As human beings, we have a need for a sense of security. A sense that we have it all together even if it is just an illusion. The same can be said for our personal finances although we certainly hope our financial security is not just an illusion. So often I hear the question from friends, family, business connections and prospective clients, “Am I all set?”. They may not use those words exactly, but the meaning is the same across the board: Am I doing the right things financially? Am I saving and investing enough? Am I investing in the right things? Will I be able to retire? How much do I need to retire? These are all valid questions and certainly important, but they all miss what is probably the single most important question that we all must ask ourselves: “What kind of life do I want to lead?”. It is only when answering this question that we can truly answer all our other questions.
Determining what is important
The earlier we answer this question the better, but it can be difficult to articulate for ourselves and no one can answer it for us. A few things to keep in mind when answering this question for yourself:
- Who are the people that matter most to me? If single, is it my hope to build a family? If I already have a family, are my spouse and I on the same page financially?
- What activities are most important to you? Is traveling a big part of your lives? What types of things do you enjoy vs. can’t live without?
- What are some unnecessary expenses that you could cut out of your budget? Is there money going into things or activities that don’t mesh with what your goals are?
These are just a few things to consider, but the root of what we are trying to determine is what is important to you and what is not. The answer to this question drives everything from how often you go out for dinner to how much you contribute to your 401(k). When we determine what is important to us we find out what kind of life we wish to lead. This in turn helps us to be intentional about where we spend money and how we live our daily lives in conjunction with our goals for the future. Of course, the actual budgeting and financial planning takes additional work but determining these things for ourselves is an important first step.
Putting a plan in place
Now that we have determined what is important to us and answered the question “What kind of life do I want to lead”, it is time to put a plan in place that aligns with those goals. A few things to get in order:
- What investment and insurance options do I have through my employer?
- Do I have excess funds at the end of every month that could be going towards my overall investment strategy?
- How much life insurance do I have and is it enough to care for my family?
- Does my employer match retirement plan contributions and am I taking full advantage of that?
- Do I have cash sitting on the sidelines that could be used more efficiently than sitting in a bank account?
- Is it important to us that we save for our children’s future college tuition?
- What emphasis will I place on charitable giving?
While it is important to have a thorough understanding of these things, it can get very confusing especially if you do not have a financial background. That said, now might be the time to consult with a financial advisor who can help answer your questions and make recommendations based on what is important to you (hint hint www.provisioretirement.com hint hint).
The not so distant future
Part of determining what is important to you should be deciding what type of life you wish to lead in retirement. Of course, what is important to you now may not be what is important to you 30, 40 years from now but regardless this should still be something that you consider. Retirement looks differently to everyone. Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I the type of person who wants to retire on a beach in Florida? Or do I want to continue to be involved professionally or be “semi-retired”
- Do I wish to have funds to contribute to the education of my grandchildren? What about travel or major purchases like vehicles or boats?
- What role does charitable giving play in retirement? What are the causes that I care about?
The closer you get to retirement, the more relevant these questions become. It may seem like retirement is but a distant dream, but it will come sooner than you think and the time is now to plan for it. As you get closer to retirement, your financial advisor can help you determine if you are on track to meeting your goals and expectations for the future and, if not, what actions you can take to get there (another shameless plug for www.provisioretirement.com).
- The answer to the question “Am I all set” can only be answered after we know the answer to “What kind of life do I wish to lead”.
- No one can answer that question for you. Not your friends, not the internet, not even your financial advisor.
- Make sure you know what investment and insurance options are available through your employer and take full advantage of them.
- Work with a financial advisor to build a financial plan that aligns with your goals for the future.
- Start thinking about what the not so distant future of retirement looks like to you.
Thank you for taking the time to read this latest installment of “A Wing and a Plan”. If you found value in this article, I would be most honored if you would share it with a friend who may also find value in it.
Best wishes to you all,