Experiencing Experiences

Posted by: Joseph Kuo | October 1, 2021

We’ve all heard that experiences are worth more than material goods. However, I’ve learned that it’s a bit more complex than that.

“You Can Lose Stuff, But You’ll Always Have Memories”

My father has always valued experiences more than material items. He wanted to give his sons opportunities he didn’t have while growing up. So he started his own business when I was born and subsequently sent my brother and I to live in the US while he focused on growing the business back in Taiwan. As a result of this separation, the times we experienced together when I was younger were few and precious.

He always felt that “you can lose stuff, but you’ll always have memories.” This statement would become even more poignant for him over the years. As his business became successful, he saw that regardless of how much money he made, he could never buy back the experiences he was never able to have with his own father. Therefore, it was that much more important for him to create fun memories with us whenever he could.

On the rare occasions when we had time together, my father would try to do something memorable–whether it be taking us to see a sunrise on a mountain, or spending a day at an amusement park. One thing he especially loved was taking us to restaurants. While growing up, his family subsisted on bland rice and vegetables, so it was especially meaningful when he was able to take us to nicer restaurants.

As I grew up, I gradually absorbed my father’s values and made them my own. I came to enjoy exciting experiences and creating fun memories with friends and loved ones.

Reaching For The (Michelin) Stars

A few years ago, with the idea of seeking exciting experiences in mind, I came up with the idea that I would try and dine at every single Michelin Star restaurant in the Bay Area. At the time, I thought that it would be a good way to combine two meaningful activities for me: experiencing new foods and sharing experiences with my family.

Over the next three years, we dined at many Michelin Star restaurants around the greater Bay Area. All in all, we had a lot of cool experiences. As you would expect, the service was excellent, the food was amazing, and we had a great time meeting and chatting with fellow diners.

But then one day, as we were deciding where to go next, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling as excited any more. I was no longer looking forward to the next dining experience with the same anticipation as I had in the past. Even though we still went and the service continued to be great and the food was still delicious, the experience itself had become a predictable chore. Over time, the restaurant visits had blurred into a continuous stream of dining experiences. Going to them had become an exercise in checking restaurants off a list.

I realized that over time, my initial goal of variety and connection with loved ones was no longer being fulfilled. I was just going through the motions; following a routine that no longer had meaning. In that respect, each restaurant visit became no more fulfilling than the temporary high from the “retail therapy” of a shopping trip. In short, seeking experiences for the sake of having more experiences was fun for a while, but became empty over time.

Experiences That Matter

This story was a very expensive lesson that taught me that it is not enough to simply seek experiences for the sake of experiences. Just because they involve a lot of time and expense doesn’t mean that those experiences will automatically be fulfilling.

Since then, I have learned to value experiences on whether they help me to reach my desired outcomes of having more joy, love, growth, and contribution to others. To truly matter, the experiences I really want are those that add to my life or impact the world and people around me in a meaningful way. By focusing on what I really want, I get to be flexible with my strategy.

It is also important to review my intentions and renew my values periodically. An experience that is fulfilling now might not be fulfilling in the future. Perhaps a goal I previously set has served its purpose and it’s now time for me to do something different. Or perhaps as I grow and change, I will find better ways of achieving what’s important.

Bringing Perspective to Financial Planning

This experience has also helped to develop my personal approach to financial planning. As a planner, I emphasize that it’s absolutely essential to know your personal goals and what is personally significant to you. Just because wealth is accumulated and spent in large amounts doesn’t necessarily mean that it will meaningfully impact lives.

I have some clients who have a good idea on what they want, and some clients who come to me needing help in uncovering what they want. In the latter case, I work closely with them to help them uncover their goals. In the process we may even uncover goals they didn’t realize they could attain.

Once we have determined where my client is, where they want to be, and how they want to get there, I help them create a plan to use their wealth as a resource to take them there. As a fiduciary acting in my clients’ best interests, I will make sure the plan is carried out, provide a higher-level perspective for my clients, and be constantly on the lookout for ways to improve their financial standing. As they grow and advance their careers and their situation changes, I will periodically review things with them to see if they’re on track, or if we should update their personalized plans and goals.

P.S. And yes, I can also provide guidance on Bay Area Michelin restaurants!


If you'd like to work with an experienced financial planner on a plan to realize your life's goals, contact me via email at joseph@abundancewp.com, or schedule a meeting by clicking the button below:

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