That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I’d just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I’d just run across the great state of Alabama. And that’s what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going. I ran clear to the ocean. And when I got there, I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well turn around, just keep on going. When I got to another ocean, I figured, since I’d gone this far, I might as well just turn back, keep right on going. – Forrest Gump

Imagine racers lining up for a race without a clear finish line.  Is it a sprint or a marathon or somewhere in between?  Knowing the distance of the race is a must for knowing how hard to run, and also when to stop running.  No one (not even Forrest Gump) can run forever.  We can’t physically do it and it’s an exercise in futility more than anything else. 

In the same fashion, we all need a financial finish line.  What’s a financial finish line?  Simply put, it’s the point when you no long need to accumulate any more.  At this point, you are working because you want to or are called to.  You might be retired, or might not be, but your finish line defines how much should be enough.

Have you considered setting your own finish line? Most of us don’t give it much thought, but here are four big reasons that you should identify your own finish line:

A Finish Line Gives Us Direction

Without a finish line, we won’t know how much we need to be accumulating, how fast to be “running”, and most importantly, when we’ll ever get there.  America screams at us that more is always better.  So we just continually aim for “more”, which is a moving target that we can never hit.

We can’t answer the question “Am I on pace?” without first answering the question “On pace for what?” 

We also could be running in the wrong direction if we’re not careful. If you start on a journey from Charlotte to Los Angeles, and are off course by just three degrees, you’ll wind up in Portland by accident.

Heading in slightly the wrong direction over a long period of time can have devastating effects. A finish line keeps your eyes on where you’re going so that you don’t get too far off course.

A Finish Line Lets Us Know When We Reach the End

What’s the best part of a race? It’s the finish line of course!  The feeling of crossing the line, giving yourself the gift of going from a run to a walk, letting yourself catch your breath. 

Without a financial finish line, you might live in continual anxiety that you’ll never reach your destination. When John D. Rockafeller was once asked, “How much money is enough?” He replied, “A little more.”

Simply put, a financial finish line is a gift that you can’t afford not to give yourself.

A Finish Line Keeps Us From Running Up the Scoreboard

Without a defined finish line, we’ll be tempted to just pile up more and more money.  On one hand there seems to be a necessity for this, because there will never be enough to safeguard against all the potential things that could go wrong.  What if we have another 2008?  What if I live longer than I think and need extended nursing care?  What if there’s cyber attacks or global wars or fill-in-the-blank?

So we save more and more, and assume the worst a lot of the time.  But what we’re really assuming is that God won’t provide for me.  We know that he feeds the birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the field, but prudence would say to not ever take our foot off the gas just in case.

A Finish Line Fosters Contentment

Perhaps the best part of a financial finish line is that it enables us to experience true contentment.  It forces us to commit to a certain lifestyle.  In the face of a never-satisfied culture, a finish line shouts “enough!”.  It’s a declaration that I don’t need more in order to be happy and frees us up from the temptation to hoard and rely on our assets rather than on God.

Contentment will never come from accumulating more, but only from desiring less.  It won’t be obtained when you reach the finish line, but only by deciding that you have a finish line.  For when we decide that there is an end to accumulating, we define an “enough” amount.

How to Set a Financial Finish Line

So how do we go about setting a financial finish line?  While we can’t know exactly how much it will cost to fund the rest of our lives, we can work off of relative probabilities and assumptions and give enough margin for error. 

A good financial plan should give you a target nest egg to be shooting for factoring in these variables and assumptions.  That target nest egg can tell you not only where the finish line is but how hard you need to be running to reach the tape by a certain time.  Are you on pace for the target based on your current savings rate?  Do you need to pick up the pace, or can you take your foot off the gas a bit? 

If you are ahead of pace, or realize you’ve already crossed the line, then what are you to do?  I recommend that at this point you stop accumulating and begin ramping up your giving to others.  Start giving funds to kingdom work or to your loved ones in need. 

If we ignore the finish line and continue accumulating, we will end up like the man in the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21) who tore down his barns to build bigger ones.  The warning in Scripture is very clear that those who never stop accumulating do so out of a spirit of fear and greed and will never fully learn to trust in the Lord. 

So have you set your finish line yet?  If so, are you on pace or do you have some ground to make up?  Or have you already reached the finish line and have the opportunity to deploy some of your excess reserves?  These are really tough questions to wrestle through, and following through on these convictions can take a lot of courage.  But I’m convinced that this is a part of faithful stewardship.  Not only so, but it’s in this process that we can truly experience peace and joy, contentment and satisfaction.  These things won’t come by having more money, stuff or experiences.  But they will come as we rest in the truth, walk out our convictions, and run hard towards the finish line.