If you don’t know where you want to go, how will you ever be able to get there?
As a financial planner, I help people to achieve the goals in life that they want for themselves. But, perhaps surprisingly, I have found that although people can talk ’til the cows come home about life as it stands today when I ask them about the life they would like to live, they find themselves lost for words.
Often, when people make an appointment to speak to their financial advisor, they expect to discuss how their existing financial products are performing or potential products that are suitable for them. These things have a part to play, they are the tools we use to build the life you want – but without a clear roadmap, we won’t know where you want to go and therefore which tools you need to help you get there.
Spending is often overlooked in financial planning.
But all our efforts in earning a salary lead to that point, to spending that salary. We do it every day, our families do it and it is the single most important behaviour which determines how our lifestyle looks and feels. We can either spend on autopilot, or we can make conscious spending decisions both now and in the future.
Life is the greatest journey of all. We know that there will be days brimming with joy and other times when sadness seems to follow us around. No-one knows what is around the corner, we just have to do our best and be prepared for whatever curveballs life decides to throw at us. However, we can be the architects of our lives – to a certain extent. We have the ability to make plans, and to see them through, to assess our progress and to adjust our course when necessary. If we don’t even try to plan then we’ll just end up with whatever we get landed with – and that’s not always the best outcome.
Designing that life can be difficult when there is more than one person involved. Most of the people I work with have spouses or families to consider and in that situation, making the plan needs to be a joint effort. Sometimes designing the plan can be as simple as deciding upon what you want more of and what you want less of. Perhaps what you really want is more free time, or you want to cut down on work-related stress. These two goals are a great starting point. But in brainstorming the life you want, you may also decide that you want, or need, a bigger combined income, and an extra bedroom so that the twins don’t have to share anymore. This is where it gets complicated. Each one of these are real choices and produce different outcomes. Which of these goals is the most important? Which ones are compatible with each other? Which are ‘nice to have’ and which are non-negotiable?
When we give ourselves permission to daydream like this it can be great fun, initially. The possibilities are endless and it feels great to think about living the life that you really want. But daydreaming is only the very beginning of designing the life you want. If it was a race, that part would barely see you off the starting blocks. Implementing the change that is required to build the life you desire can be tough. Remember that for every goal you identify, achieving it may demand compromises in another area of your life. If you want to have more free time, will that necessitate a lower salary? How can you overcome that, particularly if you want to grow your income? There is no right and no wrong, only you and your loved ones know what is appropriate for you and where you ought to draw the line.
Taking a joint approach to creating your vision of your future life is important. Real improvements will call for real change. Change is uncomfortable and if there are individuals involved who are not 100% onboard with the decisions or with your vision of the future, they won’t be able to see the benefit of the sacrifices you may need to make. Change will be resisted, arguments may ensue, and before you know it, you’ll be back to living within the status quo. And no one is happy.
Invest the time and energy in building a plan that works for the whole family in order to give yourselves the best chance of success. If one path won’t work, find another solution. This is about identifying challenges and exploring ways to overcome them together so that you as a family can arrive at the destination that up until now you’ve only been able to dream about.
Once you have decided upon the life you want to build for yourself and your family over the coming years, you now have a roadmap. This plan allows you to evaluate any opportunities that may come your way. You can hold these opportunities up against your plan and decide will this help us to get closer to our goal, or is it a distraction? This is a hugely valuable tool.
One of the exercises we get our clients to do is to look into the future and see themselves living the life that they envisaged for themselves. Then we ask them to decide if the changes that they have had to make were worth it. The last thing anyone wants is to break their back working for a goal only to find that in the end, it really wasn’t worth it. If in this exercise, you find yourself thinking that it might not be worth it, then now is the time to tweak your goal, to find one that you know you can achieve and feel good about what you’ve had to do to get there.
We can model the changes in our cash flow tool allowing our clients to see the effects of the ideas they have for their future before they ever move forward with implementing changes. This makes the process that bit easier and less daunting. Working with clients in this way is hugely rewarding. It is a privilege to be part of the excitement of seeing people identify and then pursue their dreams.
Planning your life and your family’s future life is a huge step. So, take time with this process. Let your ideas sit with you before jumping into making life changing decisions. Ensure that all parties are on board – and when you’re sure that you have identified your ideal future life, then start implementing small changes at first that will help you get to where you want to go.
If the whole process seems a bit daunting or you’re just not too sure where to start, why not give us a call and we will be delighted to sit down with you and help get your planning process started.