You Can’t Take It with You When You Go, So Don’t Blink

By Shane Barber

September 22, 2023

You Can’t Take It with You When You Go, So Don’t Blink

Key Points – You Can’t Take It with You When You Go, So Don’t Blink

  • Time Is Our Most Valuable Asset
  • Understanding What It Means to Be Financially Independent
  • Sharing a Few Stories That Highlight That You Can’t Take It with You When You Pass on
  • Flipping the Switch from Saving to Spending
  • 12 Minutes to Read

You Can’t Take It with You When You Go

Two old friends were standing in line, waiting to pay their respects to one of their friends who had recently passed. In front of them was the newly widowed wife of their friend, who hovered over her husband’s coffin as she said her last goodbyes. Out of respect, the two men kept their distance to give the grieving wife the space she needed.

After about 20 minutes, she moved away from the coffin and began walking toward the two men. As she got to them, they offered their condolences for her loss. One of the men then remarked that she had spent a long time at the coffin saying goodbye to her husband, and asked if she was okay.

She said, “Oh yes, I’m fine, thank you for asking. It’s just that before he died, Joe asked me to promise to put all our money in the casket with him.”

Taken aback, the two men looked at each other before turning back to the widow and asking her if she honored his last wish. Smiling, the widow replied, “Oh, yes. I promised, so I wrote him a check. That’s what took so long.”

For those of you who have heard this old joke before, I’m sorry you had to hear it again. However, it makes an excellent point—one that I want to expand on today. As much as none of us want to hear it, it’s true. You CAN’T take it with you when you go. None of us will live forever, and none of us are taking our stuff—including our money—with us when we go.

You Can’t Take It with You, so Ask Yourself These Questions

Knowing that, we need to ask ourselves some serious questions.

Finding Financial Independence

This is a short list, but you get the idea. You will only ever achieve true financial independence once you’ve asked and answered these questions and are at peace with your answers. Otherwise, you’re going to live with doubt, guilt, or regrets—or all three. And that, friends, is not independence. It’s precisely the opposite.

I want you all to find that independence. So, let’s unpack this idea and be honest with ourselves as we do. After all, denial is not just a river in Egypt.

About 4 years ago I came to the revelation that most of us have a maximum of 36,500 days on this earth.

Don’t Blink

That revelation shook me. That’s not a lot of time, especially when you consider that we spend the first 6,500 days blissfully unaware of how precious life is and the next 6,500 days trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up. By that time, we’re 36 years old and 13,000 days have already passed us by.

That made me think of Kenny Chesney’s song, Don’t Blink, which I think perfectly sums up what I’m trying to say. In the song, he’s talking about a man who is turning 102. He’s being interviewed by a reporter who asks him, “What’s the secret to life?” The man replies:

Don’t blink. Just like that, you’re 6 years old and you take a nap. And you wake up and you’re 25, and your high school sweetheart becomes your wife.

 Don’t blink. You just might miss your babies growing like mine did, turning into moms and dads. Next thing you know your better half of 50 years is there in bed, and you’re praying God takes you instead. Trust me, friend. One hundred years goes faster than you think, so don’t blink.”

The Emotional Side of Achieving Financial Independence

I wrote a lot in that article about the monetary aspects of knowing when you had reached “financial independence” so that you didn’t waste any more time working than you needed to and so that you could enjoy the things in life that matter to you. What I didn’t address, at least not as much as I wanted to, was the human or emotional side of truly achieving financial independence. So, let’s do that now.

I want to start here with a story that is very personal to me. It brings home some very important truths—key among them is that there’s no time like the present to do the things you’re dreaming of. After all, none of us know when our time is up. There absolutely will not “always be tomorrow.”

There’s No Time Like the Present Because You Can’t Take It with You

I spent eight years in Omaha, Nebraska, what seems like a lifetime ago. During that time, I developed a lifelong friendship with a gentleman who was a customer of mine. I saw him every Friday for most of the eight years I was there. He and I golfed, fished, and hunted together. And when we had consumed one too many adult beverages together, he and his wife would put me up in a spare room in their home. We were close.

