To those who have wondered, "What would I do if I won the lottery?"
This message is an "open" letter to a broad audience, yet it is deeply personal. I sincerely believe that if you are willing to think about what I will discuss here, it could motivate you to change your life—or, more accurately, how you think about living it. I hope that grabs your attention in a good way.
I am not trying to sell you on some get-rich-quick scheme. I won't be urging you to leave your job to move to a mountaintop and meditate for a year, although if that's what you want to do… but wait – I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll come back to that.
Two things are motivating me to write this letter. First, I recently came upon a news story about Bill Stout, a retired trauma nurse living in Colorado who did win the lottery – close to $4 million. He has no plans to use his winnings to make significant changes in his life because he is content with how things are. There's a lot to think about in this story regarding what it means to have enough.
Second, I have recently been watching YouTube videos of David Goggins, an endurance athlete and former Navy Seal, who is doing the opposite of the Colorado lottery winner: inspiring people to make significant changes in their lives. One of his key messages is that dreaming about doing something is not worth anything. You have to get off the couch and take action. Warning: if you watch any of his videos, you will discover he swears a lot (usually bleeped out, but not always).
Both of these perspectives inform what our firm does as financial advisors. As the founder of Gold Medal Waters, I am responsible for determining our firm's philosophy, which guides how we work with clients. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to focus our financial planning on helping people create value in their lives. Most advisors talk about optimizing investment returns. We focus on using your money to maximize your life.
We have adopted the phrase "return on life," which we wish we had trademarked, but someone else beat us to it. We believe that while investing to earn competitive returns is part of a sound financial plan, it's not the main point of having money and investing. Earning an extra half of a percentage point on an investment won’t magically bring more value to your life and shouldn't be the primary focus of what you do with your money.
In many respects, our firm believes that when it comes to helping our clients get what they want out of life, money can be seen as "table stakes." It is how we can obtain things (from basics to luxuries) and pursue experiences that add value to life, but it is not the end in itself. Most people get caught up in making more money without identifying why. Why do they want more money? It's not just an idle question; it gets at the core of what we, as financial advisors, try to do for our clients.
The lottery winner who had no desire to change his life is content with what he has, and I think there's a lot to be said for that. Except, we often find that people who have achieved what most of us would view as financial success and have amassed a good amount of wealth need to give more thought to what they want out of life or consider pursuing a dream. That's a lost opportunity to maximize your return on life. To paraphrase David Goggin, living your best life, a life you truly value, takes more than just thinking or dreaming about doing something; you must go after it.
I believe contentment is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's great to be satisfied. On the other hand, having more money than you "need" puts you in a position to make something valuable happen, to bring a dream to life. That dream could be something you do for yourself, such as spending a year living in a cabin, taking art classes and having a gallery showing off your work, living in a foreign country for a while, or whatever moves you. Or, it could be something altruistic – giving time or money to a cause that is important to you. Both types of pursuits can bring value to life.
I like to use a metaphor of the red marble that I picked up from an advisor at another firm. Imagine you have ten marbles, and nine of them are blue. The blue marbles represent the things you "should" do, but the red one represents what you've always wanted to do but may not talk about because it doesn't seem reasonable, necessary, or "responsible." Maybe you've always wanted to learn to fly an airplane or attend Le Cordon Bleu's cooking school. Perhaps you want to figure out a way to help fight climate change or promote literacy. That's your red marble. I think too many people who have worked to achieve financial success die with that red marble still in their pocket.
Chances are, if you give this some thought, whatever you identify – whether self-focused or altruistic – requires money. So, as financial advisors, we believe it is our responsibility to help you plan how you can obtain sufficient financial resources to pursue the things you value, increasing your "return on life." Or, we might help you see that your financial reality and goals are not in sync and then help you make the necessary adjustments to one or the other. That's valuable, too.
Of course, money is not the only thing you need to pursue something – for example, good health and the ability to make a plan and follow through (in other words, get up off the couch) are also essential. But if you think you "can't" pursue something that would bring value to your life when you have the money needed, what are you telling yourself, and why are you talking to yourself that way? These questions get back to David Goggins' message, which is empowering.
It gets down to this: what is the purpose of your money? Suppose you have achieved some measure of wealth, whether from winning a lottery, inheriting money (not unlike lottery winnings!), or working in a lucrative career. In that case, you can certainly use your money to ensure that you will live comfortably for the rest of your life and leave your kids with a generous financial legacy. And there is nothing wrong with that! But is that an active choice or a default pattern? Might you want to use some of your money to pursue a purpose and have an impact beyond that? These are questions people often need help to explore. At our firm, we firmly believe it is our responsibility to prompt our clients to think about them deeply.
At Gold Medal Waters, we seek to create a purposeful path for our clients and help them take action to move forward along that path. Of course, focusing on contentment and gratitude instead of railing against things we cannot change is valuable, but we also believe in using your money to bring value to your life during your short time on Earth. We would be honored to work with you to explore how to make that happen for you.
President and Founder, Gold Medal Waters
Advisory Services are offered through Gold Medal Waters, a Registered Investment Advisor. This post is for informational purposes only and its contents should not be construed as a recommendation. The information presented should not be used in making investment decisions. Investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses associated with any investment. Information shared from third-party sources is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute investment advice and is not intended as an endorsement of any investment or recommendation. While Gold Medal Waters believes information derived from third-party sources to be accurate and reliable, we do not claim or have responsibility for its completeness, accuracy, or reliability. Statements of future expectations, estimates, projections, and other forward-looking statements are based on available information at the time of these statements. Accordingly, such statements are inherently speculative as they are based on assumptions that may involve known and unknown risks and certainties. Actual results, performance or events may differ materially from those expressed or implied in such statements.