Join Matt Robison and I this week as we explore the idea that our individual lives may not hold significant meaning in the grand scheme of things. Don’t get disheartened, embracing the notion that your life doesn’t matter can actually be a fulfilling and liberating approach to life.
By acknowledging that our actions have minimal impact on the universe, we can prioritize our personal passions and goals.
Why is that prioritization important? Simply put, it’s how happiness is derived. By embracing the idea that what we accumulate materially doesn’t define us, we can experience a sense of liberation and contentment.
What does this have to do with finance? Well, until you understand what brings you true joy and fulfillment, how can you possibly know how to prioritize your spending and saving?
Our lives are ultimately finite, and the only resource we can truly control is our time.
Focusing on experiences and connections rather than material possessions can help align your financial goals which leads to happiness.
I hate to break it to you, your life doesn't matter, or that's what my co host, Mike Morton of Morton financial advice says. This is financial life planning, I’m Matt Robison, your other co host. And Mike, you are a stone cold bummer today. What do you mean, the topic of the show is your life doesn't matter? Screw you, your life doesn't matter.Mike:
Hey, you know what's cool? I get to be the co host today, not even the guest of the co-host.Matt:
You know what I did? I promoted you.Mike:
Oh, my goodness.Matt:
I am the guest host on your show and I figured you've been working hard I think you've been putting in a lot of good effort. You show a lot of potential at this, whatever we call this enterprise, whatever. Good for you. And you started out on your relationship by telling me hey, Matt, your life doesn't matter. Can I ask on behalf of all of our listeners what you mean? Because surely you're not speaking about their lives.Mike:
No, no, of course, not everybody matters. This was something that came up with a couple of different contexts for me recently. It's the idea that, and we'll get into it a little bit, it's the idea that in the span of history, in the span of evolution, we're a tiny speck in the middle of nowhere, doing our little thing and the universe doesn't care. And when you start thinking in that context, at first, you might shrug your shoulders and say, oh, then I'll just give up. But the other way of looking at it is now let's talk about health savings accounts. The other way of looking at is that it frees you up to think you know what I should really pursue what I'm most interested in and most interested in doing. Because at the end of the day, at the very end, it really doesn't matter.Matt:
That is comforting. I look, I do think you're onto something. First of all, disclaimer for all of our viewers and listeners. This is clearly the life part of financial life planning, I get this and we try to do these topics where I don't know what's coming because it's just more fun that way. So I'm gonna go ahead and guess this one is really not about how to set up an HSA.Mike:
This will be like technical. Some technical know how here at the end, this is definitely more in the life side.Matt:
I like this though. I like this. And all tongue in cheek joking aside about really bumming people out here. There's a very Buddhist notion to this. It's interesting, I was reading, this is like a humble brag, I was at a salon reading Wittgenstein or whatever. I was reading Sapiens by Yuval Harare, which is an amazing book and he points out that one of the differences one of the philosophical differences between Eastern and Western philosophy, I promise I'm going somewhere with this is that essentially Western philosophy has been overtaken by a capitalist view. I'm a capitalist, by the way, yay, capitalism but it very much is about the you become happier when you get more. And the Eastern philosophy is very much infused by Buddhism, which is you become happy when you want less. And so it sounds to me like what you're saying the insight that you got here is, hey, you know what, letting go of the idea that what you accumulate and like what you do, in a material sense matters. Letting go of that is actually very freeing and could make you happier.Mike:
Yeah, there's a couple of different things I want to get to. But let's riff on that for a sec because that's the happiness equation that we brought up before, it's the number of things you have divided by the number of things that you want, right? And so you can manipulate either the numerator or what you're saying is the denominator, if I want a few less things, and then I'm going to feel happier in my life. The other thing that you brought up for me, it reminded me the art between Eastern and Western, I heard this also that Western art adds, it's like adding more to the artwork, whereas Eastern philosophy is taken away by like the statues already there.Matt:
