Money

Taking Stock of Your Life and Finances

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Jordan Grumet is a hospice doctor. Readers of this blog more likely know him as Doc G, host and writer of the Earn & Invest podcast and blog.

In his new book, Taking Stock, Grumet tackles the topics of death and money, both of which are often taboo in our society. He offers wisdom gained through his work with the dying and those on the path to financial independence. 

The book challenges readers to take stock of their life and use money to live more intentionally. This book may make you uncomfortable at points. That’s exactly why we need it.

I’ll share my big takeaways from reading an advance copy of Taking Stock. It will officially be available on August 2nd. Read to the end for a chance to win a copy of the book.

Your Money Story

Grumet is a fabulous story teller and communicator in part because he is willing to be vulnerable. In the book’s opening line, he writes, “When I was seven, my father died suddenly, unexpectedly.”

This tragic event impacted his life from that point forward. Choosing to follow his father’s footsteps into a career in medicine is an obvious example.

After reflecting, he realized how this event shaped many of his other attitudes and philosophies in life in less obvious ways, including how he thought about money and his own mortality.

Throughout the book, Grumet also shares stories of hospice patients he has cared for. He mined key lessons that can be taken from their lives. And their deaths.

Whether we realilze and are willing to admit it or not, we all have our own stories that shape how we view money, and more broadly the world. I related deeply to his family’s story, as it is similar to the narrative that dominated my own family.

My uncle died suddenly at a young age when I was a small child. I grew up with this knowledge that life can be cut short.

Tomorrow may never come. This has always been a driving force for me to be intentional with how I spend my money and time, even before I was conscious of that fact.

Decades later I lost my cousin and dear friend, the daughter of that same uncle. She died in her early 40’s, just a few months before my daughter was born. A multi-year battle with cancer finally took her life.

Upon reflection, this combination of life altering events occurring within a few months of one another turbocharged my desire to live a life different from the standard path.

Related: Avoiding Retirement Regrets

Fear Drives Us

In Taking Stock, Grumet points out that we’re all driven by our deepest fears. That may manifest itself in a YOLO (you only live once) attitude. That attitude leads so many to save little to nothing while they live only for today.

He points out that fear is a key driver in the FIRE community as well. We fear we will run out of money.

This explains our fascination with discussing things like safe withdrawal rates ad nauseum, making back up plans for our back up plans, and our propensity for getting caught up in “One More Year Syndrome”, never feeling confident that we have enough.

The middle section of the book uses the parable of three brothers to explore different paths we can take to achieve financial independence. It explains how they are each driven by a different fear.

Grumet writes in a way that avoids judgment of any path. Instead, he lays out the positive and negative attributes of each, explaining how each can be a rational choice. I agree with his approach wholeheartedly.

Getting too dogmatic about any one financial path is a potential trap. His approach helps us avoid being defensive.

Grumet helps us be open to the possibility of picking and choosing the best attributes of each path. They then can be applied at different times in our lives.

Money: Goal or Tool

A common and often fair criticism of those who advocate for FIRE is that we get overly focused on money as the goal, rather than as a tool that enables living a better life.

I’ve gotten into the habit of calling B.S. when I hear people say they are going to do this thing or change that habit or behavior after they reach financial independence or retire.

There are two flaws in those proclamations. First, you will not magically change as a person because you hit a number on a spreadsheet or leave your job. Second, and more importantly, there is no guarantee that tomorrow will come.

On the flip side, the YOLO lifestyle can, and often does, go too far in the other direction. It is one thing to save little for the future while intentionally spending most of your money on the things you really want to do today.

It is something completely different to spend every dollar you make without intention. Many people trap themselves by reflexively spending on mortgages, car payments, and other consumer debt.

Many have no idea where their money is going. They end up unfulfilled today, with no viable path to a better future.

In Taking Stock, Grumet challenges you to identify the biggest fears that drive you. He then guides you to use your money more intentionally to live your best life now while building a secure future in alignment with your deepest desires.

Time is Money and Money Is Time

Another sacred cow that Grumet takes on in Taking Stock is the idea that time and money are interchangeable. This portion of the book was my personal favorite. It forced me to reconsider beliefs I had accepted as truths.

Most of us use monetary phrases like saving, buying, and spending with regards to time. We do this frequently and without thought. We treat time as a commodity, which is interchangeable with money. 

Taking Stock forces us us to acknowledge our mortality. Money is infinite. Addressing our mortality makes it clear that our time is finite. Time and money are not interchangeable.

Grumet challenges us to reconsider how we use and think about time. He points out the dissonance in our culture. 

We often wear our “busyness” as a  badge of honor. We frequently discuss how we don’t have time for things we know are important. Simultaneously, we live in a time of wealth and technological advances that could, if used wisely, free time in ways that would have been unimaginable even a generation ago.

In addition to commonly discussed “time hacks” that help us use our time more efficiently, Taking Stock introduced me to new concepts to make the most of my time. They include applying the “power of subtraction” and “time perception arbitrage.”

Who Is This Book For?

Any time I consider reviewing a book for the blog, I ask myself what segment of my audience, if any, this book would help. Rarely is any one book useful for everyone.

In the conclusion of Taking Stock, Grumet addresses this question directly. He writes, “I hope this book reaches you at a time when you are questioning the role that money and wealth play in your life.”

This is a question that we all should be asking and revisiting throughout our lives. It will help us to, using my favorite quote in the book, “be as prepared for life as you would be for death.”

At the end of each chapter are questions that will help you to take stock of your own life. This was modeled after the “life review” that is done with hospice patients near end of life.

The questions challenge you to ask hard questions, while giving you a framework to do so. Providing these tools often used with the dying enables you to use them before it may be too late. It is another of my favorite features of the book.

Related: Living a Purposeful Life After Retirement

Win a Copy of Taking Stock

Since this is such an important topic, I would like to send a copy of Taking Stock to three readers of the blog. If you would like a copy, leave a short comment summarizing in 2-3 sentences why you would like to read it. 

I will check the comments Tuesday, August 2 and pick the winners. Good luck!

If you don’t win a copy, the book will officially be available for purchase that same day. It is definitely a worthwhile investment of time to read it and consider the topics within.

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[Chris Mamula used principles of traditional retirement planning, combined with creative lifestyle design, to retire from a career as a physical therapist at age 41. After poor experiences with the financial industry early in his professional life, he educated himself on investing and tax planning. Now he draws on his experience to write about wealth building, DIY investing, financial planning, early retirement, and lifestyle design at Can I Retire Yet? Chris has been featured on MarketWatch, Morningstar, U.S. News & World Report, and Business Insider. He is also the primary author of the book Choose FI: Your Blueprint to Financial Independence. You can reach him at chris@caniretireyet.com.]

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