Most of the questions I've answered in this column are from people trying to figure out how to get or retain wealth.
So the e-mail from Fred that popped up in my inbox this week caught me by surprise.
"We're in our mid-40s. Our life could be the one described in the book, 'The Millionaire Next Door,'" Fred started.
He went on to say that he and his wife paid off the mortgage on their home 10 years ago. They own a vacation condo and income-producing real estate with no debt. They have safe investments, enjoyable jobs and give generously to their church, other causes and their children.
"We presently have enough savings and investments to comfortably retire at our current standard of living," Fred wrote. "Within a year all of our children will be married or moved away to college. We help them a little but allow them to learn to make it on their own.
"We're too young to go on church missions, and our personal and religious belief system will not allow us to live hedonistically or extravagantly. Our family and friends are unaware of our financial position, and we maintain strict financial privacy. Do you and your experts have any suggestions for what we should do next?"
Wow. The first answer that came to mind for me — and I said this in my reply to Fred — was "adopt me."
Seriously, this sounds too good to be true. I'm in my mid-30s, and I can't imagine being in Fred's situation 10 years from now.
But some of you out there probably can relate to Fred, and he raises an interesting question. If you're fortunate enough to reach your primary financial goals by a relatively early age, what is the next step?
For some insight, I turned to Roger Smedley and Sharla Jessop at Salt Lake-based Smedley Financial Services.
They told me they see people in Fred's situation more often than you might think.
But before giving Fred some suggestions about what he should do next, Sharla says, he needs to make sure he really does have enough money for retirement. He has to account for inflation, as well as possible long-term care needs, prescription drug prices and the chance that he and his wife could live into their 80s, 90s or beyond.
"Retirement really is a matter of money, not of age," Roger says. "And if you can't get access to your Social Security until 62 or your retirement accounts until 59 1/2, what do you do in the meantime?"
It sounds like Fred is secure in his calculations, Sharla says. If that is the case, Roger says Fred and his wife should take a moment to stop, look around and decide what they want to do with the rest of their lives.
Roger uses the example of Ben Franklin. Franklin is well-known for his inventions and statesmanship, Roger says, but he did not start working on many of his greatest accomplishments until after he reached his 40s and became financially independent.
Fred and his family appear to be in a similar situation. With money worries behind them, Roger says, they have the luxury of deciding what they are passionate about and what they should do about it.
That may mean giving some of their "extra" money away, Sharla says.
"You don't have to give away all of your money," she says. "But if you have enough and you can give it, there are a lot of organizations that have a lot of needs."
In next week's column, Roger and Sharla will talk about some of the options Fred has for using his money to do some good in the world.
Meanwhile, I'm still looking for examples of the best and worst financial advice you have received, so please send them, along with any questions you may have, to email@example.com or to the Deseret Morning News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.