How to Control Money Worries and Start Really Living

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When my daughter and I took a six-day rafting trip down the Grand Canyon with 12 other people last summer, one of our companions was Gerry Abrams, the producer of “Houdini” and more than 70 other films. He is also the father of J.J. Abrams, director of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and co-creator of the show “Lost.” When you’re traveling down some of the strongest rapids in the world, you really get to know people, and during the trip, he asked me a question about money: “What does it take to have enough?”

“That really depends,” I said.

“I think I finally won the war,” he said. “I finally have enough money. I don’t care what the government does to me. I don’t have to invest aggressively. I don’t have to worry.”

I was glad to hear it – except for the fact that it took him until his 70s to feel that way.

The conversation reminded me of many I’ve had with many clients I’ve advised. Gerry probably would have felt he had “enough” 20 years ago, if he had understood then exactly what he wanted from life and what it would take to get there. But many successful people don’t declare victory as early as they should in life. Even if they’ve saved more than they will ever need, they don’t think they’re prepared for retirement. They worry they will go broke along the way.

One of the smartest things you can do for yourself is toss out the fairy tale of retirementthat you hear so often in the financial services industry. Instead of sacrificing the present and doing things you don’t like now so you can finally relax and do what you think you will enjoy when you retire, slow down and do what you love today. In my new book with Scott Ford, “The Sustainable Edge,” we call this being busy with balance. It’s something anyone can achieve.

To do so, you have to break away from the conventional wisdom. We’ve built our society around the idea that everyone should retire by a certain age. Unfortunately, retirement is a rainbow without a pot of gold. Many people don’t want to quit doing what they love because they’ve hit a certain age. That’s especially true if, like me, you see your work as a passion that pays. Trying to accumulate more and more savings out of fear can keep you from fully embracing the opportunity to enjoy the gift of today.

Financial advisors often feed this mindset, encouraging clients to save so much that they never live life. I’ve seen some successful people die with millions of dollars, never having lived the way they wanted. No one ever sat them down and said, “You have enough.”

I’m not saying anyone should avoid saving for retirement. Many Americans don’t save enough. And some financial advisors encourage clients to live a life that is well beyond their means. That is just as unhealthy as scaring them into saving too much. We all need to be able to take care of ourselves in case we can’t work.

So how do you know how much to save for the future? Smart financial planning can guide you, discussing the financial freedom you desire. It starts with asking some important questions: What do I want as a human being? How do I truly want to spend my time? What significant things do I want to accomplish? What resources do I need?

Write down what your answers will be one, three, five, 10, 20 and 30 years from now as you make your financial plans. This exercise will help you tap into your subconscious mind and connect it with your conscious mind, so you can take steps each day to pursue what truly matters to you.

When you let go of the idea you have to retire by a certain age, the monetary dynamics of your life will change significantly. You will be astonished at how much more you achieve if you stop sacrificing the present and enjoy the gift of each day. Once you start doing what you love, even if you have only a modest amount of cash, the money and resources you need will show up in surprising ways. I’ve experienced this personally.

Changing my mindset allowed me to build my firm, Carson Wealth, to $6 billion in assets under advisement. I have also seen it often among my clients and the independent financial advisors I coach.

You don’t have to be wealthy to benefit from this mindset. Landing my plane in Buena Vista, Colorado, on a hiking trip in Aspen not long ago, I had a chance to talk with an elderly man who brought me the Jeep I rented. When I asked about some of the trail heads, he told me he maintained them.

“They actually pay me to do it,” he said. “I’m very happy. I love being outdoors. I make enough to sustain the life I want to have.”

He didn’t feel he had to quit working because he hit a certain age. He lived where he wanted, in breathtaking surroundings, doing what he loved – without needing a fortune to do it.

Why not embrace a completely new approach to life, one based on hope and anticipation of spending each day the way you really want – starting now? Anticipation taps into our deepest core as human beings and makes life a lot richer. Think of the last time you anticipated something and how good that felt.

When you live your life by design, and not the way society says you should live it, you will have plenty of experiences to anticipate, whether you want a big lifestyle or a modest one, like the gentleman I met in Aspen. Your best days will be ahead of you. Tossing out dated concepts like retirement will help you take charge of your future. It is a key step to leading a life where you have no regrets.

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