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  • Nicholas Pihl

What to do when you're too good at saving money and need to start spending it

I believe the financial world can be divided into two major groups, "spenders" and "savers." All else equal, a saver, when they see extra money in their checking account, will move it into long term savings or invest it. A spender, will spend it.


While spenders tend to be good at enjoying life, and putting their money to work in that way, savers are masters of delayed gratification.


The problems of over-spending are obvious and heavily covered by the financial media. The perils of over-saving are less obvious, but equally serious.


After all, what happens when you take delayed gratification to its logical extreme? You live frugally your whole life, reinvesting every dollar towards a shorter and shorter future. Then eventually, you die.


You die rich, of course, but as everybody knows, "you can't take it with you."


Still, it's hard sometimes for people to stop working, stop saving, and actually start their retirement. It's hard because it's a total reversal from the habits that got them to this point.


I meet clients like this most frequently in their late 50s and early 60s when the subject of retirement starts to feel real.


On the surface, they are anxious about whether they can afford to retire. I've had many meetings like this where they ask, "can we retire?" and I say, "yep!" But that doesn't really solve their problem.


What they really want to know is, "what do I do now?"


They're moving from a world of financial optimization to a world of life optimization.


This is a big change, and it takes some getting used to.


Rather than add money to their retirement accounts, they'll start taking distributions. Instead of taking a deduction on their taxes, they'll start paying taxes on their investments. Rather than buying stocks, they're going to sell them. Instead of seeing that account value climb each year, they'll see it level off and, eventually, decline.


In the absence of a good advisor relationship, most people retreat back to what they've always done. They spend even less, they try to save even more, often well beyond the point where they really need the extra money in their portfolio. They think that this will give them more freedom later on.


But they're wrong. By this point, it usually isn't a money problem. It's a relationship to money problem.


This is where I come in.


I believe money helps you become more of yourself, helps you live more of the life you were meant to have, and have the experiences that facilitate the process of self-discovery.


Believe it or not, the process of learning to spend more, and do more, takes courage. You will waste some money. You will have some disappointing experiences. You will have regret, and misgivings, and pain. But you will also learn what it is that makes you tick.


The experiences you have, and the things you'll learn about yourself, are not predictable. You don't know what surprises are in store. You can't know in advance what you'll learn, otherwise you'd already know it. These are unknown unknowns that can only be uncovered by adventure, by stepping out into the unknown.


Guiding people through this journey is some of the most satisfying work I do.


Here's how we get started:


First, we establish exactly what resources are available. We walk through exactly why it is that you will be okay, why you have financial security and the freedom to do more with your life. We make a plan that accomplishes this stability, complete with tax efficient distributions, investment allocations, and upcoming cash flow needs by year. If there are weaknesses in your finances, we'll uncover those and address them. The point here is to verify that all your bases really are covered. Financial stability is truly yours.


Next, we'll talk about what resources are available above these basic spending needs. I call these discretionary assets. This is money that you can spend without significant loss of freedom or safety. This money is available for anything you can imagine, no matter how frivolous it seems to you: flying first class, buying a luxury car, or upgrading your house!


With time and reassurance, lifelong savers start become comfortable with the idea that they really do have financial freedom. This thing they've sought throughout their lives, is finally theirs. They really can do the things they wish for.


This is when people start really living. They break out of their longtime routines, and embrace this new phase of their life.


In a nutshell, this is what I do: I help people retire sooner. No more guessing, no more "waiting another couple years just to be safe," no more arbitrarily basing your retirement date on your eligibility for Social Security. None of that. I help you make the shift to enjoying life, and enjoying financial freedom.






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