They were roughly seven years older than me and had two great kids. Their lives revolve around those kids. They had diligently been planning on retiring once they got the kids out of the house and through college. The couple was set to pull the plug by the time he hit 60, if not before. They had all kinds of things that they planned to do, places they wanted to go, and experiences they planned to have. Sadly, none of that was to become reality.

What Could Have Been

In July 2015, the wife went in for routine surgery…gallbladder if I’m not mistaken. She didn’t make it out of the hospital. Instead, she passed on July 30 at 56 years old. Five months later, on December 28, my friend was putting away some groceries. He was supposed to head to northeast Iowa to visit with his son and daughter the next day but didn’t make that trip. Instead, he collapsed in the kitchen while putting away the groceries and died from a broken heart at age 57.

I think about them often—the sacrifices they made and plans they had. I think about their dedication to doing the right things and being good parents, good friends, and good citizens. To be sure, they left a legacy of memories, and a financial legacy for their kids as well. But they were robbed of a lot of life, and the opportunity to see their plans through.

I’m not saying not to be diligent and plan. However, there truly is no time like the present since it may be all we get. Don’t put off things unnecessarily to some arbitrary date when…or some occurrence that…or if I get this…don’t do it. Live your life now! Plan for things so you’re OK throughout your retirement life, but live your life, just in case it’s shorter than you think it will be.

The Many Problems of Living in Fear

Then, there’s the other side of the coin. The side that can’t or won’t enjoy the fruits of their labor in retirement because they are afraid.

Those people are afraid of running out of money. They’re afraid the pile isn’t big enough. They’re afraid that the stock market is going to zero. They might be afraid that the government is going to take their retirement money, thanks to the precious metals predators that overrun radio, television, and print media. They’re afraid that the dollar is going to become worthless. Or they could be afraid of some unknown boogie man that might be lurking around the proverbial corner.

They’re constantly afraid. These people will live a long time and be afraid the entire time—never realizing the happiness that they thought retirement would bring them.

The Psychology of Money

This is why I wrote an article some years ago on the psychology of money and how people react to money emotionally. For the group above, the word of the day is fear. It’s a protector mentality and it serves people well in the accumulation of wealth. They diligently save money to make sure that their family is protected and that they will have the money they need when they are no longer working.

Flipping the Switch for Saving to Spending

The problem for a lot of people in this group is that they can’t flip the switch in their brain from saving to spending. They spent 40-plus years saving and that’s all they know how to do.

The number of people who have asked me where they were going to get money to add to their savings after retirement would blow your mind. And, not surprisingly, they are shocked when I tell them that the days of adding to your savings account are gone, unless your income in retirement is going to exceed what you need/want to spend. Which, in some cases, is reality. But getting them to spend is absolutely one of the biggest challenges I face.

And I’m not talking about being a spendthrift. I’m talking about simple, normal things, like buying your spouse some new carpet or countertops because they want the house to look nice. If your spouse has been wanting to see other parts of the world, take them on a nice trip every now and then. Get yourself a new vehicle if yours has like 367,000 miles on it. Make sure that you aren’t more focused on the money than on the people around you that you love. And don’t forget to focus on taking care of your needs as well. Tick-Tock.

Breaking Out of a Fear-Everything Mentality

Your relationships will begin to fail if you don’t break out of your fear mentality. Sadly, I have too many real-life examples for me to sugarcoat this point.

An aside here, but in the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that the group of people I described above includes yours truly. So, I’ll give you a personal example of the kinds of sacrifices that we make when there really is no need to make them.

Years ago, I had one son in college in Riverside, California, and one daughter and her husband and daughter on the east coast at Camp Lejune in North Carolina. Ideally, I should have been on one coast or the other, every month or two. I had the money. I had the time. But I didn’t do it.

