Financial Planning: The Best Laid Plans...
On May 10, 2008 my wife Jill & I were married. On that day I became a father to my stepson, Jackson. Later that month I started my career in the financial services industry with a measly salary that I was responsible for building and growing.
On June 17, 2009, Jill & I had our first child together.
Now imagine we met with a financial planner who handed us a financial plan that followed the traditional financial planning formula:
"If you save $X each year, and you do this for Y number of years and you earn Z% on the money, then you'll retire with $Wealth."
Easy peasy, right?
Ten months later on April 30, 2010 our twin girls were born.
Not quite 2 years into a career that has a success rate of around 10%, we had 4 kids - three of whom were in diapers. Diapers were not cheap.
Not gonna lie, I was pretty scared. Financially, I was STRESSED out. Did I mention the financial services industry has a 90% failure rate?!
And the cherry on top was our youngest son REALLY surprising us in November, 2011.
We giggle about it now but it was no laughing matter for us at the time. Things ultimately got better for us, financially. My business grew and thank you to all of you reading this who were and are a part of that. I appreciate each of you for your [continued] trust and confidence!
Plans are worthless - Planning is everything
Let's go back to our hypothetical financial plan. It was Dwight Eisenhower who said, "Plans are worthless- planning is everything."
Here's a short list of life events our "plan" couldn't have planned for:
Having 4 kids in 2.5 years
Employing an awesome nanny for 8 years
Taking on our 3 nieces for 1.5 years during a family emergency
Sending a child to private school for educational needs
Those are just the highlights! LOL
Life Is NOT a Straight Line. Your Financial Life Shouldn't Be Treated Like One, Either.
I've used this phrase quite a bit over the past 11 years. It's more of a reflection of our family's life experiences but I've seen it in many of your lives as well: career changes, new houses, new jobs, private education that wasn't planned for but needed, home renovations that were both needed AND wanted, parents moving in, kids moving out and back in, etc.
I've never truly believed in having and developing a "financial plan" in the traditional sense. And probably my personal experiences have helped in forging this belief. The reality is our traditional financial plan operates on a purely linear scale. It assumes everything in the plan will remain constant: we save the same amount of money, we get the same rate of return, we retire at exactly the right age. And it requires a heck of a lot of guessing, too! Like seriously, do you know how much money you'll want or need to retire in 10, 20, 30 years from now?
I do believe in planning, though. And this is the key. Having financial goals is important. So are other things like rates of saving, being liquid, protecting the balance sheet & focusing on factors we can control. As we near retirement, it's sound practice to start developing financial or retirement plans. These can help give us an idea of how long our money might last, what our spending could look like, etc. THAT's helpful!
Here are some examples of financial and non-financial plans:
a strategy for paying off debts like credit cards and student loans, then using the money for other purposes
managing taxes or creating a tax efficient strategy
building an emergency fund
saving [more] money for retirement
exercising 3x per week
funding a home renovation project
spending more time with your kids
These are just plans. The key here is the planning. And planning requires action.
Our "plan" fails without action. We actually have to do what we say we're going to do! I don’t have to tell you what that means for your retirement, your health, etc.
Every single day provides an unknown of what lies ahead. I see my schedule for today and I "know" with a degree of certainty what will unfold. But nothing is guaranteed, right? Our plan is future based. Fine. But if we're focused on the planning and not the plan, then we're better able to be present today. We can adapt and adjust because, ultimately, life will happen.
It will jog left when we're leaning right. Just when you think the kids are out of diapers, you take in your three nieces - one of whom is still in diapers. On the contrary, the sun will pop out when the skies in our life appear cloudy - the A/C units fails but we've been putting money away for situations just like that.