By most measures, Ryan Brady had everything going for him. He was gaining notoriety for his Paul McCartney tribute podcast, he was a fast-rising executive at Atlantic Records, released his own album, and had just married. He was brilliant, funny, and even in his success, he remained likable and humble.
My college roommate recently went to meet him in L.A. for breakfast. Ryan pulled up in a white BMW convertible and once parked, chirped the keyless alarm like a hotshot. Knowing my roommate would make fun of him for so unabashedly embracing his own success, Ryan jokingly preempted the razzing with "better make this quick because my secretary is only holding my calls till 9."
If I could buy stock in an individual person, it would have been Ryan. And yet if I could have, that investment wouldn't nearly have reached its potential.
Ryan was tragically killed in a car accident over Thanksgiving.
Facing Your Own Mortality
Anytime you lose someone unexpectedly, you are forced to consider your own mortality. Between Ryan's death and living through the COVID-19 pandemic, my sense of my own impermanence has heightened. I'm sure many of you feel the same. Life is fragile. You can be gone in an instant.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has disrupted all of our lives in one way or another. While the infection fatality ratio (IFR) is fairly low for most populations, the scale of the virus spread and lack of understanding around what contributes to symptom severity leaves us all feeling vulnerable. Nearly every day there are news stories of perfectly healthy 35-year-olds like myself who die of COVID complications. And yet others merely get the sniffles. In all likelihood I would recover well from the virus if I contract it, but what if I don't? These are the questions we are forced to confront.
Recently, I began feeling excited as I mapped out some of my 2021 goals until, like a splash of cold water, I thought to myself, "But I have to survive first or it’s all for nothing." I've never had such a morbid thought. Growing up as a very privileged American, I've always just assumed my survival was a given. If I knew for certain I’d live until 85, I’d be excited about these goals. But if I knew I’d live only until 37, they'd become meaningless.
Financial Planning Under an Uncertain Future
It's important to plan on reaching an average life expectancy and arrange your finances accordingly. However, for many (like my friend, Ryan), they will have done a great deal of planning for a future that never comes.
Financial planning is a never-ending balance between living for today vs. planning for tomorrow. We don’t know what life will bring our way, but it's better to prepare and not have needed, than need and not have prepared.
While we can't escape planning for our futures, we must do so with balance and a reverence for the present moment, for we aren't guaranteed a tomorrow.
Sometimes we need a reality check. The whole year of 2020 was mine. In 2021, while I make plans for the future, my hope is that I never take for granted the present. I hope you'll join me.