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On Making Financial Change

 

present
What gift will you give yourself?

 

I was chatting to a friend of mine over a cup of coffee one day when we got around to the topic of spending. He mentioned that his father had a phrase he would say to his mother on occasion. When she was thinking of buying something new, he would turn to her and say, ‘well dear, what do we have to throw out to make room for that?’

With this question, my friend’s dad had interrupted his wife in the middle of what marketers call the sales funnel and brought her back into the reality of her life. Somewhere the marketers try to take us out of. Instead of thinking about what could be, the dream that we are sold, her husband had grounded her in the reality of what is – and whether there was any room for this potential new purchase in their life.

This conversation highlighted a very important part of financial planning – how we spend the income we currently have.

As part of the big question that we ask our clients, we also ask them what has to change financially to ensure that they can reach their goals. The money we spend is an enormous resource that we rarely examine. When we do look at it, we can tend to do so in a negative way. However, examining our spending patterns can provide us with an opportunity to make considered decisions that can be potentially life changing.

Our income is usually a finite resource. If you work for somebody you know that at the end of each month you will take home X amount of money. You may get a bonus at the end of the year, which is Y and the two of them combined is the amount of money you have available to you. If you run your own business, you may be able to draw more income, but you will have to drive your business harder to achieve that extra income.

When we talk to someone about reviewing their expenditure they usually begin with the obvious expenses. They look at their utilities, the interest rates on their lending, their phone and internet providers to check that they’re getting a good deal for their money. There are always deals to be had when you shop around. These expenses usually show up on our bank statements at the end of each quarter and so are easy to remember as recurring expenses. But what about the cash?

It’s not so easy to see where cash goes and what we’re spending it on. Some of us stop at a cash machine multiple times in a week, we may withdraw twenty or fifty quid and before we know it, it’s gone – and worse, often we don’t know where it went. Finding out where that money is going is of vast benefit when trying to get a handle on our finances. This pattern of spending is so ingrained in our daily activities that we don’t even notice the action of putting our hand into our wallet and taking out the cash at the train station, while grabbing a bottle of water on the way to the gym, having a coffee mid-afternoon, or even in the evening when we pick up some groceries on the way home from work. We spend on auto-pilot much of the time and that liquid resource seeps through the cracks without us even realising it.

When you make the decision to record where you are actually spending your money – instead of estimating, or guessing where you spend it, many people find it is a liberating activity. Yes, it takes time and effort, you need to record each and every purchase, down to the tiniest detail, such as a packet of chewing gum.

The process by which we encourage our clients to record their spending is as low-tech as you can get. But it works! All you have to do is collect your receipts, just as you would if you were spending petty cash belonging to your company. Take two empty jam jars and at the end of every day deposit your receipts into the jar for household expenses or for business expenses. You may find that even if you are an employee, at times you shell out your own cash to cover work expenses, if you do, that’s something you need to be aware of.

In order to get a thorough picture of your spending patterns, a week’s record here or there won’t suffice. You need to commit to this for a three-month period to really see where you are spending your money. You may find that during the first few weeks of your experiment, you don’t spend that much outside of what you had budgeted for, much like on the first weeks of a diet we behave ourselves, we’re full of enthusiasm to do this right, but before long our resolve weakens and we slip back into our old habits – and those are the habits you want to record, even though they may be a little uncomfortable to acknowledge. There is great power in knowing just how in or out of control our spending is. As long as we keep our heads in the sand about how we spend our money, the less chance there is that we will achieve those things in life we want for ourselves.

At the end of the three months, allocate some time to sit down and go through the receipts. You can either input them into a spreadsheet, or a record book, if that is your preference. Create as many categories as necessary and input all expenses into the relevant section. There is no need to be critical at this point, you are simply capturing the information to see where you are right now.

