A Season to Ponder

Todd Washburn |

It’s July.  It’s hot.  Work is not on anyone’s list.  A cold drink, cool breeze (ocean preferable; but a fan works, too), and a chance to relax probably is.   It can be a little difficult this time of year to motivate clients to dig through papers, pull together numbers, and do the other  “stuff” that really helps in putting together their financial picture, but often isn’t fun.  It’s just not the time of year for action.  But we don’t want to waste the time either, do we?  (Well, O.K., some of us may!)

When I started this business back when, before I opened my practice “financial planning” was primarily a number-crunching exercise.  Questions revolved around how much you wanted in retirement, how much money you wanted to leave heirs, how much insurance to buy, and how much to invest every month/quarter/year to reach the amount you wanted in retirement. (Nice circle, isn’t it).  I hear occasionally that it’s still that way at some firms- typically those selling insurance or only doing investing.  But a lot of firms, like mine, have broadened our view—taking what some call a Life-Planning approach to financial planning.  What’s the difference?  Primarily, it’s the focus.  In Life-Planning, the focus is on what the client deems will make for an enjoyable, satisfying, rewarding—dare we say “successful” life.  Whereas the prior approach focused almost exclusively on reaching a number, this approach focuses on what you want to accomplish; then,  figures out what is needed to make it happen (financially and otherwise).  The interesting thing is, with the old approach, there usually wasn’t much thought put into picking the amount of money needed/wanted in retirement.  Most of the time, it was just a guess or what the clients thought they were currently spending.  It was a little like applying for a loan to build a house—but without any plans for what the house will look like or cost.   With a Life-Planning approach, we work to design the house first, blueprints drawn, and the project priced out.  Then we know what size loan (or retirement assets) is needed.  And, if by chance the design is more than the assets, we can make changes up-front to bring the cost in line with the funding.   Besides, let’s face it, it’s easier to motivate yourself to apply for a loan when you can envision the end product rather than with just a vague idea.  The lender is happier, too.

So, what’s this have to do with July? What better time to think about what you’d like the future to hold for you than when you’re relaxed, cold drink in hand, cool breeze blowing, and you and your spouse/partner have time to dream a little.  Happy with your job/career?   No?  What would you do if you could?   Have a dream trip in mind?  What about the house?  Projects?  Move?  Would you like to scale back work?   What then?  No need to get out of your chair for any of these.  No need to rummage through files and piles.  Let your mind wander.  Ponder.  Share your thoughts.  Bat around ideas.  Then when we get together, we can start working on putting together the jigsaw puzzle that is the life you’re dreaming of.

Want help working through this?  That’s what I’m here for.  It might be your first time, but not mine.  I’d love to help you draw up the plans for your future, and help you make it come true.