I’ve got simple tastes.
I’m pretty happy with my life the way it’s going.
I can’t think of anything I’d change.
These are all phrases that have tumbled from our clients’ mouths in recent weeks.
Sure, we have plenty of clients who are busy changing Every Single Aspect of their lives (New jobs! New babies! New homes in new locations!). But we also work with a lot of people who are settled…and perfectly content with the way their life is unfolding.
On one hand, we’re absolutely thrilled for these clients. It’s hard for us to disagree with the quote by Rabbi Hyman Schachtel that “happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have.”
On the other hand, part of our job as financial planners is to act as an advocate for our clients: both the current version of themselves at peace with the status quo—and also the future version of themselves, whose circumstances or feelings might change at any moment.
So if you’re happy with pretty much every aspect of your life right now: mazel tov!
And also: you should regularly revisit and re-explore what is important to you in life, and reflect on what’s changed in your world recently—it could affect where you want your life to go from here.
It’s hard to build a life you love if you’re avoiding all talk of goals.
For almost all of us, money—like time and energy—is a finite resource. And as financial planners, we’ve got all sorts of creative tactics to help you optimize your use of those dollars.
But in order to make sure that we’re applying this resource in service of the right things, it’s critical that we talk about what you want, and what you value. Otherwise, you’ll end up ascending many rungs of the completely wrong ladder.
To use a different metaphor for your life’s direction: say you’re piloting a plane. Maybe you’d be equally happy if you landed in Tokyo, or in New Zealand. Openness and flexibility are fabulous traits! But it’s still probably important that you decide beforehand to head west rather than east, if you can help it.
Whether or not you have any concrete desire to use your money to change your life, it’s still important to spend time exploring the subject of goals and dreams. (And values, which help govern our life and financial choices in a more intentional manner.) If you don’t, you risk applying your precious resources in ways that don’t serve you.
If the word “goals” feels too limiting, don’t fret. There’s an easy fix for that:
Think about your possibilities instead.
Planning ahead gives you flexibility.
So you don’t have any pressing needs to address with your finances now. Great! That means you have more resources at your disposal to stash in one form or another—cash for anything that might reasonably arise in the next three years, a conservatively-invested portfolio (we call it an “opportunity fund”) for goals that might pop up after that.
And stash those resources you should. Because, like the uber-responsible squirrel hiding acorns away for future meals, you know that winter is coming (Game of Thrones pun entirely unintended). Having this stash of acorns—er, dollars—means that Future You will enjoy one of life’s biggest luxuries: flexibility.
When you plan as if the future is fundamentally unknowable—which it very much is—you’ll start amassing resources for that uncertain tomorrow. Since your rainy-day funds won’t be pegged to a specific goal, these untapped resources will give you choices, which in turn give you power.
Your life might change in an instant, and your goals with it.
Another reason you should aim for greater financial flexibility? Because what they say is true: the only constant in life is change.
Sometimes, you’re surprised by unanticipated changes that are largely positive. You get an amazing new job opportunity; it just happens to come with a pay cut. You’re thrilled to find out that you’re pregnant…but it wasn’t on your bingo card for 2022. Or, out of nowhere, you’re overtaken by an entrepreneurial spark that feels too exciting not to pursue.
Other times, these changes are really tough, even tragic. A family member gets sick, and needs support from you. You were chugging along happily at work, until a new boss showed up and made your life miserable. You and your partner unexpectedly split up.
When life circumstances change, your needs change along with them. And when your needs change, you’ll be grateful that you built a financial plan featuring lots of flexibility.
Plan for life’s possibilities when it’s not an emergency.
Your decision-making abilities are best when you’re clearheaded. If a financial need arises in the future, there will be some kind of pressure associated with it.
If it’s an exciting goal that involves making a big purchase, you might feel a sense of urgency—and that urgency can cause you to overlook important risk management considerations. If your new financial goal, or need, is motivated by a tough or stressful situation, that stress might cause you to panic, and rush into a decision.
If you plan for possibilities and contingencies well before you might need the money—whether that means amassing a cash cushion or opportunity fund, or undertaking some thoughtful analysis—you’re more likely to make decisions using the parts of your brain dedicated to executive function.
Plus, in the years where you’re not pursuing big financial goals, you have the perfect opportunity to get the rest of your financial life in order. Draw up your estate planning documents! Check your beneficiaries! Finally apply for that term life insurance policy!
Later, when a new goal arises and captures all your attention, you’ll know that the rest of your financial needs have been properly addressed.
Ever heard of the “end of history” illusion?
Imagine your life ten years from now. Maybe you think it’ll look pretty similar! Sure, you’ll make some adjustments—you’ll grow in your career, you’ll upgrade your apartment, you’ll adopt a pet. But life ten years from now won’t look radically different from life today. Right?
Now, think about your life ten years ago. Do you think that Past You could’ve possibly predicted the forks in the road, or U-turns, or wild rocket-ship rides that brought you to where you stand today?
The “end of history” is a concept that’s been applied in the political and philosophical realms. Here, we’re using it to discuss how effectively (or not!) people are at estimating how different their own lives will look in the future.
As it turns out: not very, according to a series of studies. A Kitces.com writeup on the results notes that “across the age spectrum, the results showed that for any given 10-year period of time (from 18 to 68), we report far more change after the decade ends than we predict heading into it.”
Remember this: you are a malleable human being, constantly growing and changing, whose goals and desires—as simple as they might be today—will certainly change, too.
It can be fun.
If you’re anything like us, or our clients, you’re probably busy. Stretched thin. Running from one task or meeting to the next.
When’s the last time that you took an hour or two to reflect on your priorities? On how your life was feeling lately? On how you wanted your life to feel?
Most of us are excellent at completing checklist items, and slightly less excellent at slowing down—not to mention actually taking stock of our lives.
Here at Flow, we’re not just financial planners. We’re financial life planners. Sure, we’re well-versed in modeling Roth conversions and talking about equity compensation strategies, but we’re just as adept at facilitating conversations about what you want from your precious time on earth.
And guess what? Those conversations can just be straight-up fun. Talking about your wildest dreams doesn’t mean that you’re discontent with your present. Give yourself the gift—whether it’s by yourself, or with your financial planner—of allowing yourself to think about the most enjoyable “what ifs” you can imagine.
Maybe you do have big goals…but you’re ignoring them.
Maybe we’re off-base!
But if you haven’t allowed yourself to admit that you have big, audacious goals because they feel entirely out of reach, or too complicated to approach, I’ll leave you with two thoughts.
Maybe, with a better understanding of your financial situation coupled with the right plan, and possibly the right planner, that goal might be more achievable than you once thought.
And even if it’s not achievable, you can probably distill that goal down to its essence. That essence might very well be within reach. Maybe you can’t afford a palatial home perched on the side of a mountain…but if the essence of that goal is to spend time in a comfortable place closer to nature, a weekend away in a cozy rental could net you a similar feeling.
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Disclaimer: This article is provided for educational, general information, and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. We encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Flow Financial Planning, LLC, and all rights are reserved. Read the full Disclaimer.