When You've Got It Made in the Shade

by Jeff C. Johnson

 In a 2005 edition of the New Yorker, Kurt Vonnegut, the author, shared a story in poem form about a conversation he had with another famous author, Joseph Heller. Here’s my paraphrase:

Heller and Vonnegut were at a party given by a billionaire. Vonnegut said, “Joe, how does it make you feel to know that our host only yesterday may have made more money than your novel Catch 22 has earned in its entire history?”

To which Heller replied, “I’ve got something he can never have.”

Vonnegut said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”

Heller said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”

I’ve got enough … what a wonderful feeling! But how much is enough?

When I address “enough” with clients, there are two approaches.

First, the subjective question: “Do you live well right now? Do you need more ‘stuff’ in your life to be happy? If you could live like you’re now living, for the rest of your life, would it be enough?” 

Second, with the assistance of state-of-the-art planning tools, we can discover your “quantity X,” the amount of money you will likely need to provide income for the rest of your life based on a number of assumptions. (The younger you are and the longer your expected lifetime, the less accurate this planning could be for you, and so it should be repeated annually.)

Feeling like you have enough of a lifestyle, and that you have adequate investments and resources to support this lifestyle, is a comforting, confidence-building experience that I wish everyone could enjoy. As a financial adviser, it’s a joy to help people discover this state of mind, which I call Financial Confidence.

Meet with a fiduciary adviser and consider your level of satisfaction with your lifestyle. Understand if your financial resources can support your desired lifestyle for the rest of your days. It’s a great feeling to know you’ve reached that place and almost as good to realize you’re not quite there but understand the steps you need to take toward “enough.”

(It’s also wise to develop a plan B, the topic of my next post.) 

Through the ages, the idea of “enough” has been contemplated by philosophers, religious thinkers, politicians, and financial types … even blue-collar wealth advisers like me. Developing your own definition of enough is a wonderful achievement.

Start now by writing a sentence or a short paragraph about what “enough” means to you and talk it over with the important people in your life who could be affected by your thinking. When you reach this point in life, you have it “made in the shade.”

The opinions expressed by featured authors are their own and may not accurately reflect those of Buckingham Strategic Wealth. This article is for general information only and is not intended to serve as specific financial, accounting or tax advice. IRN-20-1223