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Your Quality of Life :: Client Experience :: THE RETIREMENT SOURCE®
Your Quality of Life

What Does Quality of Life Mean To You?

The phrase "quality of life" means different things to different people. The medical and eldercare professions use it to mean one thing while financial services people use it to mean quite another.

Since it is the focal point of the S-T-A-R-S System for Retirement SuccessSM, we need to explain how we use it. The first point to understand is that lifestyle and quality of life have very different meanings. Lifestyle has to do primarily with the kind of home you live in, the kind of cars you drive, the clubs you belong to and where you go on vacation. In short, it is tightly intertwined with how you deploy your financial resources. But, we all know that happiness does not necessarily correlate well with lifestyle. That is the much broader concept, which we call quality of life. It is the difference between living the "good life" and living life well. To avoid confusion, whenever we use the phrase quality of life in this broader sense, I always italicize it.

Of course lifestyle is a significant part of it, but quality of life is about all those things you enjoy and all those things that are important to you. It comprises your health, wellness, freedom from stress and a joy of living. It includes many intangibles such as your personal values, feelings of esteem and dignity. These are the qualities beyond any price that make you uniquely you: your belief system, the charities you support, your relationships and family traditions.

As you grow older, these are typically the completion things that become especially important to you. It is likely that you will want to leave your heirs more than just a residue of money. That is, you may have a desire to share your quality of life by leaving something of yourself and your personal values to show that it did, in fact, make some kind of difference that you once trod this earth.

This is what we call Personal Values-Based Estate Planning (we prefer Succession and Legacy Planning). The S-T-A-R-S System for Retirement SuccessSM uses specially developed tools and techniques to help clients consider planning options and strategies for their legal advisors to consider.

Focus is Important Too

One of the great hazards in financial planning is that it is far too easy to get caught up in the details of a single task such as a particular tax or investment strategy. This often leads to losing sight of the overall, long-term goal. The result can be making bad decisions for "good" reasons. In truth, every decision involves trade-offs whether you are trading potential risk for potential reward, or current income for future benefit.

Yes, it is important to take good care of our "trees", but we should never forget how each one fits into our planning "forest". If we always challenge each decision as to its fit into our quality of life goals, we are much more likely to maintain the integrity of our overall strategy and to turn our plans into a self-fulfilling prophecy.


It would be foolish to consider a concept such as the S-T-A-R-S System for Retirement SuccessSM without some discussion of what constitutes "success". The problem with the word is that it is often measured by standards and set up on terms laid down by someone other than yourself. In many cases the idea of success is either some arbitrary target or some competitive activity such as having a million dollars or making more money than anybody on your block. These are not necessarily bad, but they tend to make success either something remote or simply a one-shot deal.

The definition we use in the S-T-A-R-S System for Retirement SuccessSM is one attributed to the philosopher Will James:

"Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal."

All our planning work is built around this definition because:

  • It puts you in charge.
  • It is non-competitive.
  • It can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you adopt this definition and take as your "worthy ideal" the concept of building and preserving quality of life now and into future generations, you can form a solid foundation for personal values-based planning.

Do you think you could win if you got to make the rules
and you got to keep score and you got to referee?

Let’s hope so! Under this definition, that is exactly what happens. Success then is not some arbitrary, pie-in-the-sky notion that depends upon what other people think. It can be a daily occurrence that depends totally upon you. All you have to do is make some small, baby step of progress toward your worthy ideal and you are being successful. Success is a great motivator because it feels good and it propels you to take another step, then another.

Success is Habit Forming

As the S-T-A-R-S System for Retirement SuccessSM graphic shows, all planning is focused on building and preserving your family’s quality of life. No doubt it is important to deal effectively with each planning point, but always with the understanding that all points are interrelated. None can be considered as standing alone. The test of the effectiveness of all planning becomes the degree to which it enhances your control over all aspects of your family’s quality of life. That is, it shows progress towards achieving your personal worthy ideal. In other words, it succeeds. Keep this definition in mind when you consider each point of the S-T-A-R-S System for Retirement SuccessSM.

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