Mark stood up to address his client group and to introduce me for a speech on the future of retirement. Then he made a statement to his clientele that I had never heard an advisor articulate:

Twenty-three years ago when we began this relationship, I never dreamed I would stand up and say what I'm about to say to all of you. Back then, we were thinking about building wealth for a future that seemed so far off. We have been fortunate enough that I can honestly say that every one of you is going to be fine." (This was now, admittedly, a high-net-worth clientele-with assets ranging from $5 million to $20 million.)
"The thing I never imagined myself saying to you is this," Mark continued. "You have the money. Each one of you has enough to make it. Now, the big question is, 'What are you going to do with your life?'"

As inspiring as it was to hear a CFP ask the question, it was equally inspiring to see the acknowledgement on the faces and in the eyes of his clients. They understood that this indeed was the juncture that their lives had reached--a juncture where fiscal matters run headlong into philosophical matters, where investment meets inspiration and where the means is yoked with the meaning.
But these are the fortunate ones.

Our World And Our Dilemma

Once an individual reaches a desired threshold of wealth, a world of life options awaits. You're now free to pursue, with breathtaking abandon, whatever agendas you choose-be they adventurous, philanthropic or simply indulgent. Not all will get there. It takes a long time and good fortune to arrive, and an even longer time for some to realize that they actually are there.

The rest of our society struggles with the tension of getting there. The tension is a real and distinct factor in our lives. I speak of the tension between making a living and having a life. And I believe that this struggle between means and meaning is truly a modern quandary.

To our grandparents, means and meaning were almost one--borderless and inextricably knotted together. It was meaningful enough to have the privilege of having work, collecting a check and putting food on the table. They raised their children (our parents) with this Depression era-inspired ethos ... and our parents took it literally.

Most of our parents did not take employment for granted because they had families to support. To them, a regular paycheck was nothing to sneeze at. Entrepreneurs were still in the margins, and because you were fortunate to have a good job, you didn't go jumping around a whole lot.

I can still hear my father shaking his head at the entrepreneurial aspirations of all his children and saying, "I never knew anything other than working for the 'company store.' With five children to feed, you don't entertain flights of fancy." The intersection of means and meaning in Dad's life was that with his paycheck he could feed his family, and maybe help them get higher education so they could (hopefully) have a few more options than he.
And our generation has had more options. But we are not altogether content, are we?

The '80s taught us that we could make more than our parents ever imagined. Do you remember the year when you made more money than your parents, and how it made you feel? I've had this conversation with many. It's an odd psychological passage. "I make more money, but am I a better person?" And so the reflection begins.

The '90s taught us that we could be rich. The markets, option packages and dot-coms could all do that for us. It didn't net out that way for everyone, but in the decade we are currently living in, many of us are in our prime earning years and giving good parts of our lives away to satisfy that earning. The earning creates a yearning for a substantive sense of meaning in our lives:

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