The cost of under-living

Extracted from Retireability. The Executives guide to thriving in retirement

Nicholas Platt

My clients James and Catherine said money was important to them because it helped them sleep at night. When probing further (because we need to understand where this mindset comes from), James explained that when he was a teenager, his father’s business went bust and their life was turned upside down. They lost their house, many friends, James had to move to a new school and into a different area, and it also resulted in his parents divorcing a few years later. As you can imagine, this had a profound impact on James’s relationship with money, to the extent that he only spent what he had to, and instead saved and saved with the determination to avoid putting his family through what he had gone through as a child. While the prudent among us would applaud James for his discipline, there was a cost to his family.

It was the cost of under-living.

James is a successful executive with a very traditional work ethic and a significant disposable income, and he has accumulated a fortune that he is likely to never spend, whatever happens. His career drive was motivated by a desire to be financially secure, and an ingrained fear of losing everything and going back to nothing. When I explained to James that he, unlike his father, is likely to die with too much, he broke down. Yes, part in relief because he realised the financial fall he and his parents had suffered would not be repeated, but there was also the realisation that he had been too careful – or as Catherine said, he was an “old meanie”.

While not wishing to assume that spending money could make James and his family happier, it could have helped in certain circumstances. He could have bought his daughter a car when she turned 17, but he felt this was an unnecessary extravagance. He could have spent more on family holidays, but could not bring himself to pay the price of a two-week trip abroad and so settled for UK breaks, on which the children no longer join them as they are “boring”. He could have pursued his love of sailing, but that’s expensive – one of many sacrifices they could have avoided. James poured out these regrets and “missed” memories.

However, what is done is done. The challenge we had was to change James’s mindset from a saver to a spender, which is not easy. However, with financial forecasting we could demonstrate just what was affordable and how much more they could spend or gift.

Without truly understanding why things are important, it is unlikely you will uncover what money is for. For someone like James it is security, but this has come at some personal cost.

Many people run out of life before they run out of money…could you be under living?

Why not build you own cash flow courtesy of us and if you need professional coaching and advice, you know where we are:


Build you own cash flow – will you die with too much?

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