Greetings from the snow-laden Alps.
Skiing is a favoured holiday of mine – it’s cross-generational, has us outdoors discovering more about ourselves and each other while creating life-long memories. Crashing into a tree yesterday brought into sharp focus an issue that’s been on my mind. That anything can happen, so how do we want to live while we have options?
I am not alone.
Those I talk to on adventure type holidays appear in contemplative mode, too – and the topic of "enough" comes up frequently. How much is "enough" to live the way we want to?
I’ve come up with a simple checklist to approach this:
Enough from life:
Define what you really really want your life to be, to include. It’s an intense conversation to have with yourself, and your family, that will take time. In its base form it’s about defining your needs. Some stop at that. I don’t. I would include things that add quality to life and are important to you. In my case it includes skiing every year while I am physically able to.
When you have the above, you can start with this. How much will it cost? Are you being realistic? Then the nuts and bolts of figuring out where your money goes starts. You’ll develop an awareness of how you live, spend. Clarity around what’s important means you’ll likely put more aside for your "enough from life" pot.
Enough for children:
Having young children changes things. We want more for them. But more of what? Better education, standard of living, or time spent with them.
Someone I know gave up his corporate job as head of HR in a big firm in Dubai, to be a stay-at-home dad - his wife’s job provided accommodation, they had their basics covered, and it was more important that they connected as a family rather than have him flying to Saudi Arabia every couple of weeks. Of course, their standard of living was affected – it seems this is a huge thing people don’t want to compromise on.
A UBS study on millionaire clients a couple of years ago found that 52 per cent of working millionaires with children still at home feel stuck in a work-rut, but couldn’t change work, or scale down without impacting their family’s lifestyle. Some 63 per cent of those surveyed stated that a major event – such as job loss, or a market crash – would negatively affect their standard of living.
In other words, they’re hostage to the treadmill. Or is it to themselves...?
The sad thing is that what they really wanted to do is pursue personal passions and spend time building firmer family bonds.
It’s when a life-event happens – death or a health scare – that they give themselves permission to do so.
Happiness is not about money, it’s about other things – provided you have the money to cover your cost of life.
Here are real examples of how people live:
L is putting away every penny she can in order to leave her job as a recruitment consultant – she finds accountants for firms – to take up interior design. She is young, 30, and would be bucking the expat trend if she sticks with it. Surveys out there tell of UAE expats not able to save for retirement and skimping on life-insurance. She has just been on a week-long snowboarding holiday with her fiance – so it’s not about only saving – but deciding what’s worth spending on.
A colleague of hers isn’t as disciplined. His wife is a teacher and their accommodation is paid for. The plan, when they moved to the UAE, was to save the equivalent of housing and tax. Instead they’ve gone the route of eating out - daily by his accounts, and enjoying the consumer side of life. They haven’t saved a penny.
On the other end of the spectrum is a couple I know of - both lawyers, their respective parents died within a couple of years. Shaken by this, they decided that was it, life is too short. They retired early – at 50 they toured the world for 12 years. Last year they returned to their native Portugal to find that their peers had aged so much more – they on the other hand, were the most physically fit they’d ever been.
This sort of decision is very difficult when children are young – their daughter Joanna was in her 20s when they packed it in. She, too, trained as a lawyer, but now splits her time between working in a ski resort and in tourism elsewhere when it’s summer.
Her parents were always careful with money – she is, too. They camped during the good weather and took up lodgings when it got uncomfortable – for 12 years. They learned new languages, new skills, and are a closer couple than ever.
It’s difficult figuring out the balance between living today and having a life later on.
The mountain air must be doing something for my entrepreneurial neurons – because I’ve figured out how to get to ski every year while earning from it! My idea is that, once the school-phase is done, I’ll launch myself into becoming a ski instructor for the older person. So many of us learn as adults and want to do more of it before our bodies give in. I’ll be helping out those millionaires who start to pursue their passions later in life. Like the 60-year-old I got chatting to on a ski lift – he learns a new skill every year, and skiing off piste is his current ambition.
It’s a win win win. I get to be physical and fit, pass on knowledge and joy to others and earn while doing it.
I’ve even got a name: "the old goat of the mountain". Look me up.
Nima Abu Wardeh is a broadcast journalist, columnist and blogger. Share her journey on finding-nima.com