For many people, the start of fall corresponds with the day the kids go back to school. But for others, we know what really signals the start of fall: football season! Of course football also brings with it the need to plan for tailgates, time with family and friends around the TV cheering on your favorite teams, and any number of other vital social gatherings.
Now, I know some of you will spend more time planning your tailgate parties than you will looking over your fall finances! No shame in that. But, as we start our Fall Financial Fitness series, I will be reminding you of the goals you’ve set, and if you don’t have any concrete financial goals, I’ll be encouraging you to set some.
As financial planners, we work with families of all shapes and sizes, and we get to hear everyone’s unique story about what brought them into our office. For most, some type of life transition brought them to our door, whether retirement in the near future or recent past, looming college costs, or recent grads who are only in our office because their parents told them to call us!
When people first come into our office, they typically expect us to sit them down and say they need to save more and quell their spending. While for some of you this may need to be the conversation, this is not the reason we come to work every day. We come to work every day because we love talking to new people to find out your story, why your puzzle pieces are shaped the way they are, what shaped your financial puzzle, and then we envision the finished puzzle that you want to put together. Our job is to help you organize your financial life and keep you from stepping into any financial potholes that may be in the path in front of you.
Before we get into all of that, the first question I love to ask is, in a perfect world where money is no object and bills don’t exist, where would you like your money to go? Name your top 5. Whether you’re single and answering for yourself and your pets, or you’re married and each of you needs your own top 5, I do encourage you to write them down. Then, compare that list to where you are currently spending your money. At the end of the day, the true secret of successful financial planning is simply identifying what goals you have, and then making sure your income is actually funding those goals. When done properly, this leads to not only the realization of your goals, but less financial stress on you – and those around you.
I’ve had this conversation with many people over the years, and there are a few recurring themes. Many say they’d go on a vacation. When I ask where, many have detailed plans already laid out. Lots of folks say they’d buy a larger or nicer home, or move to a different state (notice I didn’t say nicer state…). Probably the most common thing I hear is that, if money were no object and there were no bills, people would quit working, or work less, or these days, work elsewhere as remote employment becomes more common.
Regardless of where you’d like your money to be going, whether you’re single or married, every person I’ve worked with over the years has had a slightly different values system, and that’s okay. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Our goal as financial planners is to help you realize those goals.
Now, does this mean you can spit out your top 5, do them, and be set for life? Not always. We love it when this happens. But most of the time, once we compare where you want your money to go with where it’s actually going, some difficult decisions have to be made. We’ll send you out with some homework so you can decide what you’re going to change. We can’t follow you around and slap your hand every time you make a decision that’s not in line with your goals. Our job is to guide you toward your preferred future.
So what are your top 5? How do you envision your future lifestyle vs your current lifestyle? How much longer do you want to work? These are all things I give you as homework this week. Take 10 or 15 minutes to write down your top 5 “perfect world” spending categories. Then look through your accounts and see what lines up and what doesn’t. If there’s a big disparity, I challenge you to give one of our team members a call so we can figure out how to get you closer to your preferred future. Stay tuned till next week when we discuss a basic financial checklist that’s a great starting point for anyone just beginning a financial journey.
Article by David Smyth, Senior Partner at Family Financial Partners — a financial services firm in Lexington, Kentucky.
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