Your GPS for Your Financial Goals
Before COVID, the majority of people spent more time planning their vacation than planning for their retirement. We were comparing flights, deciding if we wanted detailed itineraries or just lounge by a pool, plotting the best routes to drive, where to stay, and places to eat. For many planning the trip and anticipating the vacation adds to the excitement. Yet, for some reason, many don’t apply those same visioning and planning skills when planning for their retirement, a non-optional phase of life that we all must address to ensure we’ll have a roof over our heads and money for expenses as we age.
I’m not saying that setting and maintaining a balanced budget and planning for retirement will be as fun to look at as those pictures of The Eiffel Tower, but it will be more meaningful in the long run. And now that COVID is upon us, confronting financial realities is more critical than ever before. I’ve heard many friends and clients share that budgeting is overwhelming, scary, or that they’re “just not good with money,” and I have to tell you that it’s merely not true. Budgets and planning for your future don’t have to be confusing, scary, or even trying, but it does take a dose of courage to get it done.
There is a lot of advice out there that tells you budgets are as simple as three little steps:
- Know what you have coming in each month
- Know what you have going out each month
- Determine what spending you can cut and cut it
But I’m not here to talk to you about those areas.We’ve heard this advice time and time again, yet many are still not taking the vital steps to plan for their ultimate vacation, retirement. So, what’s missing? I’ve realized the challenge is usually in the softer side of money management that gets forgotten in my career. Many will follow a generic plan that is not aligned to their needs becoming a later abandoned burden. Here are the vital four elements (different word) I believe everyone needs to have when focusing on their finances and planning for their future.
The ability to articulate, visualize your ultimate vacation, retirement, as clearly as you envision that Paris vacation you’ve been dreaming. See, you have to know where you want to finish to chart any course, and planning for your future is no different. It’s like asking Google to give you directions. You have to enter your destination. Without it, Google has nowhere to direct you, and you may wind up driving in circles or getting lost.
The strength to confront your reality and assess the situation for what it is. Back to our GPS analogy, if you don’t have your location turned on, the directions you get from Google, Waze, or any other service will not be aligned for you, and you’ll likely miss your destination. It’s akin to following directions for getting to Seattle from New York City when you’re actually in Orlando. Sure, you might be heading west in both instances, but you’ll likely end up near Los Angeles rather than at the Space Needle.
Confronting the reality of where you are, and the distance between it and where you want to be, maybe vast. Don’t wallow on where you could have been. Embrace where you are today, accept the choices you’ve made that have likely propelled, and retracted your financial standings, and that’s ok. What matters now is to accept where you are and chart the course to get to your ultimate vacation.
As you embark on your journey, you’ll need your trusty map and to check in with your GPS now and then to ensure you stay the course. A road may close, or you may decide you want to fly a leg rather than drive. It’s all ok; the key is to consistently make plans and progress that you can manage instead of pushing so hard that you despise the trip or lose hope. I don’t think many of us would drive the 42 hours from New York to Seattle straight. We know we need time to refuel, rest, and ideally enjoy the drive. Getting to your ultimate vacation is no different. You need to plan on enjoying the ride; just don’t let today’s happiness jeopardize your ability to make your ultimate vacation a reality.
Creating the vision of your ultimate vacation, confronting your reality, and creating a personalized plan to reach your goals will help you bounce back easier when challenges arise. It can help provide you peace of mind and the clarity needed to re-assess as your situation changes over time.
If you have a plan and a short-term emergency fund, you’re in a place of strength. While you may be disappointed, upset, or frustrated when markets change, and an investment loses value. Having a plan gives you the space you need to feel your feelings but separate them from your actions. Making emotionally charged decisions rarely turn out well for financial decisions, and a plan is your key to keeping your emotions in check and improve your financial wellness.