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Recommended Reading: Taking Stock by Jordan Grumet

Last year, I read Jordan Grumet’s book Taking Stock: A Hospice Doctor’s Advice on Financial Independence, Building Wealth, and Living a Regret-Free Life. (I initially encountered the book via a Morningstar The Long View podcast episode with Grumet as the guest.)

Grumet’s book made enough of an impression on me that I referenced it in the conclusion of my own book, More Than Enough. And I find that the ideas from his book are coming up more and more often in correspondence with readers, as well as discussions with clients, friends, and family.

As far as the financial advice itself, you won’t be surprised by any of it. And to be clear, I mean that as a compliment. It’s industry-standard, best practice advice — very much along the lines of what you’d expect from a book by Rick Ferri, Christine Benz, Wade Pfau, Allan Roth etc.

Where the book really shines though is in its perspective — because Grumet’s work as a hospice doctor has granted him a perspective that most of us do not have.

One of the critical and most valuable concepts from the book is the idea of conducting a life review. (This is a standard practice in hospice care, but I was unaware of such, as it’s well outside my own field.)

Grumet writes:

There is very little that is enviable about receiving a terminal diagnosis. For many, it is the worst moment in their lives. I have had this conversation over and over again in some of the most agonizing circumstances. Yet, after the initial shock dies down, a much deeper, richer period of self-evaluation and introspection often ensues. We call this process life review.

Life review is a holistic and structured process of evaluating one’s past and present, including events and memories, in an attempt to find meaning in and achieve resolution of one’s life. Often what happens is that a hospice caregiver or chaplain will sit down with a person and ask them to look back at their life.

At the end of the first chapter of the book, Grumet shares the steps for doing a life review on your own, now, rather than waiting until your last days.

Throughout the book, Grumet also shares many lessons that can be taken from other people’s life reviews. There’s a lot to learn from the dying.

Here’s the story for Tony the dishwasher, for instance:

Tony, a retired hospice patient dying of lung cancer, put it best. While conducting a life review, he told his nurse, “I left my long-standing job as a dishwasher at a restaurant to do what?”

His retirement years were spent cooking, cleaning, and—you guessed it—doing his own dishes at home. As death was nearing, he realized that maintaining his social connections at work had been giving his life meaning. But when planning for retirement, he hadn’t considered the importance of those connections. He had become so enamored with the idea of retiring that he failed to realize that “washing dishes is washing dishes.”

It didn’t matter whether he was performing this chore for his boss at the restaurant or at home for himself. While the “work” was the same, his job not only provided a salary but also connected him with people he loved.

In financial planning, we often take it as a given that retirement is the #1 financial goal for a person/household. There’s nothing wrong with such a goal (and in fact I’d argue emphatically that you should plan/save for retirement, even if you love your job), but it’s worth asking in advance: why are you retiring? What’s next? Is that better?

Different schools of thought say different things about what is necessary for a fulfilling life, but three things that come up often are autonomy (you’re in control of our own time), competence (you feel like you’re doing a good job at whatever it is that you do with your time), and relatedness (you have meaningful relationships in your life).

If you’re planning for your retirement right now, do you have a plan for how to meet all three of those needs after you leave your job?

The money decisions are important of course. But it’s critical not to let that be the only part of retirement planning that you engage in.

If you haven’t read Grumet’s book yet, I’d encourage you to do so. My own copy is heavily highlighted. I bet yours will be too.

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