Pondering Life With Your 401k Professional

Several years ago I made an interesting discovery:  I like magazines.

Allison and I were flying to Tampa, and I really didn’t want to start reading an entire book, so I picked up a copy of Time Magazine, the August, 2014 edition.  Great magazine – still sits on the filing cabinet beside me.

I loved it.  I read the whole thing.  There was something comforting about having real, printed paper in my hands as opposed to a digital screen.  The craftsmanship that went into this publication was so far above the mixed bag of nuts you find on an internet website.  It was really good.

After church last Sunday evening, my family drove to town to grab some dinner. 1843 While my wife and kids picked up some food, I went shopping for a magazine.

I made a mistake.

I thought I was buying The Economist.  What I ended up with was 1843, a spin-off of The Economist.  It even said “The Economist” right at the top!  I thought the “1843” was just some historic thing they were doing.  A cruel trick…

I’m not going to review 1843 directly, but the fact that I’m writing about the advertisements inside the magazine rather than the magazine itself pretty much betrays my lack of interest.  Not that I have
anything against “The Fine Art of Millinery” (hat-making – I had to google it).  It’s just that my idea of a good hat is a red one with a white “C” on the front.  I’m not exactly a connoisseur of stylish things.

By the time I realized my error it was too late.  I had already purchased a magazine that contained absolutely nothing remotely interesting inside.  But never one to admit defeat, I began to flip through the pages more carefully, looking for anything redeemable.  And that’s when I found these:

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These advertisements were everywhere.  I must say, in a magazine that dedicated significant real-estate to the topic of “Pouring money down the fine-wine drain”, these metaphysical questions seemed somewhat out of place.

“How do we pass on our values?” That’s the question posed to us under the image of a middle-aged mother with her young child.

“Am I good father?” asks the businessman in his high-rise office overlooking the city.

“Can I truly make a difference?” asks the woman who, for some reason, seems to have driven her sedan into the middle of a lettuce field.

There were about five of these full-page advertisements in 1843, drawing the reader in and climaxing in one, final ad.  It was a white page near the end of the magazine with big, black font that read:  “For some of life’s questions, you’re not alone.  Together we can find an answer. – UBS”

Huh? UBS…the financial planning company?!

Now, if it’s not immediately apparent to you how a financial planning company is going to help you figure out if you’re a good dad, then you’re not alone!  I, too, was somewhat bewildered at the thought of calling my financial adviser (assuming I had one) and saying, “Hi, Jeremy…can you tell me how to pass on my values to my children?”

I can almost hear him reply:  “Sure.  We’re going to begin with a diversified investment in the S&P 500.”

That oughta’ keep those kids on the straight and narrow!

Now, I am not against sound financial planning.  But does anyone else think that UBS – an investment company – might be overplaying their hand a bit?  How is my financial planner (assuming I hired one) going to know if I’m a good father?  How is he going to help me pass on my Christian values?  How is he going to help me “truly make a difference”?

Please…spare me any attempts at answering these ridiculous questions.  He’s not.  Because these questions cannot be answered with financial planning.  Period.

Now, if we ask, “How can I leave something behind for my children?” or, “How can I give money to a charity that represents my values,” then possibly a financial planner might help.  And I’m sure that’s what UBS has in mind.  I certainly HOPE that’s what UBS has in mind…

But these advertisements are trying to tap into something much deeper than these surface problems.  Each question acknowledges an inadequacy: I haven’t passed on my values; I’m not a great dad; my life hasn’t amounted to much.

Now, whether or not you can relate specifically to those problems is really beside the point.  We all have serious areas of life where we feel as though we’ve failed.  These admissions are hard for us, and from time to time we stop to think about what might be done to address them.

  • I didn’t love my children like I should have.
  • I really blew the majority of my career.
  • I have disappointed the people that I love.
  • I shouldn’t have quit _________.

You get the point.

The real question here is, “How do we deal with the reality of our own shortcomings?”

They’re right in front of our faces, so there’s no point in denying them.  We have tried.  We have failed.  “To err is human…”  What now?

Well – we can either call UBS and see if there’s a mutual fund out there for lousy fathers, or…we could ask God for help.

I advise the latter – which might lead a Christian to pray like this:

“Father, I want to be a better father to my own children.  Can you help me?”

What might happen if we prayed such a prayer?

Well, God, in His mercy, might show us our own sin and selfishness, our laziness and neglect, our careless words and our inexcusable tempers.  He might show us the places where our sin crushes our parenting.

And we might read from His word about the transformation that comes when a Christian begins to think differently about life and the world around him.  We might start working – making an effort – to see the world through the eyes of Jesus.

According to the Apostle Paul who wrote, “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds (Romans 12:2),” this new, Spirit-filled view of life might actually begin to change the way we live…the way we approach our responsibilities as fathers.

Through prayer and the accountability of Christian fellowship, through confession to Christian brothers and a strong desire to repent, we might actually become men who are worth looking up to.

And as our children observe in us a life very different from the self-centered, ungodliness that used to be so common, then maybe they would begin to see qualities worthy of admiration.  Perhaps they would listen to our words of counsel, spoken with humble tenderness from a gentle spirit.  Perhaps these words, flowing from the love of Jesus in our hearts, would ring truer to them than the callous and foolish ramblings of the ogres we used to be.

And maybe, if the Lord so blesses, a younger generation might come to respect the way their parents have lived for Jesus.  And our values would be passed on.

Perhaps, one day as we lay in our hospital beds with the shadow of death hanging over us, the measure of our lives will be weighed in something other than dollars and cents.  Just maybe, when that day comes, godly children, thriving churches, and service to others will be worth a great deal more to us than our 401k’s.

And maybe, then, we’ll look death in the face with boldness, knowing that the presence of Jesus awaits – confident that we will hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Lord. (Matthew 25:21)”

And closing our eyes to the pain of the world, we might open them to the joy of another.  In that eternal kingdom, the Lord will reward the many good things we did on the earth, things for which this present world would not pay a penny.

Gathered there with the family of God we will see the impact that our lives had upon those whom we loved, and we will take joy in knowing that our lives truly made a difference.

I don’t know if you’ll get those kind of answers when you call UBS, but if you want my advice, take your questions to God.  He’s got a plan for your future peace and security that’s worth buying into.