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The Deathbed Perspective: Using Your Financial Plan to Live Freely

The Deathbed Perspective: Using Your Financial Plan to Live Freely

June 27, 2022

The one thing that many people overlook most frequently in grasping the idea of financial planning, and understanding its importance, is just how critical its role is in determining the kind of life they can, and will, experience—i.e., it’s about more than just the facts. In other words, when I sit down with someone to discuss business, it’s almost as if the premise of the meeting is one where we will discuss the facts, and only the facts, and no contextualizing or editorializing is allowed.

Well, my name ain’t Joe Friday and this ain’t Dragnet.

If all I do as an advisor is talk about facts, figures, dollar signs, and numerical values, though, what am I really talking about? Another way to ask the question: if you never define what you want to do with your money, then how can you qualify a certain account value, return, etc. as good or bad?

Conversations, therefore, absolutely need to involve the proper context, which would include a client opining about the life they are currently living and what they would like to change or achieve.


The Deathbed Perspective

One of the ways in which I like to challenge and motivate folks to think about life is from what I call the deathbed perspective.

I know it’s not fun to think about, but to invoke this perspective, I ask variations of a simple question: “If you were on your deathbed, would you be happy that you did ‘x’, or that you spent so much time on ‘y’, or that you didn’t do something else?”

The reason I think this is so effective is because if you are on your deathbed, then time is up—you are officially out of options.

To amplify this point, think about a eulogy. I can’t think of a single eulogy that I’ve ever heard where someone’s life was celebrated by reciting an inventory of their possessions. Sure, there might be mention of a prized possession, like a classic car, a clothing item, etc., but my experience has always been that discussion of those types of things is accompanied by talk of the decedent’s sentiment for the object—and that would be a function of the experience they were afforded by their possession.

Here’s the latest reason that a client has shared with me that potentially prevented her from doing the things she wants to do and living the life she wants to live: a general concern that I might not approve of withdrawal request (not that I wouldn’t fulfill a request, but that I would pass judgment for a withdrawal, any withdrawal, being requested). Granted, I addressed this to a degree in this video, with my discussion of The Conservator, but the way the issue was presented to me in the conversation referenced, here, offers me the opportunity to discuss it from another angle.

In this context, if there was one thing that I wish this client, and all others, could understand is that when a client has successfully made it to retirement, is prepared for the retirement they want, and acts on the things they want to do, by making a withdrawal request, it actually excites me (a good example of my excitement can be found here).


Well, it’s really kind of simple: if money is only as valuable as what you can do with it, then doing with it what you want is prima facie evidence that you are living the life that you want and for which you/we have planned.

In other words, it’s proof that what you/we have done is working.

Most importantly, though, it’s proof that you feel free to simply live.