I just have to remove what's not part of it like the bonsai or the Zen Garden from that documentary, The Karate Kid. Are you, do you have in the back of your mind, though, when you do the life part of this and when we talk about this topic, does this come up in your financial planning? I imagine it does. I imagine that when you talk to your clients, you will always start off I think with this question of what matters to you? What is it you want more of? And we've done so many episodes about your time experiences with your family, do you get into this kind of a level of philosophical discussion, or do you find people aren't really there for the philosophy but you kind of deal from the bottom of the deck?Mike:
It's a good question. We go straight into it right away, Matt. So most financial advisors, financial planners would start with hey, man, glad we're doing this together. What are your goals? And then you're like, oh, I'd like to retire and play more golf and see my kids get into college, and then I'll pay for their college. Those are my goals. And I do it differently, where I come in and say, I could ask you about your goals, but really Matt, I'm interested in how you want to live your life. So tell me about how you want to live, what you want to spend your time and energy doing. And then I have a particular process, we go through with some exercises that really tease that out and we spend multiple meetings, and I don't want to make this about my process, but we spend multiple meetings with my clients going through this topic. So not just hey, Matt, welcome, what are your goals? Let's get into details of your investments and accounts and start manipulating stuff. No, we spend multiple meetings and some exercises in really teasing out your life plan. And then we match up using your resources to accomplish that.Matt:
It reminds me a lot of a 2004 book called High and Mighty, the dangerous Rise of the SUV. And they talk about a marketing guru, who was well known in the auto industry for designing cars that people just intrinsically wanted. And he does a lot of the kind of the surface thing, which reminds me of what you were talking about kind of like the standard process of what are your goals? You want to buy a car very well, let's start a savings plan. And any good chatbot could do that for you. But and he has a similar process and trying to figure out how do I sell people a car. So what he does is he does a focus group, and he gets all the results from the focus groups, and he throws them out, he does not give a shit. Okay. And then there's a second level beyond that, which is like the dial testing of like people's self reported intrinsic experience and he pretty much throws that out too. And what he really is looking for is like their lizard brain reaction to images of cars. And he tries to come up with things that appeal to primal, deep seated instincts. So he tries to make cars look like leopards, or any of that. And that's his whole, that's his whole technique. Anyway, I'm not saying you're manipulating your clients, but I think in a kind of a positive way, it sounds like you're doing something similar, which is, rather than start from the surface level, how much money do you make how much do you really try and get at what really makes you happy? And again, that makes some sense to me that if you can move beyond the glib answers that we tend to give, you might actually unlock something that can make you happier.Mike:
Here's what's funny about what you just said, Matt, that’s exactly right.Matt:
That I remember books from 2004, about the SUV industry, and I somehow work them into the show because again, I'm humble bragging about the books I've read, boy, I’m really pretty douchey.Mike:
I was thinking about how you do take up a lot of brain space with random information.Matt:
That's my thing, that's my entire, I have that on my business card. It's like random things in my brain for you.Mike:
Here, here's what I was gonna say like that guy, right? The SUV, first the focus group, it's thinking, Oh, here's what I think I want, same with your financial goals I think I want a better car. I think I want, you know, a job to make this amount of money. I think I want to retire at 62. You know, but really what I try to get to is the feeling. Right? What is it? When you do an activity, how does that make you feel? Does that energize you? Do you want to do more of that? But let's get back to the topic today, regrets. Okay, we do a lot of things around hey, if this was your last day, what would you regret? And that gets the feeling like…Matt:
Don't say the show.Mike:
Our listeners are like, I regret hitting play.
