Financial planning is important, but life planning is better. A financial plan indicates a finite service, a one-time event. Life planning takes financial planning to a higher level. It’s enduring, vibrant, and active. It’s proactive. It’s forever, and forever is a long time!
I’ve run several marathons, and I always envision myself finishing the race before I start training. It motivates me to continue running on cold winter days. My training will cover several months in order to build up my endurance to run 26.2 miles. On race day I never focus on the daunting task of running the entire marathon. I take it a step at a time, a mile at a time and eventually I’ll arrive at the finish line.
Life planning is like running a marathon. However, in life, you’ll have multiple goals all competing simultaneously. When my daughter was born, I had two conflicting goals: paying for college and saving for retirement. In addition, I had to pay my mortgage and the other household expenses. I didn’t have the luxury to choose one over the other.
Setting goals and timelines is paramount in life planning. Writing your goals down and committing them to paper will give you an opportunity to succeed.
In a famous study, The Harvard MBA Class of 1979 was asked about their goals. Only 3% of the graduating class had written goals. Ten years later the graduates were interviewed again. The group with written goals had ten times the wealth of the remaining 97% – combined! Goals matter.
Financial planning is great until life gets in the way and then you must do what you can. How do you choose the life goal that’s most important? How do you prioritize them? Are short-term goals more important than long-term goals?
If you’re fortunate to live a long life, you’ll pass through several stages – each one exciting in its own way. I’m sure if you looked back over your life you can identify several memorable moments that have shaped who you are today.
So, how do you approach life planning? Here are a few suggestions.
- Take an inventory of your current situation. What resources do you have? Where’s your money going? How is it being spent? What are your short-term needs?
- Write down your goals. Document your dreams. Journal your thoughts. Don’t worry about your current situation when you start this exercise. President Kennedy didn’t have the resources or knowledge to put a man on a moon, but his vision and optimism drove others to make it happen.
- Monitor your progress. Check off items from your list after you’ve reached a goal. As you move through your life stages, set new ones. My daughter’s education is funded, so I’m adding new goals to my list.
- Eliminate goals that are no longer important to you or your family. When I was young, I wanted a Porsche, but now that I’m older it’s no longer a goal. My cousin had a Porsche and he let me drive it often. I was able to test drive my goal before I decided to let it go. Eliminating goals is just as important as establishing new ones.
- Review your past goals. How did they turn out? What can you learn from your successes or failures? Can your past direct you to better opportunities or help you from repeating previous mistakes? Pause, rest and reflect on where you’ve been. Climbing a mountain takes time. After you reach the peak, look around and enjoy the beauty of achieving your goal. Take solace in your journey.
- Keep your eyes on the horizon and don’t let obstacles get in your way. Of course, there will be hardships, but if you stay focused on your written goals you’ll eventually arrive at your destination.
- Don’t go solo. If you’re married, you and your spouse can work on your goals together. Family goals are just as important as personal ones. If you’re single, share your goals with a friend or trusted advisor. Accountability is helpful.
- Give thanks. On your life journey you’ll encounter several people who need a little extra help. Stop and give them a hand. You’ll be glad you did.
Life planning is perpetual. It’s forever. Let your written goals motivate you to live life on your terms.
In their heart’s humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9
November 30, 2018
Bill Parrott is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management firm located in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process to help our clients pursue a life of purpose.
Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ than those posted in this blog.