Financial planning is important, but life planning is better. A financial plan is 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 training on cold winter days or hot August nights. My training requires several months to build up my endurance to run 26.2 miles, and on race day, I never focused on the daunting task of running the entire marathon. I take it one step at a time, a mile at a time, and eventually, I finish the race.
Life planning is like running a marathon. However, you’ll have multiple goals, all competing simultaneously for your attention. When my daughter was born, I had conflicting goals: paying for college and saving for retirement. In addition, I had a mortgage and other household expenses, and I didn’t have the luxury to choose one task over the other.
The Harvard MBA Class of 1979 was asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” Only 3% of the graduating class had written goals; ten years later, they accumulated ten times the wealth of the remaining 97% – combined! Setting goals with timelines is paramount for life planning. Committing them to paper allows you to succeed and prosper.
Financial planning is excellent until life gets in the way, and then you must decide what you can do with your resources. How do you prioritize your most important life goals? Are short-term goals more important than long-term ones?
You’ll pass through several exciting life stages if you’re fortunate to live long enough. I’m sure if you look back over your life, you can identify several memorable moments that have shaped who you are today.
How do you approach life planning? Here are a few suggestions.
- Inventory. Take stock of your current situation. What are your resources? How are you spending your money? How are your assets invested?
- Goals. Write down your goals. Document your dreams, and journal your thoughts. Don’t worry about your current situation when you start this exercise. President Kennedy didn’t have the resources or knowledge in 1962 to put a man on the moon, but his vision and optimism drove others to make it happen.
- Progress. Monitor your progress. Check off items from your list after you’ve reached your target. As you move through your life stages, set new goals and objectives. It’s imperative to continue to grow and pursue new endeavors.
- Eliminate. Eliminate goals that are no longer important. I wanted a Porsche when I was young, but now that I’m older, it’s no longer an ambition. My cousin had a Porsche, and he let me drive it often so I could test-drive my dream before I let it go. Eliminating goals is just as important as establishing new ones.
- Focus. Keep your eyes on the horizon, and don’t let obstacles get in your way. Of course, you’ll encounter hardships, but if you stay focused on your dreams, you’ll eventually arrive at your destination.
- Partner. Don’t fly solo. You and your spouse can work on your goals together. Family projects are just as important as personal ones. If you’re single, share your wishes with a friend or trusted advisor because accountability is a powerful tool.
- Think. If you have a family, think in generational terms. Are you in a position to financially help your children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren? A successful life plan must include your family’s future.
- Thankful. Give thanks in all circumstances. You’ll encounter several people on your travels who need extra help; stop and give them a hand. You’ll be glad you did.
- Review. 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 and what you’ve done. Climbing a mountain takes time, and after you reach the peak, look around and enjoy the beauty of achieving your goal. Take solace in your journey.
Life planning is perpetual. It’s forever. Let your written goals motivate you to live life on your terms.
Enjoy your journey.
People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going. ~ Earl Nightingale
September 23, 2023
Bill Parrott, CFP®, is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management 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 so our clients can pursue a life of purpose. Our firm does not have an asset or fee minimum, and we work with anybody who needs financial help regardless of age, income, or asset level.
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