What’s the most important asset?

As an early retiree, I got a lot of time to do day dreaming and self reflections.  Lately I keep asking myself: “What’s the most important asset to me?”

Is it money, or something else?

In my case, money is NOT the most important asset.

Obviously, money is important.  Without it, I wouldn’t be able to retire early.  Money makes it possible for me to have the basics I need: food, clothes, shelter, and transportation.

Money brings me material comfort, and joy.  I love money.  But, it also causes me worry, and stress.  Do I have enough that will last for the rest of my life?  Can I have more?  It may never be enough.  Sometimes chasing money is like chasing a mirage.  The insatiable hunger is always there.

First – Health:

The most important asset to me is Health.  Good health is priceless.  I wouldn’t trade it, period.

Many of us, including myself, take the good health for granted.

When considering our own assets, we’ll list the house equity, 401K, other stocks and mutual funds, cars, etc.  How many of us will include Good Health?

A couple of years ago, I had a neighbor, a very nice couple.  Their 2-year old boy was sick, and had to stay at the hospital for several days.  After the boy was released, we talked.  After seeing so many young kids ill and bedridden at the hospital, they told me what a big blessing to be healthy.  That’s really true.

Let me count the blessings of being healthy:

  • To be able to SEE kids playing, people smiling, flowers blooming …
  • To be able to HEAR the beautiful sound (and the ugly ones like the car honks, or people yelling), and TALK with people.
  • To be able to WALK and RUN. Remember, many people are not that lucky, and are on the wheelchairs, or using walkers/canes due to health issues.
  • To be able to DO things using the hands and mind.
  • To be able to REMEMBER things: who we are, who the family and friends are, the childhood, schools, etc.
  • On and on …

Is it great to be healthy?  Absolutely.  If you have it, you are super lucky, and rich.  Appreciate it, and try not to take it for granted.  The truth of the matter is: it could suddenly go away without any notice.  We know it, and we saw it.

Personal Safety:

The second important asset to me is Personal Safety.  Probably, this only pops up in our head, when hearing about the natural disaster, terrorist attacks, traffic or airplane accidents, crimes or violence.

I’m a news junkie.  Influenced by those news channels, I feel this world is not that safe anymore.  Risks are everywhere.  And personal safety becomes precious.

At the end of each day, it is really wonderful to see ourselves and the loved ones coming home safe and sound.

Personal Freedom:

The third is the Personal Freedom.  Some might question:  is freedom really an asset?  I think so.  Let me explain why.

Look at those prisoners.  They have to follow the rigid schedule to eat, exercise, work, and sleep.  No privacy, no choices.  Their world is so limited within the barb wire fenced walls.

Not all of them are career criminals.  Some smart people made one-time stupid mistakes, and ended up there for years.  And some even didn’t do anything wrong, and were incarcerated wrongly or for political reasons.  It’s not that hard to lose the freedom, right?

Sometimes, when I wake up, my first thought is:  how lucky I am, I’m free!  I can go anywhere, and do anything, as long as the laws allow.  Though I never went to prison, I’m sure the life there is not fun.  That’s not a place I look forward to experiencing, never.

My final thought:

Another is happiness, or life satisfaction. Some may call it life contentment, or wellbeing.  I won’t dig into the details, as I’m not a psychologist.

In summary, I try to put my assets into a pie chart.  All the 5 components are essential to me.  I wouldn’t be able to live a good life if any is missing.  And they are inter-related.

This pie chart does not show any dollar value.  The percentage means how important each component is to my life, assuming the whole importance of my life is 100%.

I hope this chart is clear enough to make the point.  Most probably, I’m comparing apples with oranges.  Hey, I used to be an engineer.  Some engineers enjoy living in the vacuum, mumbling the jargon, and manipulating the numbers.  They may never realize that, the numbers may not make any sense at the very beginning.  And that’s me.

What is the most important asset to you?

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23 Responses

  1. Joe says:

    I like the pie chart! Health is #1 for me too. It’s much more difficult to enjoy life if you’re not healthy. I suppose we all adapt, but I prefer being relatively healthy.
    I think most of us take personal safety for granted in the US. It’s pretty safe here. This would be a lot more important if I live in a more dangerous area.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Joe, yeah, good health is very important. Sometimes we don’t realize it until one day we have health issues. For safety, for some reason, I don’t feel that safe in this country. Probably I paid too much attention to those negative news, and I’m worried what if it happens to me.

