I came across a Facebook post recently that asked what two words of advice would you give to your younger self if you had the chance. Some of the responses I saw were things like, “Dream Big,” or “School, School,” but my choice would be “Deferred Compensation.” I don’t necessarily mean putting more money into a formal deferred compensation program at a young age, although that would be very good advice. I was thinking more broadly about the concept of doing things today with your future self in mind.
Investing in others is usually a form of deferred compensation because you may wait a long time to be repaid in kind by the person you served, but you will almost certainly receive future benefits. I recently visited an aging aunt and uncle in Ohio who loved children but were never able to have any of their own. They showed great love to all their nieces and nephews, while very nearly adopting two who lived nearby. Now that my aunt and uncle are in an assisted living facility, it is the niece they lavished with love who looks after their interests and visits them regularly. Those of us who live farther away visit when we can and try in small ways to return the love we received throughout our lives.
When I consider what brings me the greatest satisfaction in life today, I always come back to family, friends, and the independence I have to enjoy them. I have written many times about our holiday celebrations, the grandchildren’s plays or sports events, and the many chances I’ve had to travel with my wife. Last week, we joined all my children and their spouses plus my wife’s parents in attending an event my oldest son organized in Salem. This week, we will travel to Portland to have dinner with good friends. These opportunities are, for me, the compensation for a lifetime of investing in relationships.
Lately I have fallen short of my running goals, and I haven’t been getting as much exercise as I need. Fortunately, my long-term investment in fitness paid off when I had the chance to take extended hikes through historic sites in Jordan in August. A good friend of mine inspired me to start running about 20 years ago as a means to stay in shape for mountain climbing. I’m not sure I imagined then what all those miles might allow me to do as an older person.
All of this advice really boils down to a few simple concepts related to deferred compensation. I have been lucky (so far) that most of my investments have shown a good return, but I could have done better if I had more actively heeded the following advice when I was younger: 1) Invest in someone other than yourself whenever you get the chance; 2) Exercise regularly and eat healthy food; and 3) Put as much money as you can as early as you can into some form of savings that appreciates over time. I often fail to live up to my own advice, and I know each of us has our own ideas about what is most important in life. My suggestions to my younger self represent the ideas I should have given more respect if I had known then what I know now.