Alright, so what would you regret? And what you're saying is, okay, then don't do that or fix that.Mike:
So the power of regret. So let's get to this. I was listening to a podcast, we'll put in the show notes, Peter Atea. But this is this is a bunch of books, a bunch of research on what do people regret at the end of their life? What do people say at the end of their life they regret, and we all know, hey, I shouldn't have been worked so much, I should have spent more, you know, not so much time in the office, more time with my family. That's a thinking answer and a glib answer and true, not that it's untrue. But what people really regret is not taking a chance. The fear stopped them from pursuing something that they wanted that they had maybe something in the world they wanted to do a passion that they wanted to pursue. And they're like, I can't do that because ABCD I got all these reasons I can't possibly do that. That's what people regret, the fear they had as they went through life and not pursuing what they're really passionate about, that feeling what I really want to spend more time doing. Why did I not follow that why did I not do that? That's what people regret. And to bring it back, that's why I'm saying your life doesn't matter. So go ahead and pursue what you want to pursue in the context of your family and your life and everything else. I get it. There's real stuff here. But don't reach the end and regret a fear holding you back from something that you really feel passionate about pursuing.Matt:
That's interesting. It reminds me of the man who invented behavioral economics, Daniel Kahneman. And you can find this on YouTube, he gave a TED talk of all things. And he explained the two brain systems we use, there's the thinking, it's what he calls thinking fast versus thinking slow. And he uses an example of, we have this experiential life, where we're doing things that we get something from, like you go on an awesome vacation, I think the example he uses is he went to Antarctica, and if I'm wrong about that, and it was a different part of the world, I apologize. I actually invited Daniel Kahneman, I invited him onto my show. And I was just like, this is my moonshot, so why not? He actually wrote back to me or had a very clever assistant write back to me and say, Sorry, I am old and oversubscribed. You know what, fair enough man, you are at an advanced age and you've earned the right to not go on podcast. But he talks about this experience of he had this amazing trip, I think it was in Antarctica. And then he asked the question, but now how often do I consume that memory? Like, how much do I pull it out of my mental filing cabinet, and relive that and get continuing joy from that. And it's a very interesting distinction. When I worked on Capitol Hill, I was able to get good tickets, as most staffers were, I wasn't super special, for President Obama's inauguration in 2009. And my wife and I were like, Oh, well, we got to go to this this is super historic. It was also about five below that day. And we realized, you know what, this is the kind of thing you want to have gone to not something that I want to experience. It's the kind of thing that later I do want to pull out of the mental filing cabinet versus something I want to endure over the next six hours, as my extremities slowly fall off. So I just I think it's an interesting wrinkle as you think to yourself, okay, what would I regret not having done? And it's, it's worth bearing in mind, what are the things that give me joy in the moment versus what are the things that I just want to have done? Because they give me a sense of fulfillment, that there are things that I have undertaken that I tried, that I might consume as a as a bucket list or something like that? Do you find that kind of distinction helpful to you?Mike:
Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, it's one of the questions that I use during that process I was referencing before, which is, if this was your last day, what would you regret? And those are the things that come up, man, it's not like a specific trip, people are usually like I did want to go to Rome but I don't really regret not getting there. What people regret is something like I never wrote that book. Like, I always wanted to write this book, but I just never did because, you know, it's a lot of work and effort. It's like going and sitting outside for five hours and freezing. I don't really want to put in the effort, but then when you think about it you're like, I regret I didn't do that. I regret not writing down all the memories for my kids. I regret not writing a whole bunch of stuff, making that scrapbook for my kids 0 to 18. I regret I never put all that stuff together.Matt:
Thanks for that, now I regret it too.Mike:
So it's those, I think you're right, kinds of things that are bigger, they take a little more effort, but it's what you really feel like, man, I want to get started on that. Because I've now realized that it is important to me. And it's going to take some work and effort. I'll also point to, I've been thinking about this recently, like family trips, we mentioned the experience, I've got a bunch of… every decade or so we've done something Matt, I have a big extended family. And every decade or so we've done like a massive trip with all my cousins and second cousins like 20,30, 40, 50 people. And of course we bring it up right then I see these people every yearat different family events, some of them right and it's always Oh, remember that trip we did? Oh yeah, it was really cool. And I'm thinking like my kids haven't really been on one of these like big massive things. Yeah, that's the kind of once a decade kind of thing that I would regret not doing with them so that we can keep bringing it up every year with the group with the family and reliving, remembering what was so great about that time together. Are you ready to create your ideal lifestyle? Let's discover what's most important to you and design a plan to have more of that in your life. Go to meet Mike morton.com all one word meet Mike morton.com.Matt:
