Essentialism: Enjoying an intentional (financial) life


Let’s face it: our lives are busy! Blame it on technology or society or family or work, but everyone I talk to seems to be in a constant frenzy of activity. But what if you could change that? If you could find a way to focus on just the most important stuff, how would your life change for the better?

When I was a kid, my parents loved to remind me of this great Abraham Lincoln quote: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” Perhaps that’s why I’ve always been passionate about being intentional—about doing what I do, no matter what I’m doing, with discipline and design. I don’t always get it right, but I try! And I find that by distilling my life down to the necessities, I’m able to achieve more and, maybe even more importantly, accomplish the things that matter most to me.

It’s no wonder I immediately accepted last month’s invitation to a presentation and panel discussion on the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Sponsored by the Financial Planning Association (FPA), the opening session, "Essentialism: Live Life by Design, Not by Default," was all about the value of saying no to the ‘trivial many’ so that you can focus more on the ‘essential few’. It was right up my alley! When the speaker talked about the importance of identifying and eliminating ‘bad work,’ focusing on what is most important, and pausing before saying yes (to almost anything!) I immediately started thinking about our clients and how this whole idea of essentialism could be a great way for anyone to enjoy a more disciplined financial life. Try starting with these three important steps:

  • Identify and eliminate ‘bad work’

What’s ‘bad work’ in your financial life? The #1 culprit is worrying about the stock market. Is it up today? Is it down? As a long-term investor, focusing on short-term market movement is wasted energy that does nothing to improve the strength of your finances. Instead, eliminate that ‘bad work’ by counting on your advisor to manage your portfolio.

The same is true for other financial stressors that Market Street is more than happy to tackle. Not sure what selections are best during Open Enrollment? Ask us. Looking for the best loan for a new house or car? We can help you with the answer. Identify what financial tasks we can do on your behalf and instantly eliminate the ‘bad work.’ And if you’re not sure what we can help with, just ask! (Hint: we can help with nearly every financial decision you have to make.)

  • Focus on what is most important to you

Once you’ve delegated, you can focus on the things that really matter. This is the ‘good work.’ What do you love to do? What brings you joy and energizes you? Who are the people you want to spend your time with? Most of us have careers that demand our time and energy. Are you being intentional about your work in a way that makes it meaningful?

By digging down and asking the deeper questions, you can identify what is essential for you and then make changes to avoid being flooded by the ‘many.’ What can you do to live a more disciplined financial life? Begin with creating a budget that’s designed to put your money to work in a way that makes you happy. By spending with intention, you’re more likely to direct your money toward meaningful things. Amazing experiences will be remembered long after the latest techno-gadget is in the trash, and a secure retirement will likely bring you much more enjoyment than the newest model of the hottest car. Every choice is yours to make, and every choice plays a role in your joy—or lack thereof.

  • Pause before saying yes

We all want to make the people around us happy, but in a busy world, saying yes to everything can zap your energy and detract from how much you can actually enjoy the activities you really love. So do your best to pause before saying “yes.” Instead of volunteering for every cause, consider choosing one or two activities that matter most to you and hone your energy there. Instead of volunteering for every board position available to you and every charity you care about, be intentional and choose a select few. If you’re passionate about attending every one of your kids’ or grandkids’ soccer games, it’s ok to turn down an opportunity that creates a conflict. You’ll be amazed at how slowing down adds rather than subtracts from your ability to enjoy everything you do.

Living a successful life means something different to everyone. By stripping your own life down to the essentials, you can create an intentional approach to everything you do—including your finances—and take a giant step toward your own success, however you define it.

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