Having a child

Having a child: A goal that doesn’t really feel like a goal.

Our daughter Abby is currently taking her afternoon siesta while I sit nearby finishing this post. Her arrival is the attainment of a goal that was really important for my partner and me. But now that we have her in our arms, it seems really odd to think of having a child as a “goal”. The word seems crass and oversimplified, even though it fits the definition. A goal is defined as “the result to which effort is directed”, and certainly our adoption took effort.

We talk a lot about goal-setting in the Moolala workshops, and I always ask participants to think really broadly about what they want in life. What are the results to which you are going to direct your effort? Sure, think about the age you want to retire, but also dream about what you want for your family, what experiences you want to have, where you want to contribute etc. This often comes as a surprise to people because they don’t expect to be talking about all those things in a workshop about money. There is a tendency to separate “life goals” from “financial goals” and I think that is a mistake. Here’s why:

  1. Many life goals have a price tag attached: Our adoption cost money, as do goals like volunteering in Africa, going skydiving, and spending your summers by the sea. To achieve goals like these you’ll need to factor in the financial component.
  1. Life goals are generally more exciting and inspiring: People tend to get quite excited about life goals, but bored by financial goals. And if you’re like most people, the goals that make your heart flutter with excitement are the ones you’re actually going to work on. A financial goal of “retiring at age 65 with income equal to 70% of your prior salary” may do nothing for the fluttering of your heart and so you’re not as likely to work on it. But a goal of “having the freedom to travel the world when I’m no longer drawing a pay cheque” might just do the trick.
  1. Financial advisors can help: Broadening out what counts as a “financial goal” allows you to resource the skills of your financial advisor in new ways. The great advisors out there have the interest and ability to help you work on lots of different goals – not just the “retire at 65” ones – you’ll just need to ask.

Now that Abby has arrived, it doesn’t feel like we “achieved a goal”. But we approached it like one and I’m sure that is part of the reason why we were successful. Any way you look at it we’re thrilled she’s here and excited to dream about how we’re going to spend our life together as a family.