Balancing Planning with Living

healthy longevity living planning Apr 10, 2024

Lisa was in a funk. In her 70s, she lost her husband and soulmate several years ago and was struggling to find a rhythm of life without him. The pandemic only exacerbated her feelings of being unmoored and socially disconnected.

Lisa decided to undergo an exercise to clarify her life's priorities, including her place. This process was sponsored by her financial advisor and facilitated by Here. She’s a planner and a natural problem solver. She is financially secure. But she hadn’t given herself permission to think about her next chapter of life. Six weeks later, she emerged with clarity and a plan to move forward.

However, she didn’t jump into the execution of her plan. Instead, she set her plan aside and decided to travel for six months. She decided to live. She could resume life and place planning upon her return.

Lisa struck a balance between planning and living.


Planning, including place planning, is essential but can be quite involved and even overwhelming at times (Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash)


Planning Has an Essential Role

In his recent annual chairman’s letter to the shareholders of Blackrock, Larry Fink, CEO of Blackrock, highlights the importance of planning in the Age of Longevity. He sees retirement as an area that too many of us have not adequately planned for. Too few of us have saved (“nearly half of Americans 55 to 65 have reported not having a single dollar saved in personal retirement accounts”), while those who have saved sufficiently for a longer life often don’t know how to enjoy their savings and are irrationally anxious (“likely sitting on more than enough money for the rest of their lives…yet… only 32% reported feeling comfortable about spending what they saved”).

Larry Fink is right: it has never been more important to plan. Longevity is a gift; however, healthy longevity, including having a life of purpose, social connection, health, and financial security, is at least partially a function of effort and planning. Underinvesting in proper planning may come with meaningful, negative consequences.

In this respect, planning has an essential role. However, endless planning can’t provide complete peace of mind. There’s a limit to what can be anticipated and accounted for. And life does come with at least one certainty: it will end. Unless one derives pleasure from constant planning, excessive devotion to planning can squeeze out the living part of life.

 Traveling can provide a dose of living (Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash


Understand Your Personality and Circumstances

When trying to find the proper balance between planning and living, it is important to get a sense of your personality, including comfort with risk, and circumstances. For couples, it is important to consider your partner’s outlook in addition to your own.

If you are risk-averse and particularly affected by downside situations, erring on the side of planning is important. For example, if not being financially prepared for retirement by age 30 causes anxiety, it is best to work those planning muscles at an early age. Similarly, planning can have real value if your life circumstances provide little cushion if things don’t go as expected. For example, if quality of health care is important, living in a place with access to high-quality health care will be a key requirement and involve proper planning. Life stage matters, too: people later in life may be less able to recover from a sudden change, whether it be financial, relational, etc.

On the other hand, if you are more able to fly by the seat of your pants and don’t have any pressing constraints, there is a role for planning for the future, but it may not be best to dominate your life. In such a situation, you may regret not optimizing living for that chapter of life.

In Lisa’s case, she has a personality that thrives on learning and adventure. She’s resilient and not petrified of minor setbacks. But she also is a solo ager, without a spouse or kids, and needs to appreciate the downside risks of life, particularly without a familiar safety net. Planning is important, but she must also devote energy to living her life.

The book Die with Zero is causing some people to reconsider their spending habits to optimize their current life (Source:


Find Your Proper Balance Between Planning and Living

Finding the proper balance between planning and living is an individual exercise and responsibility. There are countless examples of people erring too much on one side or the other.

At the moment, there seems to be an acknowledgment that planners may have taken planning too far. The recent book Die with Zero makes such a case. More of us should adequately plan for a longer life and the risks that entails but, at the same time, adequately invest in living along the way such that there’s nothing left. While executing such a plan is fraught with challenges, such as handling a myriad of long-tail risks, such as the need for long-term care, the sentiment may be an important one to consider.

Lisa is a case study of how to plan and live well. She invested time and energy and summoned the courage to be honest with herself in her current life chapter. She did the work. She understands the circumstances of her situation, particularly as a solo ager. But she also knows herself and can see the value of taking a break from planning to focus on living. May we all move forward with such wisdom and courage to find the right balance of planning and living while properly accounting for our unique personalities and circumstances. While it is not easy, finding this balance is key to healthy longevity.



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