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Nest eggs are made of more than money

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By Sarri Gilman
Published:
Many years ago, turning 40 was a turning point for my understanding the concept of saving money for retirement.
People like me, who begin truly saving late in life, by the time I turned 50, are bombarded with messages that my efforts are in vain, it will be too little, too late.
Unless I have $1 million saved, I could expect to be living under an umbrella eating dog biscuits.
Get real. I refuse to believe that $1 million is the magic number needed to live in retirement. I don't yet know my magic number, but I have spent a lifetime adapting, living within my means, never ever running up debt, and I expect my habits to help me in the future.
Ever the optimist, I am going with the plan that I am saving as much as I can. While my retirement account may not appear to be worth millions, I have made some outstanding investments.
I invested in spending time with my kids when they were growing up, I invested in having college graduates, a home and a lifetime of doing work that I have absolutely loved.
I invested in creating a loving marriage and in living for my entire adult life in a place I think of as heaven on earth.
I'm not at retirement yet, and while my investments may not be cashed, I reflect and say, these years may be worth more than cash.
I've realized that not a single article I read on preparing for retirement mentions investing in the quality of your life.
Taking stock of your time and evaluate if you are investing your time in a life worth living.
If you are doing all the right things and saving for retirement, ask yourself if you have your daily priorities in order. You can save money, but no one can save time.
Are you happy? Are you taking care of your health and emotional well being so that you have a good chance of enjoying some activities in retirement? Sure, learn how to balance your portfolio, but have you learned how to balance your life ?
Consider all your investment options and ask yourself if you have invested in friendships, partnerships and relationships that are truly fulfilling.
Prepare for the future. Save as much money as you can and invest your time, your days, wisely.
Call me crazy and foolish, but in my work as a therapist, I get front row seats to how much people struggle with mountains of stress, jobs that make them unhappy, relationships that are unfulfilling, and all of this sometimes with solid financial resources saved for retirement.
What is that worth?
While therapy can support people to rebuild their lives, it can be a long process, and requires much more effort than putting dollars away for the future.
One click online and you can move dollars from one account to a savings account. You can even autopay yourself for the future. I'm not trying to be flippant or diminish the sacrifices people make to save money, I am just saying prepare for retirement by how you live, also.
I admire my friends who are wise investors, and though my bank accounts are modest, I consider myself abundantly wealthy and well prepared for retirement. In your life review, look not just at the numbers. Look at the whole picture.

Sarri Gilman is a freelance writer living on Whidbey Island and director of Leadership Snohomish County. Her column on living with meaning and purpose runs every other Tuesday in The Herald. You can email her at features@heraldnet.com.

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