Personal Finance column: Retirement is time to engage and unleash your daemon |

Personal Finance column: Retirement is time to engage and unleash your daemon

Danielle Howard

In David Brooks’ “The Second Mountain – A Quest for a Moral life,” he writes about the daemon. “A daemon is a calling, an obsession, a source of lasting and sometimes manic energy. The daemon identifies itself as an obsessive interest, a feeling of being at home at a certain sort of place, doing a certain activity. There’s often some core issue that obsesses a person, and they scratch at it for their entire lives.” He talks about “leading the kind of life that keeps your heart and soul awake every day.” There is a beauty in that it is found deep within one’s psyche and is profoundly different for everyone.

Brooks continues: “You are trying to find that tension or problem that arouses great waves of moral, spiritual and relational energy.”

If you are blessed to find your daemon early in life, your life has been not without struggle, but has been more fulfilling.

The seeds of my daemon were planted early and have been pruned, cultivated and honed over time. Anyone who has known me for more than 25 years, knows that I have had a stewardship perspective on finances — unwaivering. That everything around money — how we earn it, share it, save, invest, protect and spend it — needs to be based on the premise that it is not ours in the first place. We have been entrusted with the gifts and talents of earning it. Money is a tool to be used wisely. We then have responsibilities in how we give, save, invest, protect and spend it throughout our lives. There is so much that is broken in how we handle money and so much room for healing and growth. As I head toward my fall season of life, it is the opportunity to walk alongside people in “doing their dollars differently” that stirs my soul and keeps me fired up.

Distorted Lines in the Sand

Retirement. The financial services industry and the media tout us to build up those buckets of money in order to reach that perceived finish line. Have we as a society lost touch with our daemons because of an excessive economic perspective? Moving away from work and into the life of personal ease has been the traditional trajectory, but is it the path that will lead to better relationships, communities or impact our world for the better?

Fierce Commitments

Having financial resources is not about having the freedom from something — the absence of restraint. It is about having the freedom to do something meaningful. What sets your heart on fire?

We will find greater fulfillment in life when we look at using our financial and character resources to facilitate living out what Brooks calls “fierce commitments.” It is much more than pursuing materialistic pleasures and pastimes. There is a paradox in our privilege. For perspective check out “When we are well-off, we chase temporary pleasures that actually draw us apart. We use our wealth to buy big houses with big yards that separate us and make us lonely.” The four areas of fierce commitments noted in the book are vocation, marriage, philosophy and faith and community.

I have been encouraged and convicted by this book. I want to build on my wins, do the necessary soul searching in areas that I desire to change, and keep climbing. I will make sure my financial decisions bolster my fierce commitments and sustain my daemons.

Danielle Howard is a CFP® and CKA® with Wealth By Design LLC in Basalt. Check out her retirement podcasts and blogs at

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