It’s officially March, which means that winter is almost over, and the most anticipated season of the year is right around the corner. Many of us spend the better part of the winter planning for this time. Some people scramble like maniacs to get themselves into good shape. Some have been preparing for it since the year before. And some folks just cross their fingers and hope.

I’m not talking about swimsuit season, or baseball season, or even the official season of Spring.

I’m talking about tax season.

With the approach of April 15, many of us are feeling a lot of stress. All that paperwork can be overwhelming. Will we do it right? You might handle your taxes alone, but many people find it helpful to have someone come alongside them and offer insight on how to handle the ins and outs.

And it’s not just during tax season that we could use the help. Sure, we want to get our finances in order for Uncle Sam, but the reality is many of us want to know how to get a better grip on finances, period! I find that many people simply don’t understand how finances work. Young people graduate from college and expect executive salaries for entry-level work. People who’ve been working for years begin to worry if they’ll be able to retire. And people who have retired often wonder what they’re supposed to do with all their newfound possibilities.

I believe, when it comes to finances, that there are seasons of productivity in everyone’s life. There are times when your focus should be on acquiring skills and knowledge to make yourself valuable. There are times when your focus should be on leveraging your skills and knowledge for growth and investment in the future. And there are times when your focus should be on giving back, to people who can benefit from your investment.

In my book, Today Matters, I wrote about finances using the concepts of learn, earn, and return – my theory that as we go through our lives, our financial seasons change.

These are the primary seasons, as I see them:

The Season of Increased Learning (birth to 25)

The Season of Increased Earning (25-55)

The Season of Increased Returning (55-75…or more, God-willing!)

Before I go on, I want to clarify that we do all three things (learn, earn, return) in every season. But the ratios change.

When we’re children and young adults, we’re focused mostly on learning. Even in the first several years of our careers, we need to remember that learning is the most important thing, in order to prepare for the next seasons. From about age 25 to 55, we have the most earning potential. We don’t stop learning, and we definitely should be giving back throughout life. But this is the time when we grow in our careers and hopefully earn and save more. And that sets us up for a season when we can really focus on returning – giving and serving, everyone from the less fortunate around us to the next generation.

Over the next three weeks, I want to walk with you through each season and highlight key principles and practices to help you make the most of it. I’ll offer insights on how to maximize and focus on the season you’re in, while not neglecting the other two areas. My goal is to give you hope and confidence, no matter which season of life you find yourself in.

I hope you’ll join me each week, but let me close today by asking: which season do you find yourself in right now? What challenges are you facing? What insights do you have to offer?

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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