How the Japanese concept of “ikigai” can help your financial planning


Sunrise in the suburbs of Tokyo

Financial planning can be daunting, especially if you’re unsure what it is you’re planning for. In difficult situations, sometimes its best to look for guidance in unfamiliar territory.

The Japanese concept of “ikigai” could be the answer you need. Ikigai, or 生き甲斐 in Japanese, is often directly translated as a “life purpose” or “reason for living”, but it might be slightly more complex than that.

So, what does ikigai truly mean, and can having one of your own help you to plan your finances more easily? Read on to find out more.

The true meaning of ikigai is hard to explain in English

The languages you speak and the culture you were raised in alter the way you interpret the world and, as such, ikigai is an unfamiliar concept to many native English speakers. However, exploring concepts and languages you don’t understand is sometimes the best way to get new ideas.

Although the typical translation of ikigai is a “life purpose” or “reason to get up in the morning”, it doesn’t have to be as dramatic as it sounds. Your ikigai could be as grand as your ultimate professional goal, or as small and personal as continuing to develop a hobby you enjoy.

Your ikigai could be a dream, a passion, a material goal, or simply something you like doing. As long as you can work towards it and it gives you a reason to be, it can be your ikigai.

For example, perhaps your ikigai is painting, and no matter how busy you are each day, you always find the time to put your brush to canvas. Or maybe your ikigai is your dream job, and each day you do a little something to work towards it.

Having an ikigai is one of the many Japanese secrets to living a long, healthy, and enjoyable life. A common Japanese belief is that finding the small joys in everyday experiences leads to a more fulfilling life as a whole, so doing something each day towards your ikigai could make you happier day by day.

Most people in the UK haven’t thought about their life purpose

If you are yet to find your ikigai, you’re not alone, and there’s no shame in admitting it. In fact, according to Aegon, only 40% of Brits have considered what gives them joy and purpose in life.

You could find your ikigai at any stage in life. It may happen naturally and without you realising, or you may have to take a step back and really think about what it could be from an outside perspective.

Figure out, first and foremost, what you enjoy most about life. If it’s something you already actively participate in, set some goals, and think about where this thing could take you. If it’s something you’re yet to truly experience, find a way to get yourself more involved with it.

By coming up with goals and plans, you will be able to craft a future vision of yourself doing the things you enjoy. You can then work out a solid way to get there.

Your ikigai could help shape your financial planning

Finding your ikigai could help you with your financial planning, since it may give you a clearer vision of the future, which helps you set aside the funds you need to work towards your dream.

Aegon believes that only about 30% of working UK adults have a “concrete” vision of themselves in the future. A concrete vision means having specific plans in place rather than vague ones, resulting in a clear end goal.

Knowing what gives you a sense of purpose, or what you want to be in the future, is one of the many building blocks for successful financial planning.

For example, let’s say that your ikigai is to be able to generate an income with a hobby of yours in later life. If you need to get specific equipment or make certain arrangements before you can start, you can calculate a rough cost to work towards first.

This may make you create a strict budget to help you achieve it in a certain time frame. Not only does this help you work towards your ikigai, but also with your day-to-day spending too. You may find that you are spending too much on certain aspects of your life, or not enough on important things like retirement.

Once you’ve managed to save the money needed to start working on your dream, you can put the money that would have gone toward your ikigai each month toward other financial goals.

Only you can truly know your ikigai, so making sure that you have the financial freedom you need to work towards it should be a top priority. If you aren’t sure how to get there, or what you might need financially to achieve it, consider working with a financial planner.

We can help you unlock the true potential of your money and help you reach any financial goals you need in order to pursue your ikigai. To find out how we can help in more detail, email or call 0115 933 8433.