A waypoint is a point of interest or an intermediate stop along a journey. Ideally, the relevant waypoints have been determined and the final destination has been identified BEFORE a journey begins. What we have to remember is that in financial planning, as it arguably is with all planning, a waypoint is not a final destination. For instance, what follows is a “hypothetical” situation. The financial and life planning waypoint based upon this person’s priorities is to complete a will and trust documents to designate where assets will go and have a measure of privacy upon her death.
It’s New Year’s Eve. I resolve to make the appointment to see an attorney to draft a will. But then, I reschedule, because I forgot about a track meet, tae kwon do tournament, and a major project I must complete…Oh yes, and taxes. A month later I reschedule, only to find out that I am not available for four weeks, but I eventually settle on the date that the attorney has an out of town conference. When we finally meet three weeks later, I leave her office with paperwork to complete. Progress. I put the paper in the “to do pile….” The city re-named my street, I need a tetanus shot because I stepped on a jack, and the dog lost a fight with a skunk. The hot water heater just exploded, and my twins decide they want to go to an ivy league college clear across the country, so we tackle the FAFSA, hunt for scholarships and review cashflow for the next four years. I am emotionally drained after losing an old friend to an opioid addiction and providing respite care for a loved one, so I decide to make an appointment with an insurance agent for long-term care. It’s been a tough year, so we decide to take a family road trip vacation…cancel the long-term care insurance appointment…we’ll get to it next summer…
We must resist the tendencies to get too comfortable at a waypoint on our journey, meander from waypoint to waypoint, ultimately “losing sight” of our reason for the sojourn, or simply peregrinate within the financial and life planning universe, hopping from location to location with no apparent course or destination in sight from the outset. So how do we avoid complacency, meandering, or a grand financial and life planning peregrinate that leaves us unsure about: 1) what we have; 2) who we can trust with our goals and dreams; and/or how we can develop a strategy or course with personally relevant waypoints to reach our goals and dreams?
First, trust yourself and validate your own feelings about who you love and what you value. This can be an emotional exercise, because in a world of 24-hour entertainment, outrageous “caught on camera” acts shamelessly splattered across the internet, and family, corporate, and political expectations, you may be wary of what others think about who you love, what you value, and how you choose to prioritize them. Thorough financial and life planning at some point along the way forces us to grapple with family dynamics, money, death, and much more. Whether your life “is a dream” or “it is complicated”, begin to address your personal needs and wants for yourself, your family, your career, your community and your legacy. This list is not all inclusive, but it is a good start.
Second, be clear in your mind and brutally honest with yourself about what you know and what you don’t know. Commit yourself to learning and finding financial planning professionals that will work together to help you successfully navigate from waypoint to waypoint during your financial and life planning journey. Like any voyage, you may appear to lose sight of the destination because of a challenge (family, financial, physical, etc) that requires immediate attention or is simply a distraction, but it is paramount that you are intentional about the activities that keep you on course. Example activities might include that first call to the estate planning attorney to set up a will, going to the HR representative to start your 401K contributions, or cutting up unnecessary credit cards…or maybe you just need to gather and organize your financial statements. What’s great about many of these starting points is that they can be accomplished concurrently. Commit time, whether it is 15 minutes or an hour…daily or weekly, to invest in yourself, who you love and what you value. Stay the course through knowledge and action.
Third, expect course corrections because…that’s life! Let’s keep it real, shall we? Whether you are just starting to intentionally plan for and take action to pursue financial planning goals or are re-committing yourself to the task for the 100th time, start where you are. Keep yourself spiritually centered, mentally strong, socially engaged and physically fit…all to the best of your ability. Enjoy your family, pursue your passions, and give of your time, resources and energy. The concepts of the “time value of money” and “risk versus return” are critical in the world of finance. Complacency, meandering, and a grand financial and life planning peregrinate can have a detrimental effect on your long term financial planning efforts but are not necessarily cataclysmic events. That being said, the earlier you start, the better chance you have of reaching your financial and life planning goals. The key is to purposefully embark on a course to reach goals that are in line with your priorities, with the understanding that any course must be monitored, reviewed and adjusted, as necessary…the sooner the better.
It is my hope that the Peace of Mind Waypoints blog encourages readers to engage in activities that will help them live their best lives. Validating and prioritizing wants and needs, being honest about proactively effecting change to reach goals, and expecting the need for modifications when necessary are starting points…for everyday…for any journey. Enjoy your journey – developing life legacies supported by who you love and what you value…one financial waypoint at a time. – Terry