Vail Daily column: Plan for the future, live for the present
As the father of a young daughter, I am beginning to hear increased chatter about college savings, retirement funds and the other trappings of fiscal responsibility. On the legal end, I am fielding many inquiries regarding the drafting of wills and other estate-planning documents. Currently, those matters are being referred out, but our firm is planning to bring a specialist into our fold to meet the increased demand. Conscious of the importance of planning for the decades hence, my wife and I nonetheless struggle to reconcile longer-term milestones with our view of the fragility and brevity of life. In a valley where many residents have made massive sacrifices to live in the present, I suspect that this dichotomy is one with which many grapple. In the end, I do not want to sacrifice my current happiness for a future that is inherently uncertain.
Ensuring the financial security of one’s family on a going-forward basis is undoubtedly one of the critical tasks of any parent. Having a fund to fuel your post-working life is also an important goal because being homeless at 70 would almost certainly harm your life expectancy. It is hard to imagine inviting the grandkids to come and visit you at the underpass. But leaving your children penniless due to your untimely demise or having to scrounge for food or heart medicine as a geriatric is a fairly apocalyptic vision of the future. I do not find true utility in making important life decisions based on fear. Yet, it is worry and doubt which pushed me to buy life insurance and which leads me to put money in Violet’s college fund and into my 401(k). While others, particularly those in the financial or insurance industries, may believe that these are the right choices (and they may be correct), it still troubles me to allocate current resources to my prospective coffers.
Life’s True Goal
Personally, as scary as it might be to face a less than secure fiscal future, I am more terrified of not appreciating the opportunities of quotidian life. My daughter is at a magical age when not only is she an absolute hoot to be around, but she is ripe to internalize the fatherly bits of wisdom I may have to offer. I work hard and enjoy my work, but one of my two highest priorities is to help guide Violet into becoming the fantastic woman that her potential suggests she can be. My other focus is on maintaining the amazing and loving relationship that I have with my wife. I could have easily made career choices that would ensure that both ladies have plenty of money. But that would have necessitated being much more separate from them. I watch plenty of people toil at high-profile jobs and then come home to find themselves pseudo-strangers to their family. Among history’s many lessons is that even Holocaust-levels of adversity can be overcome by love and familial strength. A wealth of deutschmarks or zlotys or francs was no match for the march of the Reich; it took compassion and endurance (and much luck) to make it out alive.
Surrounded by the beauty of the mountains, it would be a shame to ignore the blessing of the outdoors, which pays me in ways that no dollar could. I will never regret foregoing a billable hour for a great bike ride or a powder day. It is those moments when life reveals itself to us in all its glory. As a matter of pure physiology, I will not be able to take as full advantage of these activities when I am 65 or 70. Were I single-mindedly focused on amassing money for the future, I would miss the true goal of life: Joy.
The key to this conundrum is, as always, balance. Do not treat today as if it was literally your last. This means refraining from engaging in any or all of the following: Rioting, mainlining fast food, injecting heroin, showing up naked to the office or any other forbidden endeavor whose repercussions would be obviated by Armageddon. Conversely, do not make a huge retirement or college fund the apex of your existence. Talk to a financial planner and an estate planning attorney so that you can understand your options and limitations. Make a conscious effort to internalize the fact that your current actions will have future consequences. Then, with a loose roadmap for your next 40 years, get lost in the beautiful twists and turns of life that will bring you not only great satisfaction but perhaps to a destination that you never could have foreseen.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril, LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, please contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.