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What is more important: having money left over when you die, or knowing that your life meant something?

I meet with people every day to discuss their money and how to best preserve their assets. Many of us spend our careers focusing on people’s money. Most people do not have a plan to use all of their money during their lives. Many die with a lot left over.

My question is whether or not the time and effort spent on the pursuit and preservation of money will have been worth it at the end of our lives. Society tells us to value money, so we think it will have meaning at the end.

The question can be asked: How much time do we spend on activities that will not satisfy us in the end? Perhaps we are going to the apple orchard to satisfy our hunger for an orange.

What do my clients say they regret most at the end of their lives?

They regret not having lived for themselves.

They regret not doing the things that were in their heart.

The regret not singing their own song. That may be where their true wealth exists. But it won’t show up on their monthly statement.

Do you know about the “Golden Buddha”?

The Golden Buddha was covered with layers of “stuff,” so no one could see that he was made of gold. I don’t know if he even remembered that he was gold underneath, because no one recognized him.

We are all Golden Buddhas.

Our gold is inside, but we spend our lives pretending that we are all of the things we have covered ourselves with: our money, our career, our youthful bodies.

At the end of our lives, perhaps for the first time, the “stuff” we have covered ourselves with may be taken away. First, we are no longer defined by our occupation. Then, we may no longer be a husband or a wife. Our body may be failing.

Why wait until the end of our lives to realize that our real wealth is inside?

When I think about looking back at my life,

When I can no longer change the way it turned out,

I don’t want to ask for a do-over, because I was searching for a fool’s gold all along.