It’s Like being in college, only with money!” Working with clients whom have transitioned into the empty nest years successfully, the first common thread has been that they make time to plan.

Making time to Plan

It seems like such a simple statement, but it is often overlooked.  Like most successful folks, those empty nesters made a plan to live with intention. They examined their values, decided what was truly important in their lives, and then aligned their decisions with their intentions.

One of the most profound ways to examine values is through the work of George Kinder of the Kinder Institute.  My wife Jen and I have gone through the process with one of our firm’s partners and it has been quite helpful in leading an intentional life.  George Kinder takes a unique approach to financial planning – what he terms “life planning”.  My personal take is that at the core life planning is “financial planning done right”.  Many of life’s most important goals have a financial component. Like life planning, our comprehensive financial planning is designed to move beyond the numbers (not just dollars and cents) and address your goals and values.

3 Steps to Setting Financial Intentions

How can you discover or clarify the deeper values in your life and live with [more] intention? Here are two exercises that you might find helpful.  If they resonate, we’d love to help you.

To help clients discover the deeper values in their lives, Kinder poses three questions:

  1. Imagine you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is complete and richly yours.
  2. Now imagine that you visit your doctor, who tells you that you have only 5-10 years to live. You won’t ever feel sick, but you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining? Will you change your life and how will you do it? (Note that this question does not assume unlimited funds.)
  3. Finally, imagine that your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do?

When you understand what you want to do with your life, you can make financial choices that reflect your values as you plan for your empty nest years.

Taking Stock of Life

Here is a second exercise to consider that can help lead to clarity and intention. Take a piece of paper and at the top write “Goals for My Life – Taking stock”. Below that, across the top write “One month, 3 months, one year, 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, and lifetime”.  Next, down the left hand side write “Work, Family, Relationships, Spirit, Community, Creativity, Health, Finances” and any other category for your personal circumstances.

Consider each time frame and category and the things you would like to accomplish.  Perhaps in 5 years under Family you would like to take the entire family on a holiday trip.  Or perhaps in 3 months under Work you want to reduce your hours.  Write it down – don’t underestimate the power of the pen or pencil.  Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at Dominican University in California, found that you are 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down. My experience suggests it’s even higher – write them down!

The empty nest years are an important transition.  I hope yours are “It’s Like being in college, only with money!”

Timothy Wyman, CFP®, JD is the Managing Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and is a frequent contributor to national media including appearances on Good Morning America Weekend Edition and WDIV Channel 4 News and published articles including Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. A leader in his profession, Tim served on the National Board of Directors for the 28,000 member Financial Planning Association™ (FPA®), trained and mentored hundreds of CFP® practitioners and is a frequent speaker to organizations and businesses on various financial planning topics.

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