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Presented by Wes Botto

It’s not uncommon for us to hear the question, “How much do I need to be able to retire?”

Sometimes it is in the first meeting that we are asked this question. Our first response is always to ask A LOT more questions.

See, it’s a well-intentioned question, but what most people are really asking is how much money they need to no longer have to worry about money. The truth is that most people aren’t actually motivated by whatever number is “best” for them to retire comfortably. I know that I’m certainly not!

Personally, I am not motivated to spend more intentionally today so that I have an arbitrary amount of money at an arbitrary age in the future.

I am not going to work harder in my 30’s and 40’s so that I can hit that magic number by my target retirement age.

And I’m a numbers guy – I like spreadsheets and projections. Even if I can get motivated by the numbers in the short run, I have found something that’s more motivating for both myself and my clients.

As human beings, we’re motivated not by an arbitrary number that we’re saving for retirement. We’re motivated by what that number represents: financial security, financial independence, and living a life we love.

When we step away from discussing numbers in a vacuum, we’re more likely to find the real motivation to save more (or less) for retirement.

Painting the Picture for Financial Independence

Instead of using a number to motivate you to save more or spend less, I would suggest that a better motivator is a detailed picture of what you want retirement to look like. I even like to stay away from the term retirement because it means something far different than it did 20 years ago.

The reality is that many of our clients don’t envision the traditional, ceaseless vacation for their retirement that we may have assumed in the past.

Do you really want to sit by the beach sucking down drinks with little paper umbrellas every day for 20 years? Maybe for a little while, but ultimately, that idea of golfing every day and relaxing 24/7 gets old quickly. We need to build a fulfilling retirement lifestyle – one that keeps us sharp and allows us and our partner or spouse to thrive for the long haul.

Instead of planning for “retirement,” let’s start planning for financial independence.

The best motivator for attaining financial independence is a detailed picture of what that will look like for you and your family. What you will find is that when you are saving for more than an arbitrary number or date, when the numbers instead are byproducts of your values, hopes, and dreams – you’re more motivated to do what it takes to achieve that financial goal. You will sacrifice today for that beautiful detailed painting of your future.

How Do You Achieve Financial Independence?

Your first step in achieving financial independence is to stop running the frantic rat race, and take some time to paint a picture of what financial independence means for you.

Financial independence is different for everyone! Your unique picture of a perfect next chapter in life will be different from your best friend, your coworker, and even your financial advisor. The important thing is to dig deeper to uncover what you would love your life to look like if you were completely financially independent.

To get you started, here are some examples of what financial independence has meant for some of our clients:

  • Traveling (be specific – Where will you go? What will you do there?)

  • Funding causes that are important to you, like ministries or other non-profits

  • Annual mission trips overseas

  • Regularly watching the grandkids

  • Building a lake house for the kids & grandkids to enjoy with you regularly

Your second step is to reverse engineer what it would take to get to that picture of an ideal financial independence. This will require:

  • Prioritizing financial goals – what will provide you with the most fulfillment?

  • Understanding the cost associated with those goals

  • Determining the ROI of each of your financial independence goals – will some cost a lot, but provide a very small amount of fulfillment? This question can help you to prioritize.

  • Look at where you are now financially compared with where you’ll need to be to achieve your ideal financial independence – what will it take to get there?

Reverse engineering your finances to get to your goal of financial independence can feel daunting – but it isn’t as complicated as it may seem. When you know your start and end point, determining the steps you need to take to move toward your goals becomes a much clearer process. You may find that some purchases that you previously thought were important are no longer a priority now that you have a detailed picture of where you want to be in the future. Everything you are doing today may not fit in that picture.

Your third and final step is to start implementing! This is where working with a financial advisor can come in handy. If you’re unsure about how to implement a financial strategy to help you reach independence, an advisor can help walk you through what steps to take to help you achieve your biggest, most exciting goals.

Simply saving for retirement isn’t enough to help us live the life we want. It takes time, patience, honesty, and flexibility to make that happen. Take the time to color your savings strategy with more than just numbers. Shade it with your goals, highlight it with your priorities, and tint it with your values.

Stop saving for retirement, and start working towards your most fulfilling future.

It is our goal to help you discover your purpose and give you the tools to live it. Are you ready to re-think your retirement plan? Give us a call and we would love to hear about your unique picture of financial independence.


This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.

Wesley Botto is a financial consultant located at Botto Financial, 4565 East Galbraith Road, Suite B, Cincinnati, OH 45236. He offers  advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, a Registered Investment Adviser. He can be reached at 513.924.3350 or at

© 2019 Commonwealth Financial Network®