Having collected the raw data and put it into a digestible format, when you do begin a review of your spending it should not be about berating yourself or others for this resource was used in the past. It is about how to use it better in the future. It is not productive to focus on the negatives here. Try to be as objective as possible and learn from what you see rather than judging it. You can ask questions of yourself, such as ‘do I want to spend that much money on a given expense going forward?’, ‘Do we get the benefit of that money?’, ‘Would we prefer to spend that money in other ways?’

You may also discover that you are spending money that you didn’t even realise, there may be a standing order that you forget about for a subscription service you don’t bother with anymore. When you discover these expenses, you essentially get more money in your pocket as now you can make considered decision about how to use this resource.

This exercise is not intended as a way of reducing your capacity to live a good lifestyle. It is intended to help you make informed decisions about your lifestyle, eliminating elements that are not important in order to make way for things that are.

For example, there’s a deli counter nearby where I could get a sandwich made up on a daily basis for under €5. They have a ‘meal deal’ where I can add on a drink and a packet of crisps for an extra Euro. That’s fine, except that I would normally choose water, which I could just as easily take from the tap and I don’t need the crisps. And, I’m not actually that fond of the sandwiches. If I was a little more organised, I could make my own, more enjoyable lunch each morning and save the money. That doesn’t restrict my lifestyle, it enhances it!

Having done all this hard work of examining where the money is spent, and clawing back some funds for yourself to spend elsewhere, it is important to put a plan in place so that you can make the most of that surplus you now have access to. Whatever you decide to do with it, you want to feel some real benefits as a result of this choice. The benefits must be tangible, so that you can feel and appreciate them. Otherwise, what’s the point?

This task is not exactly fun for most people, it’s a chore to have to remember to collect receipts, but if you can capture and reallocate some funds for you and your family and choose carefully what to do with them, the results can be life changing.

Sometimes, it can help to get an independent person to help you make the decisions around what to do with that hard-won money. We all need encouragement and support from time to time and it can be of benefit to work with someone over a sustained period of time who understands the goals that you’re trying to achieve. They can also nudge you to continue when it would be easier to fall back into your old familiar ways.

Small consistent changes are the things that change lives. It is not one big act that will take you from where you are today to where you want to be, but consistent action every day. The cash flow models that we use enable us to show our clients how the small changes they make today can yield huge benefits in terms of lifestyle changes in ten or fifteen years down the road.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but a solid foundation today can pave the way for a bright future tomorrow and in the years to come. What are you waiting for?

 

On How to Approach Personal Change

personal change swing

One of the questions we ask our clients is a rather large question that comes with a difficult set of answers. Sometimes it poses a great challenge to our clients.

The question is “if having completed financial planning with us over three years and it has worked for you, looking back over that time, what had to change personally, professionally and financially to achieve that success?”

When you are talking to someone you have never met before the question of personal change is not an easy one to discuss. Nobody likes change, it’s uncomfortable, we like routine, we feel better when we know what’s coming around the corner, we prefer to stay within our comfort zone.

However, to achieve goals we must allow change, or we’ll never reach our goals.

Quite some time ago, an old friend of mine, Martin Toner, The Golf Specialist, introduced me to golf.

Martin gave me the gift of enjoying the game. He’s not your normal ‘swing guy’ who teaches you to knock a ball down the fairway. Instead, he helps his students to understand how golf works and how to extract more enjoyment from their efforts.

Having developed my swing, he went on to teach me a crucial lesson. We were on the golf course one afternoon when he asked me “what are you trying to do?”

We were standing on the tee box, and again he asked, “what do you want to do with the ball?”

I thought the answer was obvious. “You want to get the ball as close to the hole as possible in as few shots as possible”.

His response to this was no. He explained you want to get the ball in the hole. Not near the hole, not beside the hole or close to the hole. In the hole.

The hole with the flag sticking out of it on the greenway in the distance is your goal. Get the ball in that cup.

Your goal may be three years away now, but you know what you want, you can see it in the distance. You can taste it. But how do you get there? You could close your eyes, swing, and hope for the best.

Or you can be strategic about it. To do this, you have to work back from that flag waving in the distance to the point at which you’re standing. This helps you to see where your interim goals are. You can decide how many shots it will take to get to the hole.  You can spot obstacles in your way and also you can choose which clubs are the best ones to help you send the ball in the right direction.