  2. Steve says:

    Hi Helen, excellent post.
    Health! Mental and physical is the most important to me. Living in Canada I feel safe and personal freedom isn’t an issue. (I have never been in jail) Happiness for me is a byproduct of health, money, freedom, and personal safety.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Hi Steve, yes, health is the key. I noticed, over the last 10 years, I became more conscious about health. As I grew up in China, and experienced the Cultural Revolution, the personal freedom seems so precious to me. You are right, happiness is not alone. It needs the foundations to support it.

  3. GYM says:

    Love this post, excellent pie chart 🙂 Yes, health is soooo important and I think it is certainly something that we take for granted in our youth. Freedom is something that is so important too but it is something that Canadians and US (people who grew up here) is something that we take for granted too.

    Thanks for the reminder to enjoy the day and be grateful 🙂

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      GYM, thank you. aging and health is one of the popular topics among my college classmates. Year by year, we realized the memory was not what it used to be. The hard reality of aging gradually sinks in.

      Regarding freedom, I feel very lucky choosing to live in US. Freedom is not something money could buy.

  4. Hi Helen, I echo your first point on health and second on safety. They are impossible to argue with. I tell my wife that everyday we wake up, feel good and get through the day safely anything else that happens that day is trivial. Tom

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Tom, that’s really true. Safety and health are very precious. Sometimes we get sidetracked by those minor nuisances, and forget how lucky we are overall. Enjoy the day!

  5. Hi Helen, really like your message here, resonates with me 100%. I try to focus on these key assets above money, but love you’ve put these ‘intangible’ assets into a pie chart!

    The other big one that would be in my pie chart is relationships – life isn’t much fun without other people, especially those you share your love and joy with 🙂

    Cheers, Frankie

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Frankie. Good point. Relationships are very important. Families, and friends make our life more enjoyable. They are the ones we can count on, good times and bad times.

      I realized money pretty much dominates our daily life, which really shouldn’t. The pie chart, kind of cheat chart, helps me to focus on what I have, instead of what I don’t have, as money is just never enough. Have a great weekend.

      – Helen

  6. I agree that health, safety , and freedoms are great assets that we do not always remember as we hustle through life. Some are very healthy but would be willing to give it all away in exchange for good health. Good reminder on what matters in life! Cheers.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Enoch, thanks a lot for stopping by. Yeah, sometimes life becomes so hectic, that we get distracted, and forget what matters the most. As people are aging, I guess the health becomes more and more important. It directly impacts the quality of life everyday. Cheers.

  7. I think for me Health is #1 because if you don’t have that you don’t have much. You have to feel good when you’re ready to retire at 40 or 50 or whatever to take advantage of that. It’s important to eat well, stay safe and exercise.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      You are right. Health is the foundation. Retiring early is nice. But it will be compromised without a good health. It’s a good idea to eat well, and work out. Sometimes health and safety has luck involved as well. Thanks for sharing your thought.
      – Helen

  8. Ken says:

    Hi Helen,
    It’s a bit like what do you want to buy. In my case this was always free time. Early in my adult life (back in 1981) I worked full time for 9 weeks in a factory. I decided I’d try not to have to have a full time job again, preferring the time to choose to do what I wanted over the $$. 37 years later I think I’m going to get away with it.
    cheers from NZ

    • Ken says:

      PS It’s all backed up with good health and the ability to live in a wonderful safe part of the world.

      • Retire Early Helen says:

        Hi Ken, that’s really true. Good health is a big asset. A safe place to live is a blessing. Free time means choices, and freedom. After working full time, there is really not much free time left at the end of the day. That’s the reality most of the people have to face. Cheers.
        – Helen

  9. Love the pie chart, Helen. Ultimately, all 5 are important factors though every one of us would probably assign different weightage to each factor, and this weightage will also change with time as we gain both wealth and wisdom.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Thanks for sharing your thought. I just tried to translate the thoughts into a pie. You are right, every one’s priority is different. Good point, it could change as time goes on. I guess, for multi-billionaires, probably money is off the chart, they care more about health?

  10. Time!
    Don’t forget Time, whatever amount we have in life, it is most precious as well!

  11. Helen, this is a great chart! I love the segmentation. I would think that perhaps the chats might shift a little overtime. At a certain age, we might value one thing more than another but I think it’s great to have it in a graphic.

    • Retire Early Helen says:

      Thank you, Kate. Very good point. I imagine, 20 years later when I’m in early 70s, I would probably put more weight to Health and Happiness, and much less to Money. Time does change perspective, I guess.

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