TAKING CARE OF LOVED ONES

"Money is not the only thing affecting people’s happiness. Money is not the whole story; it’s not remotely the whole story. It’s important we try to get a better balance between income, and human relationships and mental and physical health. People must understand that they would do well to preserve their human relationships; they should give them a higher priority than how much they earn."

Professor Lord Richard Layard
London School of Economics

What does it take to live a happy life?  Are there differences between people and what part does career choice, personal finances and family background play?  There are academics in the field of social science that have devoted their professional life to these questions.

One such social scientist is Dr. Martin Seligman, professor and author of Learned Optimism (1990), Authentic Happiness (2002) and Flourish (2011).  In his 2004 TED talk he shares some of his research, including the surprising finding that the pursuit of pleasure makes almost no contribution to life satisfaction.  To better explain happiness, he developed a theoretical model of wellbeing consisting of five elements, which can be remembered by the acronym PERMA.

The science of human flourishing is not new though.  Take for example the Harvard Study of Adult Development project which began in 1938 during the Great Depression, tracking the health of 724 men over their course of their life.  The project continues today, more than 80 years later.  The current director of the study and professor at Harvard Medical School Robert Waldinger remarks:

"The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important but, tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation."

Other academics concur including New York Times bestselling author and Wharton School professor Adam Grant who was asked on his Wondering Blog, "What did all the great thinkers of our time believe was the meaning of life?"

His answer …. Connection and Contribution.

You will not be surprised to learn that positive, supportive relationships is a common theme in the research findings of all three academics.  Being closely connected to others has proven to be an essential ingredient to personal wellbeing. Being aware though that relationships are the most important dimension in life, what specific actions do we take to nurture and care for those we love?  And what other elements of well-being are enhanced through our family relationships?

In the case of parents, care for their children is typically their most meaningful purpose and protecting the family from harm is their principal concern. The instinct to protect is natural, some would say primal.  Avoiding accidents and minimising the risk of illness might be the first things that come to mind. But this need to protect also extends to protecting loved ones from financial distress, which can be brought about suddenly by an unexpected health event.  The loss of a primary income earner through accident or illness, either temporarily or permanently, is both emotionally painful and can have a terrible impact on a family's finances.  With the welfare of their family in mind, parents will often seek personal insurance advice as part of their financial planning, to put in place a safety net to secure their family's future.  While personal financial planning is principally an optimistic and aspirational endeavour, the mitigation of risk is an essential component.

Beyond the fundamental need for the safety and security of their children, parents also want to provide their children with opportunity.  The gateway to opportunity in life is education and as Benjamin Franklin eloquently put it, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”.  This philosophy rings true for many parents who look to the future and start early to save for their children’s education.

Whilst planning and looking ahead is the focus of financial advice, the time will come to look back at what has been achieved.  A sense of accomplishmentof personal and professional success – directly relates to the contribution theme cited by Adam Grant.  Broadly defined, the legacy you leave behind is the sum of your contribution to the world.  Making a positive difference in the lives of others, including family, friends, colleagues and the community is what creates a memorable legacy.

When you look back to what you have accomplished in your life, what do you want to see?  Will you look back and admire the success of others and think, "I had something to do with that."

Of course, the more traditional definition of a legacy is the amount of money or property left to someone in a will.  However, this is just one of the available Estate Planning instruments used to officially record your wishes. There are many assets that are not dealt with by a will, which can include the family home, assets held in trusts, superannuation funds and life insurance policies.  A comprehensive financial plan addresses these estate issues.

Using the broader definition of legacy though, a well-considered estate plan fosters and strengthens family ties.  That is a precious gift ……. the legacy of a rich life indeed.

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Financial Life Planning is a holistic process
that puts your interests first and focuses
on increasing your sense of financial
well-being and life satisfaction.