With that one key objective in mind, you can swing with defined purpose. Personal change is the exact same. The journey from your starting point to the end goal needs to be mapped out if you want to have your best chance of success.

There will inevitably be unexpected obstacles as you make your way along your course. Your view may get obscured at times, a breeze may pick up along the way which sends your ball in a different direction than you had intended. Life gets in the way and so you may have to consider altering your strategy in the short term until you get back on track.

Though you have a goal in mind, there is never only one way of achieving it. Our minds work differently and so the approach that seems apparent to us is not the only way. If you run into obstacles, thinking outside the box may help you to think differently about how to get to where you want to be.

Even just having an open conversation with your loved ones about the best approach to take can help open up other options. At the end of the day, we have to remember that personal change more often than not affects more people than just ourselves. It’s always a better idea to discuss your hopes and plans with those who will feel the impact of your decisions on their lives. When you have support from the sidelines it spurs you on when the going gets tough and means that you have people to celebrate your achievement with when you reach your goal.

Though personal change can be difficult, when the outcome is something that truly resonates with you on a deep, meaningful level, then in my experience, the discomfort of growing pains are worth it in the long term.

Designing the Life You Want to Lead

ooking through binoculars

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.

Family Comes First

Family Comes First

When I started out in this business back in the 1970’s, I had to learn my trade and how to negotiate the sale of life insurance, pensions, and investment products. One the realisations I had at that time, was that people actually die. This may sound like a late realisation on my part, but I was a young man who had never experienced the death of a loved one. Thankfully, death hadn’t been on my radar at that point in my life.

As the old saying goes, there are only two certainties in life, death and taxes.

I read a lot during those early days and a couple of books impacted on me during that period. Sitting here at my desk many years later, my eye is caught by a row of books I have. There are titles on smarter investing, the tricks of the rich and passing on the family business among others. I have these books as they help me to help my clients. They keep me informed and provide new ideas which can make a difference in people’s lives. But one book that has stuck with me more than any other has been How I Raised Myself From Failure to Success in Selling. It was written in the 1930’s by an American named Frank Bettger. Bettger entered the insurance business having first worked as a pitcher for the New York Yankees. Due to an injury, he had to give up his beloved sport, and then entered the world of financial services.

In his book, one of the things that struck me was a piece of advice he was given by an older member of staff. This senior member of the team took him aside when he saw Bettger struggling in his attempts to increase sales. His advice was this – when you get a family in front of you, you may be the only representative of the financial services industry that this family will ever meet. The advice that you give them, may also be the only advice that they have access to. The Life Insurance money that you garner for them may be the only money they see – and they may have to live off that. Therefore, what you do – or don’t do, will impact on this family for years after you have left.

This statement is now truer today than it has ever been.

 I didn’t understand it’s meaning in full until we had a regulator imposed on our industry. At around this time that a great number of qualified people left the industry and now there are significantly fewer professionals available to go and talk to families about their needs.

Everybody will die, it’s just a question of timing.

The joke in the business back when I joined it was that it was better to be 60 than to be 50. That’s because the average age of death is 57 to 58 years of age. Astonishingly, 97% of all claims under life insurance policies are paid without question. Our industry provides for families without question faster than any other industry does.

Recently, one of Irelands foremost Life Companies confirmed that they pay out an average claim value of €120,000 across all the range of Life Insurance products they have.  A paltry sum. This money can include payouts to cover home loans and debt. So, what is left for families to live on?

Life insurance is one of those things, you either have enough, or you don’t and judging from the above figure, most people do not have enough. The amount of life insurance that people should carry depends upon their own personal circumstances. €120,000 is not a lot of money, it’s about three years’ income for an average worker. Is that sufficient to take care of a family?

Some people may feel better about the fact that they have a house which they can leave, but I like to remind them that you ‘can’t eat a house’, especially when the family needs to live in it.

