Plan or Panic
Light and clarity for the road ahead
Now that we’re well into February, set against the now-stinking corpses of many of our New Year’s Resolutions (kudos if you’re still on track!), I thought we could all use a healthy dose of light and clarity for the road ahead.
The general sense I get in my practice is that by our first meeting, many of the amazing people with whom I get to share time, have reached the point where they are ready to throw up their hands. When it comes to finances today, I realize that statement could mean anything, so let me be specific.
Whether it’s student loans, consumer debt or a delayed path to figuring out a career or the winding road of entrepreneurship, most people don’t start saving for their future in their early twenties.
Even though your twenties are the time when the most impact on future wealth with the least cost from today’s cash flow can be accomplished, often, people are in their early to mid-forties when they find their way to my practice, having yet done nothing to clarify a plan for the future and feeling completely exposed to the risks of financial ruin.
Under that kind of pressure, I don’t have to do anything special or speak in my dramatic Morgan Freeman voice to let them know that a series of choices with real consequence is in front of them. They know.
They also bear the weight of wishing they could have started earlier. Open doors to make better choices were sparse on their road of life up until now, and I don’t blame them or stand in judgement.
After all, true financial literacy isn’t taught in schools, so here we are. Do we panic, or do we plan?
In over two decades of serving people as a working adult, I still haven’t found much utility in panic, so we’re not doing that. But the real questions on their minds are, “am I too late? Did I miss my window?” Maybe you can relate.
Here’s the truth. If you want apples today, the best time to plant an apple tree was 25 years ago. The next best time is right now.
If you can manage to put one foot in front of the other and one seed in the ground at a time without comparing your story to anyone else, past or present as you water and nurture those seeds, you’ll find that your prospects get better every day. Eventually, you’ll have apples… so to speak.
Sure, it’s true that the greatest, natural allies for asset growth are time and consistency. However, in a pinch, creativity and a willingness to accept the responsibility of what comes next can be just as powerful a pair of allies to asset growth. Saving is important, protecting the financial plan while you’re busy building it is extremely important. Finding vehicles that fit your intentions, time horizons and beliefs is also important.
If you’re not in your early 20s, it's easy to feel that you need a miracle to get back on track. Miracles are nice, but they don’t let any of us off the hook of doing the next right thing with consistency.
Sometimes, in order to take consistent steps forward with a plan, we need to know that plan accelerants are possible along the way, that things we work on when no one is looking or no one cares could one-day change our story along the way. So, don’t panic… or buy lottery tickets as a strategy.
If you’re willing to make a plan and stick to it, it’s possible that the wisdom you picked up while you were figuring things out can add the turbo boost you need to still be alright in planning for a good time during your work-optional years. In my practice, I see it all the time. Be encouraged! If you’re feeling stuck financially, get with a pro who believes in an education-first approach to financial planning! Build a plan together and start executing!