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The linear life fallacy

The linear life fallacy

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For many years, we have been made to believe that life is linear – that we continue to improve as we age, with the end being the best part (aka the happy ever after). The common linear life suggests a certain order –

  1. You are born and raised.
  2. You go to school and pursue the qualifications required for your desired career path.
  3. You enter the workforce, refine your skills and get promoted.
  4. You get married and have a family.
  5. You get older and continue working but maybe slow it down a bit or better yet, you make a lot of money and retire.

Psychologists in the 1950’s coined terms like “midlife crisis” and described the “four seasons of a man’s life”. As a discipline, financial planning was also built on these linear ideals. We were directed to do this in your 20s, that in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and so on, save this amount and only spend that then we’d be set for that happy ending…

Whilst endeavouring to follow this life plan can bring with it a sense of certainty and security, such rigidity can also be restricting or shameful when life inevitably deviates off the path. When you’re made redundant, have an unplanned pregnancy, or when your partner asks for a divorce… each of these events can change the path you’re on, and that’s okay! If recent times have taught us anything, it’s that life is not predictable – it doesn’t build up in stages and it’s not linear.

Optimistically, we believe that breaking free from this linear trajectory and embracing the unpredictability of life can only help you lead a Richer Life. That’s why we always refer back to one important question, designed to help us understand what you really want and need from life – what is a Rich Life to you?

The most empowering part of this exercise is the realisation that you always have control and no matter how early or late you are in life, you can enjoy a Rich Life! You see, there are only three primary guarantees in both life and financial planning:

  1. Change
  2. Surprise
  3. Failure

Think of them like the exceptions to the linear rule – the longer we live, learn, work, save, insure, invest, and retire, the more we realise that these so called exceptions are actually the norm. By recognising and accepting that, we can better plan for the unexpected and enjoy a richer overall experience of life:

  • When we expect change, we are more flexible and better able to accommodate it. For example, if you’re made redundant, or your partner asks for a divorce then you can pivot and adapt rather than pausing in a state of paralysis.
  • When we expect surprises, we allow a buffer (in our minds and our budget) to navigate them with ease. For example, if your car breaks down and you need to replace it or you fall pregnant with an unexpected child then you can approach the situation with calmness, composure and confidence for the future.
  • When we expect failure, we are so much more forgiving of ourselves and those around us when it happens.

By embracing a non-linear life, we give ourselves the ability to embrace the unpredictability, the uncertainty, and the opportunity that life consistently offers. Furthermore, by defining our goals we can approach every situation with optimism and take positive action towards what we want most, rather than being stuck in a state of worry or fear. This leads us back to one of our favourite quotes from the famed psychologist Viktor Frankl “By replacing fears with truth, we are not only emboldened to move progressively forward, we willingly navigate away from calamity and catastrophic destruction.”

 If you have any questions or would like to discuss your Rich Life goals, please get in touch.

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