Creating a Full Life
II. The Importance of Showing Up
We must delight in each other, make other conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes … our community as members of the same body. ~ John Winthrop, 1630
Belonging and community was just as important in 1630 as it is today. After James was born, I found that a major component of my community was redefined for me: I was forced to give up the business I had founded and really enjoyed. Businesses are like babies in that you must devote time and energy to form one and can receive great personal satisfaction when successful. Leaving my business and the altering our family’s life and income was a sacrifice I had to make since James required attention 24/7.
They say that desperation is the mother of invention and in the early years with James, I was consumed with worry about how I was going to give James all of the help and support he needed. He required motor planning and did not have the upper body strength to sit in a chair and cross the midline. My choices were to schedule sessions with the occupational and physical therapists (with money we didn’t have) or to spend some serious time on the monkey bars at the local playground. Early on I thought if James didn’t have the “special therapies” that the professionals prescribed, I’d be a bad mother. It didn’t take me long to realize that if we didn’t do activities that were fun and affordable as a family, we would not survive.
I chose community playgrounds and generic activities. There will always be expensive, segregated programs available but if we want to be accepted and belong in our community – we had to show up there. One of our earliest experiences was at a YMCA that had an outdoor pool. I think we met everyone that ever went there, as James liked to take off on us and didn’t mind checking out and devouring everyone else’s picnics. The other Y members gradually got to know our family. Many of them are our friends today.
I encourage you to choose fun – make opportunities for regular activities and keep trying. You don’t get good at anything without practice. Movies, mini golf and going to church have been tough for us. We try again, getting discounted movie passes and staying for just 30 minutes and it is a little more bearable. We learn that sometimes a little bit is just enough.
Building a HomeII. Planning: Just Do It
|Everyone was part of the plan.|
Since the time James was born in 1991, the financial world, government benefits/regulations and our personal planning strategies have changed; but our vision for him has not changed. My personal goal was then and remains today to put us in the financial position to have some control in creating the “perfect” life for him. I recognized and really counted on Susan’s depth of knowledge and her ability to define and shape this life. Now I just needed to find a way to pay for it!
How we planned to get there
I am the first to admit that our financial strategy is somewhat unique, will not be a model for most people to emulate and may be considered on the edge of a “textbook plan”. I chose real estate ownership as the cornerstone of our strategy for three reasons:
• I get a lot of personal satisfaction pounding nails, painting, …
• I do not let any potential issues with tenants bother me at all
• It can provide continuous cash flow
I will use our strategy as a spring board to present some general guidelines for individuals to use to devise a plan that works with their own situation. The key is to develop a vision, be able to identify an opportunity and ultimately be in the financial position to capitalize on this opportunity.
The first step is to plan for your personal financial security. This means you are either financially secure today or you have a plan where you will ultimately be secure. In our case, this meant providing for James and for Susan’s and my retirement. In your case, it could be retirement plus other goals, such as a college education for your children. The usual way to fund retirement plans is from earnings. A traditionally accepted target for retirement savings is to start early and save 15% of your income for retirement. In our case, I was not able to save for retirement early on because I was building my financial planning practice. However, when we sold our properties in 2005 and 2007, I made up for this.
Another step is to set a general goal to have a balance between retirement savings and non-retirement savings. In our case, the sale of our properties created a major imbalance. Since we were short on retirement savings I had to make up the difference and moved the proceeds of these sales from my savings into retirement plans. I used this money to fund our retirement plans to the maximum allowable level. Since I am self-employed, I can fund a SEP(Self employed pension plan). The main reason is that this balance gives you tax planning opportunities during retirement. Although Susan and I do not have enough money yet saved for our personal needs, we do have a plan in place.