Well, and not that I’m determined to drag this back to a financial planning context. But I find that distinction that thinking fast thinking slow is something you want to experience, or is it something you want to have experienced? I find the distinction helpful. For example, several years ago, my wife and I were considering expanding our kitchen in our house and it was very small. And it had, it was just terribly designed, terribly laid out. And we were constantly, my wife and I are not dancers, and we were constantly doing the tango and in some cases the LaMotta, there was not a lot of room. Okay, but it was a major financial commitment. And I was like, doing all the Mike Morton like standard financial practice, like best practices of man, that’s a lot of money if we saved it, here's how much it would grow to a college and etc. And my wife made the very intelligent observation, like, look, we spend a shocking percentage of our waking lives in the kitchen, this is an investment in every day, our experience will be much better. And forget the like big family gathering, like we host a Thanksgiving with 42 people every year. That's great. That's one use case. But it's just the every day, our experience will be so much better. And you know what? We did it and she was right. And that's a great example. As always, yeah, as always, and I will never, it's not like an epic family trip, like you're talking about. But every day, I think my experience is a little bit better thinking in those terms of what will enhance my everyday experience, and like the enjoyment that I get, because I cook almost every day and I spend time with the kids in the kitchen, my wife and I clean up together in the kitchen, like that experience is so much better versus one of these… I think a lot about the movie Inside Out the Pixar movie, which they used neuroscientist insights on building that internal world and how it works. And I think about core memories. And what you're talking about with these massive family trips is the bucket list items, the kinds of memories that you build that you might pull out of that mental filing cabinet and consume in common lingo from time to time. Every time you set up and you say, You know what, I'm going to do this, I'm going to do this big trip this big experience, it's an opportunity to create a core memory that will drive you far into the future that could be a core memory for your kids. And you think about those foundational memories that really guide you and that are like when you think of your childhood. What do you think of when you think of these kinds of core experiences, not like your day to day of like I went to school on Wednesday, the 27th. So I think both things, both modes of thinking I find informative and helpful as I try to consider how I invest my time and my resources.Mike:
Man, you brought up so many different thoughts around me.Matt:
There was a lot of crap in there.Mike:
There's a lot of crap, you scrambled my brain Matt. So on the financial front, I find a lot of clients, I don't want to be glib about it. But I find a lot of clients are saving for the future, which is great to save for the future, we need to do that. But almost at the expense of some things today. And so to your point like that kitchen renovation, how great it makes you feel and trust me, you're going to work it out in the long run. So really think hard about those things when it comes to should I make this investment in a patio? Or an outdoor fireplace, where we're going to just have more enjoyment every single day. That's a big deal. When you mentioned the comment of like growing up, what do you remember, I remember that we took trips all the time. That's what I remember. I remember the first 20 years of my life was like we took trips, man, we went everywhere we went to Texas on a road trip, I went to Scotland because I've got family there. We went to Australia for a year. I just remember trips all the time. You know what the reality is Matt? It was like every five years, we might go on a trip we did one big road trip to Texas, Scotland maybe twice in 18 years. And we did live in Australia for a year when I was growing up. But we took lots of like little trips, lots of camping trips down to the beach, stuff like that. I remember, we took trips all the time, we traveled all the time, I saw so many states, or whatever and I got on planes and went international, but it was like every five years. So it doesn't take a lot to build those core memories is my point. Okay? And the third thing that I'm going to give the listeners is when you say bucket list. I feel like people have a mental picture of these big items. I always wanted to go see the Colosseum in Rome, like I got go go see that thing or take my kids to Italy or whatever it is like some big trip, you know what I mean? But that's not what you really want. Really sit down and think about what it is that you