From time to time, I make podcast appearances. Last week, for instance, I recorded three episodes for various shows — including a l-o-n-g discussion with Joe Saul-Sehy from Stacking Benjamins about the pros and cons of the new Star Wars movie. (Our discussion starts at 56:13 and lasts for half an hour!)
For those of you unfamiliar, NewRetirement is a retirement planning tool. It’s not just a calculator, but a sophisticated forecaster to help you plan your future. I have no financial stake in the company — not yet, anyhow — I just like it. I think most retirement calculators suck. The NewRetirement tool is one of a handful I like.
Anyhow, over the past year, I’ve had a chance to get to know NewRetirement founder Steve Chen. I like and respect him. He’s doing good work and his heart is in the right place. When he asked me to be the first guest on his first podcast, I was eager to do so. We talked about purpose and happiness (Surprise!)
Steve and I had planned to talk about the pros and cons of early retirement, but, as sometimes happens, our talk strayed to other (equally interesting) topics.
I don’t have space to quote the entire transcript. (You can find that here.) Instead, I’ll highlight one of my favorite (edited) sections.
I want to ask you another question. One thing that I found really interesting about you is that you’re writing about personal finance and helping people make better choices, but I also know that a big thing for you is purpose — helping people figure out what should they be doing with their time and their lives. I’m wondering if you could elaborate on that a little bit.
I have a money blog. I write about money. I mentioned at the start of the show that I have a degree in psychology. I’ve always been interested in the pursuit of happiness. What does it mean to be happy? What does it take to be happy?
Even though I’m writing about money, I’m actually writing about the pursuit of happiness. From my reading and my experience, the best way to achieve well-being is to have a sense of purpose and to pursue that purpose, to build your life around that purpose. I know that sounds New-Agey, maybe a little hokey. I don’t mean it in a hokey, New Age way. I mean it a very real way.
As long ago as Aristotle — thousands of years ago — up to modern day, psychologists have found that when you have a purpose, when you have a direction in your life and you build your life around it, you tend to be much more fulfilled. It’s easier to make decisions with your money, with your time, with your friends — with everything — if you know what it is you want to accomplish out of life.
I don’t think there’s any one right purpose that’s right for everybody. For some people, your purpose might be your family. For other people, it might be travel. For others, that might be serving a higher calling, whether that’s a God or some other purpose like serving others. It doesn’t really matter. I urge my readers to get clear on what their purpose is so they can make better financial decisions.
One interesting thing is that the rates of depression actually go up when people retire because they lose a lot of the benefits that they have from work that they might not have been aware of: the social connections, the sense of purpose, the daily activity, just being out and about. Suddenly, that goes away and your life is suddenly different. Thinking about that ahead of time is super important.
As I say, I think the whole conversation was interesting. If you’d like to read (or hear) more, check out the NewRetirement website.