The Linear Life Is Dead

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Bruce Feeler is an excellent author whose latest book, life is in transitionMuch contradicts what we’ve been taught about navigating life successfully, all but connecting us to something we already know but rarely say: Life isn’t linear.

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In fact, Feeler puts it even more clearly: “Linear life is dead. Nonlinear life involves more life transitions. Life transition is a skill we can, and must, master.”

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My interest in this compelling notion is twofold. First, Feeler’s claim hits me right in the middle of my eye and I want to master the skill of tactfully navigating life’s many changes. And second, as a financial planner for a few decades, one of my primary observations is that much of financial planning is catalyzed by life events and changes:

, When do most people first get private life insurance? Sometimes after buying their first home, maybe after their first child, maybe after their second, but almost certainly after someone close to them passes away.

, When do most people first make a will? Perhaps after coupling, hopefully after having their first child, but almost certainly after going on their first big vacation away from said child.

, When do most people review a major investment portfolio? possibly after a job change (especially if they had a 401(k) at the old company And grew with the new company), but is more likely to (recover) after a market downturn. (Interestingly, it is not in the middle of a recession, which often leads to paralysis.)

, When do most people pay off balance, revolving, early life credit card debt? After being embarrassed, he had to tell his new spouse or life partner about it.

, When do most people do a comprehensive retirement analysis?, After someone close to them retires (or dies).

, When do most people update their beneficiaries on their company insurance policies and retirement accounts (from their mother)? Sometimes after their marriage, perhaps after having their first child, but certainly after a divorce.

linear life fallacy

“Early around 1900,” Feiler writes, “a plethora of new time periods became popular: adolescence, midlife, retirement, geriatrics.” Then in 1957, psychoanalyst Elliot Jacques coined the term “midlife crisis”, and in the early seventies, Daniel Levinson (Yale) and Roger Gould (UCLA) sent a series of questionnaires whose answers led them to conclude that “a man’s There are four seasons of life” (yes, up to this point, it was only men that had been considered in any of these analyses).

They came to the conclusion that there were very specific years in which each of these phases was conceived: 17, 40, 60, and 80. Gould’s work was later made literary and popularized through Gail Sheaey’s 1976 bestseller, “Passage”.

This all raises some important questions: first, was Michael Scott’s boss/girlfriend The Office In the name of some shrinkage of the 1970s – Jan Levinson-Gold?? And, did the conclusions drawn from all this work have any validity?

I’ll bet the answer to the first question is yes! But Bruce Feeler eventually concludes that, based on some truth, the stages of life conclusions are flawed, if not misleading, especially in today’s culture, Therefore, he concluded that “one of the hallmarks of our time is that life cannot be inferred. It does not appear in passages, stages, phases, or cycles. It is nonlinear—and becoming more and more every day.” Is.”

And isn’t this your experience? The only thing that can be predicted in life is its unpredictability? That the unifying theme of our lives is really wonder that needs course correction—and the more we fight those changes, the more challenges and pain we have to endure? This has certainly been my personal experience, and one that I have seen in the lives of hundreds of families throughout my career.

a more manageable life

But here’s the good news Feiler delivers: Life is “more manageable, more forgiving of missteps, and more open to personalization, if you know how to navigate the new wrath of twists and turns.”

The bad news is that financial planning, as a discipline, has also had a linear orientation. Do it in your 20s, that in your 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. save [X] spend more [Y], Do this, don’t do that, and it will be all right. And planning a life stage is a temptation I’ve often fallen victim to.

But the fact is that there are only three primary guarantees in life and financial planning: change, surprise, and failure. We like to think of them as exceptions to the linear rule, but the longer we live, save, invest, insure, learn, work and retire, the more we Realize that these “exceptions” are in fact the norm. And when we recognize this, we can better plan for the unexpected.

when we expect change, we adjust it by default for flexibility. A job loss or a new job that requires a move is not crippling.

when we expect Surprisingly, margins (in both our balance sheet and our budget) allow us to navigate them with ease. A new auto transmission, changed roof at home, or a baby born later in life can be absorbed, fulfilled, and welcomed respectively.

and when we expect Failure, we forgive ourselves a lot more when it happens. That way what we value most in life—relationships—doesn’t become more important than our goals.

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