want. And for me, I told you I have trips with my family and they're massive trips, and they were great. And we did a lot of cool stuff. But what did I say about it? 30,40 or 50 people with the family, and I love sitting around bringing up those memories, just sitting around with family. So it doesn't have to be a very expensive thing. Think about what it is you really want. I love to spend time at the beach with my kids. It doesn't mean you need to own a beach house. It means you need to spend time at the beach with your kids. I want to spend time in wilderness or seeing some cool things, building some core memories, seeing some cool things does it need to be overseas and a plane trip? What about a road trip, you're going to build that same kind of memories. So when it comes to the finances, it doesn't have to be big or extravagant. I think what people really want or what they feel they want is building those experiences with the friends family and connections.Matt:
I yeah, I completely agree, obviously. And I don't know, I'm at the risk of kind of continually dragging, because back to the financial planning side of this, ultimately, this entire topic and it truly is not meant to like depress or diss ourselves or listeners, this idea of your life doesn't matter. It really is meant to, maybe it should be rephrased as, what do you want to remember? How do you want to be remembered, I just attended a funeral for a dear uncle. And that really puts things in perspective. And the way he was remembered, and the way I remember him comes from just a lot of interactions, experiences, the things he did the way he interacted with other people. And it was not really about his law practice, it wasn't about his professional accomplishments. And those are wonderful things. Very few people get remembered in history. And I'm not sure that it's necessarily something to shoot for. You have a 50/50 shot of being infamous, versus being famous. And so to me, it just struck me that this was someone that shutdown multiple towns outside of New York City, for his funeral, they shut down multiple towns, because he was so beloved in his community. And he had been a judge and the police knew him and they shut down a major highway, they literally blocked traffic off a highway for the funeral procession to move from town to town. This was someone who had that kind of an impact. And it just struck me, this is someone who was a rich man, he had such rich experiences. And so anyway, now we truly have become depressing, but I don't mean to. I don't mean to it's, I think what you're bringing up is a very important distinction. And it's so easy for people who regularly listen to this show, because they do like the mechanics of how I'm going to do a backdoor Roth. And ultimately, what's it for? It's so that you have the resources to have the experiences that you want to have. And so I think just bearing in mind, okay, what are those things? Let's not put the cart before the horse. And also, let's think about the distinction between the day to day experiences and those long term consumable core memory opportunities and planning for both, because they're both part of what leads to a rich life.Mike:
Yeah, yeah. I love that story, Matt. And it reminds me, one of the things I've been working on recently is thinking about what do I want to be remembered for? What kind of person do I really want to be? And how do I set up my environment to be more of that person? That'd be a whole other episode. But just that thought of, I want to write down 5,10, 20 things that I want to be remembered for, and it doesn't have to be big and grandiose, but what kind of person do I want to be and how am I going to spend my time being more of that now we'll leave the listeners with this final thought. I told you, man, you just mentioned it, failure is guaranteed, we are all going to reach the end of our life. Okay. And at the end of our life, if you want to call it failure, like we're not going to be here anymore, okay. So don't be so hard on yourself, the pressures off, you're going to die at some point and not be around. So the pressures off for all the things you think are so important from your job or your career or making money or buying this thing now and the pressures off, it's no big deal. Okay, live life the way that you want to live it. The only thing to take seriously, is your time. Take your time very seriously, because that's the limited resource. So take that seriously. But don't be so hard on yourself. Do the things that you're so passionate about giving back to this world and being the person that you really want to be.Matt:
A very eloquent note to and a really surprisingly profound show from my co host Mike Morton. Alright, for Mike I’m Matt Robison, we will see you next time.Mike:
Thanks, Matt. Thanks for joining us on financial planning for entrepreneurs. If you liked what you heard, please subscribe to and rate the podcast on Apple, iTunes, Google Play Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. You can connect with me at LinkedIn for Morton financial advice.com. I'd love to get your feedback. If you have a comment or question, please email me at financial planning . Until next time, thanks for tuning in. This recording is for informational purposes only and should not be considered for investment advice or opinions expressed as our of the date of recording. Such opinions are subject to change. We do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the data presented here.