“At what cost?”

“At what cost?”

Everything we do in life comes with a cost – whether it is actual money, opportunity cost, relationship cost or otherwise. Make no mistake about it, there is a cost.

In the article I wrote a couple of weeks back about designing your days in retirement, I mentioned that I could easily be fooled into thinking that I need to have a huge business in order to view myself as successful. Or maybe more accurately, in order to believe that others will view me as successful. As if I have control over what anyone else thinks of me…

Recently, I chatted with an advisor friend who owns a wonderful practice (one many advisors would envious of) who struggles with balancing her own internal desire for what she seeks to accomplish in her career and what she finds most valuable in her personal life. Namely, her children. These are precisely the same internal conversations I was having just a few months ago.

Given my outspoken struggle, I asked her to consider just one question when deciding whether to continue her current path of aggressively growing her business or to consider a different path. The single question was:

“At what cost?”

We know if we dedicate ourselves to growing a large business, it will require an inordinate number of hours. Long nights, weekends and traveling away from home periodically. This means missing dinners with family, ballgames and a variety of other family time activities.

That is the cost – time with her children. The very thing she holds as her absolute highest priority. If that’s true, then pressing pause on the idea of building a bigger business is likely the wisest decision that could be made.

And that’s all it is, pressing pause. Once her children are older, she could continue down the path of building a big business if she decides that’s what she wants at that stage of her life. There will be other “costs” to consider when that time comes, but not the same ones she’s facing now.

But we’re afraid to press pause. In our type-A overachieving mental state of mind, we wonder if we can rekindle the growth path we’re currently on. But going back to the post where I expressed my fear of dying, if I knew I was going to pass away in ten years, which path would offer the most joy? Which path would offer the least regret? The answer to both of those questions, for me at least, is the same. Living in the moment with my children and family. Whenever my number is called, will I feel I made the right decision? Unequivocally, yes.

“At what cost?” in retirement

My point here is this – whatever decision you are facing at the moment regarding your retirement, you can take the same approach of considering the cost of that decision. We all have desires, but all desires come with a cost. Perhaps your desire is to relocate at retirement, to join or lead an organization, to un-retire, to keep working or a limitless number of other possibilities.

If you choose to relocate, will you get to be the parent and/or grandparent you seek to be?

If you choose to join or lead an organization, how much time away from your spouse are you sacrificing? Or even from a personal perspective, what about the time that could be spent on your hobbies or other things that bring joy to your life?

If you un-retire or just decide to keep working, how will that impact your family life?

There are no right answers. The answers just have to be right for you and what you are seeking in your life.

Consider the question, “At what cost?” as you ponder the possibilities. Somebody somewhere is paying for the decisions we make whether we acknowledge it or not. When we think about our lives outside of our own desires and consider what others might pay as a result of our decisions, I think it allows us to see our decisions more in line with what our actual values are.

And living our lives in line with those values is what gives our lives meaning.

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