As I get older, I spend more time reflecting on my life—on the right choices I've made and the regrets about the wrong decisions I could have avoided.
This reflection often takes me back to the innocence and ignorance of my youth, and the things I could have done differently, knowing what I know now. How deeply I wish someone at that time had guided me to the ideas that would have helped me to have fewer regrets now.
So I’ll try to reach out here with a reminder, and a few tips, that will hopefully help reduce the percentage of your regrets in those later years:
1. Know yourself—then Plan for your Economic Needs
To have a plan or a goal, one has to know for whom they are planning. When we plan for ourselves, we should first understand who we are—and ask ourselves: What is the purpose of our lives?
After answering that fundamental question, you’ll need to find the answer to a second big question: What do I want? Examining who you are will help you answer what you want.
What we want applies not just to our spiritual needs and aspirations—it means deciding the financial needs we require to live a fulfilling life. Contrary to popular opinion, that you can never have too much money, many people accumulate wealth that is thousands of times more than their needs. They spend all their energies to get more, while the spiritual elements of life pass them by due to their preoccupation with gathering and managing wealth. Can you imagine a sadder tragedy when we know we do not live on this Earth forever, and our days are numbered? The Baha’i teachings advise me to:
“Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, thy heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified, so that, free and content, thou mayest put away this mortal frame, and repair unto the mystic paradise and abide in the eternal kingdom for evermore.” – Baha’u’llah
2. Make Sound Financial Plan, Spiritually
With the pressure of the world's many problems weighing on us, we all need guidance—both financial and spiritual. People are looking everywhere to find the solutions to problems that have baffled them and have made the experts confused and helpless, too. When we recognize that financial planning is not just a material consideration but needs to take into account our moral and spiritual values, we can then plan for financial goals that not only support our physical existence but smooth the path of spiritual growth. Do our financial goals support our belief system? Do they reflect integrity and honesty? Do they take into consideration the welfare of others?
3. Plan not Only for yourself but for the Poor
We live in a world with extremes of wealth and poverty. We can all contribute to eliminating this problem by reaching out to others less fortunate and easing their load. This changes our outlook and gives the mind and soul a sense of peace. Reducing the sufferings of the poor may seem a small task, and yet every day, more and more people are becoming poor, destitute and homeless. Why? Because not enough people plan beyond their self-interests and do something about the plight of the poor.
In our next journey, none of us will need money. The material world dies the moment we die. The only reality left at that point is the inner spiritual qualities we have been able to gain through our hard work, meditation, service and sacrifice.
That's the essence of real planning for the future—not only making sure we have sufficient material resources for retirement, but making sure you have the spiritual resources you'll need for your eternal existence. How sad to reach the end of our physical journey and realize that we have not accumulated enough for the next world because we were distracted, overwhelmed and obsessed by the material world and forgot to put away something for our spiritual journey.
Badi Shams is a Baha’i and a mystic at heart whose field of interest is in economics. He has published a compilation "Economics of the Future", and also more recently the book "Economics of the Future Begins Today". He is retired from the educational system. You can read more of Badi's materials on his website www.badishams.ne