Life insurance does not cost a fortune. This is the foundation stone of financial planning. Before we explore any question of investing, we must examine the question of what happens when you’re not here. What will the financial impact of your death be for your family? Hopefully, it won’t happen for many, many years – but there is little point in pinning your family’s financial future on ‘hopefully’.

If you do not begin your financial health on this one key step, then if something goes wrong today, or tomorrow, the whole financial plan can come tumbling down around your family’s ears. Start with the most important step of life insurance and then go from there. Savings and investments are important, but they should never be put ahead of your family’s security.

Family always comes first.

In his book Enough, Paul Armson asks the question ‘how much is enough?’ If the answer is ‘I don’t know’, then take the time to talk to a professional. All it takes is a phone call to start ensuring that your family will be provided for if something were to happen to you. If it’s taken care of now, you won’t have to worry about it in the future.

The Three Hats of a Financial Planner

Financial planning is a complex process involving a lot more than numbers. As financial planners, we address our clients’ deepest hopes and fears and help to craft the best outcome for them. In doing so, we could be said to wear three hats. Let’s see what each of them involve.

Problem Solver

When our clients meet us sometimes they’re over-extended with insufficient income, lacking pension funding sources and they have significant levels of debt. These clients may be losing sleep over financial worries. There may be a concern in the back of their mind which they haven’t felt able to vocalise with anyone for fear of spreading the worry. They may be worrying about bills that are due at the end of the month. Or they may be feeling disheartened that they have worked for so many years and have nothing to show for it at the end. Many people reach the latter years of their working lives with less money in their bank accounts than they expected and thus feel disillusioned and disappointed.
worrying-about-money
Our job is to bring these worried clients to a place of understanding where they stand right now. Through listening and asking the right questions, we can figure out what lies at the heart of the concern. As the old saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. This is definitely the case when the person you have shared that concern with can see that the issue isn’t insurmountable. When we’re overwhelmed by a problem it is more difficult to think it through objectively. In this state of panic, solutions don’t make themselves known. But, by sitting down and examining the concern from a calm perspective with your financial planner, a way through can be found and planned for. At the most basic level, in meetings such as this, a stressed client goes away knowing that they’re not in this alone – and that, in itself, can be very comforting.
There is nothing wrong with facing financial worries or problems, it is a part of life which most of us come up against at some point or another.
In our business, we use all the financial tools in the market to find the best match for our client’s particular needs. Our clients don’t want products, they want solutions and we deliver that by taking the time to understand the complexity of our client’s situations and with them, choosing the best course of action for them. We ensure that if someone gets sick or dies that there will be enough resources available to ensure that the family’s lifestyle doesn’t have to change as a result of lack of funds.

Future Planner

We help people to envisage what it is that they want for themselves and their families in the future. It is easy to get lost in the details of setting up financial arrangements, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the lifestyle you desire for yourself and your family.
When a client presents their vision for the future, we play devil’s advocate, questioning it to make sure it is what they truly want, rather than a vision that they think they ought to have. This is part of the benefit of being outside the emotion of the situation, we can be impartial.
Once they are clear on what it is that they want, we can help them to achieve it. We also cling onto it for them. When the bustle of everyday life takes over, it can be easy to lapse into autopilot, forgetting the plans we made for, and the promises we made, to ourselves. We can remind you of these plans when life gets in the way.
financial-freedom

Mentor

We mentor our clients to keep their vision in the forefront of their minds as they go about life. Sometimes our vision needs to change in line with developments in life and so building a vision for the future is not a once off event, but an on-going process. Problems can arise when we least expect it in life, but sometimes a problem can be flagged before it has become a difficult one. We aim to spot these hazards before they crop up so that our clients are best prepared to deal with them when they do. We help our clients to keep their vision alive while taking care of the bumps along the road.
In line with this way of working, we charge fees so that we don’t have to sell our clients anything unless it is what is best for them. This way, we act as our clients’ right arm in planning their finances and are happy to continue as such for as long as they are happy with the situation. It is a position of great trust and it is fantastic to see our clients come closer to reaching their dreams and saying goodbye to stress and worry.