I would see my son in California when the TD Ameritrade conference was in San Diego every other year, and when he came home for Christmas. I would see my daughter in North Carolina when they came home for Christmas or when her husband was deployed or off for training. They bought their first house out there. I never got to see it in person because I didn’t make myself spend the money.

So, I’m not throwing rocks from a glass house folks. I’m asking you to see the things in your life that are the equivalent of what I just shared with you and change that part of your life. It’s not easy, but nothing worth doing is.

Family Over Everything

I knew my son-in-law was going to retire from the Marines and move back to Kansas with my daughter and granddaughter. And I knew my son was going to graduate from college and likely return to Kansas, as the cost of living in California was far too high to make a go of it for a kid with a degree in kinesiology. The best job he could find was paying him less than $15 an hour. So I had a choice, and a chance.

My family loves the lake, and lake life, and has forever. So, I signed up for text alerts from an app called Trulia that shows homes for sale in the area you select. I selected Shell Knob, Missouri, on Table Rock Lake. I was inundated for a long time with alerts, and one home kept coming up every other month or so. In early January 2018, I got another alert on the same house and finally looked at the details. I couldn’t believe the deal that this property was at first glance, so I contacted the realtor who had the listing and met him the next week at the property. We closed on that property by the middle of the following month and have never looked back.

Priceless Memories

My family has spent countless hours together there over the last five years. We’ve put over 1,000 hours on our boat in that time. Yes, it cost money. But the memories and time spent together doing something we all love are absolutely priceless. I could have, and maybe should have under different circumstances, waited until I retired. But I chose to live my life with the people I love, while I was still able to do the things we all love to do together, and before my grandkids got too big to want to hang out with grandpa.

I’m not telling you to go buy a lake house. I’m telling you to do your equivalent to a lake house. Your thing may be far less expensive, or it may cost more. But it’s your thing, and only you know what that thing is. If you have the money and a plan that tells you it’s OK to spend it, don’t put it off any longer.

Creating a Fluid, Goals-Based Financial Plan

The key is the PLAN. You all know this, and you knew I was going to get here eventually. The PLAN is the critical component to making good financial decisions and to living the life YOU want. If you cared enough about something to put it in the plan, and the plan says you can do it, and then you don’t…you are unnecessarily sacrificing part of your life at the altar of fear. Or maybe the altar of greed. But you are sacrificing, nonetheless. Don’t let this be you.

If you’re a Modern Wealth Management client and are thinking about purchasing a second home, going on a dream vacation, helping fund your children’s/grandchildren’s education or purchase their first home, etc., let’s put that into your plan. If that does alter your plan’s probability of success more than you’re comfortable with, let’s look into some trade-offs so that you’re not sacrificing those memories of doing the things you love with the people you love. Contact your advisor so we can make sure that your plan is current and gives you clarity and confidence to achieve your retirement goals.

You Can’t Take It with You When You Go … So Don’t Blink!

We can’t stress enough that the plan is key. If you’re not a Modern Wealth client and don’t have a plan, that’s where you need to start. You need a plan that addresses key financial planning pillars such as taxes, estate planning, risk management, and investments. But before you get into any of those pillars, you need to define your goals. Those serve as the foundation of your financial plan. Rather than following retirement rules of thumb, you need a plan that’s personalized to your unique situation. To learn more about what that could look like for you, schedule a 20-minute “ask anything” session or complimentary consultation with one of our CFP® Professionals by clicking here. We can meet with you in person, virtually, or by phone depending on what works best for you.

As you’re envisioning what you want your life to look like leading up to and during retirement, remember that tomorrow is not promised to anyone.

You can’t take it with you when you go…so don’t blink!

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The views expressed represent the opinion of Modern Wealth Management an SEC Registered Investment Adviser. Information provided is for illustrative purposes only and does not constitute investment, tax, or legal advice. Modern Wealth Management does not accept any liability for the use of the information discussed. Consult with a qualified financial, legal, or tax professional prior to taking any action.