Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. Never for forever.

He SHOOTS…He SCORES!! Again and again and again …

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My 17 year-old son just went out of his way to make me look bad. Those of you with children – especially children of the teenage variety – will understand.

I’ve been his hockey coach for most of his life. In the early years, I was there to help him get his gear on correctly and tie his skates. I’d get him to the rink on time. I’m the sucker that would buy him so many hockey sticks that I should have just arranged a monthly payment plan with the sports store. As he grew, I stuck my neck out and invited him to come out and play with “the grown-ups”, even when he was a lot smaller and not as fast or strong as the rest of us. As is the habit with children, his size – not to mention his ability – has expanded and I’ve swiped the card untold numbers of times over the years to make sure that he continued to be well protected in properly fitted equipment.

And after all that, what thanks do I get?

Two days ago, he deliberately negotiated being assigned to the team opposing me for the sole purpose of making his goalie-dad look bad. And he was quite successful at it, in case you were wondering.

playing hockeyThat day marked the end of an era for our father-son relationship. You see, my son is now about 6’2”, 205 lbs and an accomplished athlete getting ready to leave for college in another week. After many years of playing hockey together, coaching him or being in the stands watching his competitive midget team play in various rinks around the province, we played our last game together… and he wanted to put an exclamation mark on his swan song by scoring as many goals on me as possible (I believe he potted 4 before the massacre had ended).

The next time he steps on the ice, it will be with his college teammates half a country away, and this got me thinking of the stages of life that we go through. If you haven’t already, most of us will face the reality of moving through a series of fairly predictable – and sometimes anticipated – life-stages as people (parents, spouses, children) come in and out of our lives. I have the good fortune of being reminded by my wife some years ago that the time we have with our kids is not forever, and that we need to make the most of NOW. And I could see this day approaching.

I wonder how many of us will reach a future life-stage wishing we had made past decisions through a telescope rather than a microscope?

While my wife and I will miss having our sons around the house – my oldest has been at university now for 2 years already – our bank account will celebrate as we enter the stage that financial people would highlight as our “prime accumulation years”. The simple fact that these stages have names attached to them should tell us that they are predictable and common-place, and that we are wise to ready ourselves for whatever stage is on our horizon.

Some aspects of our lives are linear. We get out of school, get a job (hopefully) and embark on independent living for the first time. Most will enter into a committed relationship once their career is underway, and start to forge a life arm-in-arm with another. Children often enter the picture at some point, and the parents wonder where all their money is going (assuming they survive the chronic fatigue that comes with the young family stage). Then, we are funding our children’s hobbies and activities…and we are still wondering where all our money has gone! You get the idea…

I wonder how many of us will reach a future life-stage wishing we had made past decisions through a telescope rather than a microscope.

I remember as a young advisor explaining to people that the financial instrument I was recommending, especially in the case of permanent life insurance, would serve multiple purposes. I offered the perspective that the same insurance that they purchased today to protect their young family would be there to protect their estate as they neared the end of their life journey. It’s only through the lens of almost 3 decades of financial planning experience that I can attest to the wisdom of that advice.

When we make our decisions (financial, relational, career…you name it) through a microscope, we focus solely on the here and now. What are we feeling emotionally, financially, relationally at that particular moment, thinking that life as we know it in that moment (or life-stage) is the way it will always be.

But we know that’s not an accurate view of the world or our lives. Circumstances change, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, but never for forever. If we choose to make our decisions through a telescope, we force ourselves to look beyond the visible horizon to consider what the yet-unseen future may have in store. Admittedly, it’s hard to think as an empty nester while you’re changing a little one’s diaper, so this is where consulting with a qualified advisor can be a real help. His or her experience in helping clients who are farther around the track than you can give you an early glimpse into what your situation and priorities may be in the decades ahead. Fore-warned is fore-armed.

My final suggestion would be to ask of yourself two questions:

1. What’s the best imaginable outcome to this situation?

2. What is the first step that I can take TODAY that will move me closer to that best outcome?

So, the next time you’re facing a high-impact decision, don’t forget to have a look through the telescope before settling the matter. It’ll impact how you save money, take care of yourself and treat others. And the next time your teenager seizes the opportunity to show you up on the hockey rink, soccer pitch or wherever, remember…you knew it would come to this.

  • Ryan Wood
    Aug 23 2012

    Great article Rick! Scary to think how quickly they grow up!