Getting Out of Your Depth – Caution Advised!

child-in-sea-viktor-jakovlev

A long ago I learned to swim. I was 6 or 7 years old and my dad taught myself and my brothers to swim along the sandy beaches on Dublin’s north side. Once we had achieved a level of competency we were always told to swim parallel to the shore. But as part of our fun, inquisitively, we walked out to see just how far we could go while keeping our toes on the seabed without letting the water touch our chins. At this point, we were just about out of our depth. Then we swam along the beach as our dad had told us to.

The beach was never completely flat, as we assumed. Occasionally, when we stopped and tried to put our feet down, suddenly, the bottom wasn’t there. As novice swimmers, we had only two choices – use what we had learned to swim back towards shore, or panic. Panic was not an option, so we swam closer to the shore to where we could stand comfortably again.

Slowly, but surely, in our attempts to enjoy ourselves, we had done the one thing our parents had told us never to do – get out of our depth.

That lesson is an easy one to learn and sometimes when running a business, we swim too far and end up out of our depth without even knowing it.

It was alright as a child when swimming on the beach with our dad nearby to lift us up if we started to struggle. Instinctively, at that time, we would know what to do to ensure we got back to safe territory without delay. But, it’s not so simple when you’re running your own business. The temptation is always there to go a little bit further in pursuit of an opportunity.

Even though the surroundings might seem familiar, you are operating within your area of competency, but it’s easy to get out of your depth without realising it.

Perhaps your competency is being questioned, or your ability to deliver. As you are in charge everybody depends on your decision-making process, which creates huge levels of stress and fear.

The fear of failure can be paralysing. Indecision, loss of belief, fear of loss of respect…

That paralysis can also invade our personal lives. We don’t leave it in the office, it starts to follow us around when we go home on evenings and at weekends. We live in a world where admitting that we are out of our depth can often be very difficult to do. In business, we face the situation where a failure can be very public and humiliating which leads us to draw heavily upon our personal support structures.

Getting out of our depth in business, just as in the sea, poses very serious consequences. Consequences which we must face up to.

Swimming for the shore may seem, to the outside observer, like the obvious course of action. However, when we are caught up in a panic, we do not always choose this route. The route we do take can cause damage to our business, both in terms of revenue and the relationships we have built up over time. It can be career limiting.

Not being able to admit that such an issue is impacting on you can cause stress, high blood pressure, and other more serious health concerns. Really we ought to address the problem head-on; this is, of course, easier said than done.

The biggest impediment to solving a problem such as being out of your depth is the fear of losing face. Nobody wants to look bad, and so we struggle on, sure that we can patch things up somehow. This especially true when you have a team of people looking to you for guidance and leadership. It is not an easy place to be, especially when our own negative self-doubts try to sabotage our next move. Where do you turn to when you need support to get through these challenges?

This situation can be dangerous if you do not have a solid, reinforced support structure to lean on in times of doubt. But, we can’t expect to have a support structure in place if we haven’t taken the time to nurture one.

There are those who can support us within the work setting. For example, there may be someone with whom you can discuss your fears knowing that it won’t go any further. If you operate with a small team, identifying that one person who you can confide in and nurturing that relationship over time will pay off.

At home, discussing your concerns with your spouse or life partner can help to deepen your relationship. Although we tend to not want to worry our loved ones, keeping worries bottled up does not help. 9 times out of 10 they know that something is wrong anyway, so you might as well come clean!

Peer support is also hugely beneficial – whether that be your peers at work or outside it. Many of us know other business people who encounter similar problems to our own. Taking the leap to create a relationship where you can discuss concerns openly will benefit you both and create a solid friendship. But, peer relationships need not just be work ones. If there is something really bothering you, why not try to broach it with a friend from a completely different industry? They may not understand the intricacies of the situation, but they might provide a different insight you had never imagined.

We all get out of our depth from time to time. When we strive for growth, sometimes we overshoot the mark and end up in trouble.

It happens, we’re only human. But don’t let yourself drown for the sake of asking for a little help. Make building your support structure a priority. You can be there for them when they need it, and when it’s your turn, they’ll be there for you.

Planning for 2017 – ‘To Infinity & Beyond!’?

Buzz Lightyear in Flight

I remember a long time ago, thirty years ago now, when I had a ‘real job’. I was working for an insurance company and we were handed out our planning targets for the new year just before Christmas. The numbers had taken a significant jump and one of my co-workers asked the question why had they taken this hike. This was back in the 1980’s, the recession was biting hard and it seemed as though the company were putting us under substantial increased pressure to perform. The answer which the company gave in response to this query was no more eloquent than ‘because I say so’.

This situation did nothing for team morale among those who would have to implement the new programme. It certainly didn’t help our outlook on the financial year end, which was fast approaching. Instead of motivating us, the company told us to just get out there and make it happen. What a way to plan the future. I hope that most company’s attitudes have moved on somewhat since then.

Create a Vision

As part of our financial planning process, we talk to our clients about the type of vision that they have for their future.

  • Who owns that vision?
  • How long does that vision last for?
  • Have they thought about where that vision might take them?
  • What steps do we need to take to realise that vision?

These are some of the considerations that arise. Planning for the future involves a long road, and it requires that everyone involved needs to be on board with both the vision and the plan.

Change

Planning involves change. And nobody likes change. It’s the most uncomfortable thing that we meet in life. To arrive at the future we have envisaged for ourselves, we need to change professionally, personally and financially. Although many people start into a new year with ideas about changing certain things in the next 12 months, they should also keep an eye on the long-term goals stretching beyond 2017. Planning in this way, by creating a long-term vision can sometimes be the most difficult thing to do but creating short term markers can help.

Although planning needs to be long-term, there is also a need to provide ourselves with interim goals. These markers on the road to success let us know that we’re going in the right direction. And this is what we should aim to do at the end, or beginning of each year. 2016 brought many surprises which most of us did not foresee, and now 2017 is laying ahead of us, no doubt with its own tricks up its sleeve. Despite this, we can still put plans in place, decide what we want to change or improve upon over the next twelve months.

Most of the clients we deal with are professionals and executives, people who manage businesses, and who can recognise that there is never just one way of doing things. They also have the vision to be able to see a different future from the reality of today. Visualising your future is a key part of planning for your future. If you don’t have a picture, then you can’t make that a reality. You have to create this vision for yourself and then own it. This is a serious part of the planning process.

It Involves Everyone

When we decide to make a change, who should we involve in that decision-making process? There are obvious people who will be involved, such as colleagues at work, when it is a work-based decision. However, there are others who need to be considered too. The key people within your family should be involved before a significant change is embarked upon, particularly when it will directly impact upon them and their lives.

If having achieved all your plans, and in three years from now you can say ‘I have succeeded!’ What had to change to make that success possible? Listing out these things can help you in the planning stages. Also, take a moment, in that vision three years down the road to see where you are. What does the world look like then that is different to now? Is it what you really want for yourself? If yes, then you know you’re on the right track, if not, now is the time to tweak your vision and your plans.

Do You Need to Change?

Is what you’re doing at present going to deliver the future that you are hoping for? When you change things, there are risks involved, and there is a price to be paid. Is the risk that you are thinking of taking going to be worth it at the end of the day? This, again, may involve more people than just yourself. Do the other people in your life subscribe to the vision in the same way you do? If not, are you justified in asking them to pay for it?

Remember, we are on a long road. The question is ‘to where?’ We’re not Buzz Lightyear, we don’t want to set off to the furthest point from where we are now, regardless of direction. We want to get to a specific point, to the place where you can deliver the future that works for you, your family and those who work with you.

As we approach the end of the year, now is a good time to think about those changes you may want to make in the new year. Give your plan the adequate time and consideration it deserves so that it stands the best chance of success.