You are finally sick of getting to December or January and wondering, where did all my money go? You decide it’s time for changes so you open a new savings account and maybe even a 529 college savings plan for your little ones. You vow that this time next year, the credit card will be paid off and you’ll have $ in the bank.
Or you take it a step further. You hire a Financial Planner who asks you what your financial objectives are. You list: paying off debt, building savings, funding all or part of college for your children and being able to retire comfortably. The pro helps you define and quantify each of those goals further and shows you, with pretty charts and graphs, here’s how you knock down each of those objectives. It’s all very logical and formulaic, invest $x in y account at z rate of return and voila, you’re set.
Except, you’re not. And at the same time next year, you’ve made only a little progress and are now avoiding calls from your Financial Advisor.
It’s not entirely your fault (we can all take a little responsibility here).
Our culture is obsessed with what I call Goals Based Planning and frankly, it’s a trap in 3 distinct ways.
Definition: Replace goals with values.
So many times financial goals sound like “6 months savings,” “$100,000 in a college fund” “$150,000/year in retirement income” “a millionaire by 40.” While there’s a small percentage of the population this works for, it’s an utter failure for the vast majority of us.
A study revealed that the largest factor in 1100 parole decisions was the time of day the judgement was made (essentially boiling down to is the parole board hungry or tired?), reminding us that we are far less logical than we give ourselves credit. It isn’t that these metrics aren’t important, they just aren’t effective motivators. I call them soulless.They don’t appeal to our basic humanity, they only appeal to our logical brains.
Instead, take some time to examine what you truly value. If we take health as an example, you will be able to point to the evidence proving you value health. Evidence like, moving your body regularly, eating a well-balanced and varied diet, going to your regular check ups and having the strange moles examined. If there’s no evidence to support it, be honest with yourself. Either you don’t really value it as much as you think OR you’ve gotten off track and need a GENTLE nudge to prioritize that value again. Gentle is the key word here, if you are operating within your set of values, making life changes feels good, maybe awkward, but good awkward, not hard or icky.
So, in lieu of goals, get clear about what you value and align your financial decision to them.
An example here sounds like VALUING FREEDOM – the FREEdom to say no to any boss, job or customer. Having a decent savings account is evidence of this value so start chipping away at that freedom fund!
Approach: My second beef with goals-based planning is the process itself.
Even concrete numbers people admit that saving x at y rate of return for z years will NEVER actually hit a specific target. We know this because while we’ve solved for x,y and z variables, none of these OR the additional unstated financial variables (tax changes, inflation, economic cycles, market cycles, interest rate changes, to name a few) will actually remain the same over the course of time. As much as we want financial decisions to fit into neat little excel boxes, they don’t.
Just as important, our lives are much messier than financial projections. Few of us can get through a year, let alone a decade without some significant unplanned changes. Marriage, divorce, having children, trying hard to conceive and not having success, car accidents, medical diagnosis, career and business changes, death, moving….
I ask every potential client, “If I met you 10 years ago and asked you to describe your life 10 years from now, is today what you would have described?” In years of asking, only once have I heard “pretty much.” Most of the time it’s a good chuckle.
A better approach is to put yourself in an optimal financial position.
Optimal meaning using money as a tool to support the life you enjoy (your values) and being prepared to act as planned or unplanned financial and life events occur.
Input vs Output
I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I’ve decided to lose 20lbs only to be discouraged when the scale didn’t move after my first week of working out=) Guess how many restarts happened because of it?
Being obsessed with the result is counter-productive.
Focus your obsession with the consistent action, or habit that leads to the result.
In our financial example, to achieve the freedom to say no to any boss, customer or job, you need sufficient savings. (In this case, target 9 months, aka the average unemployment duration). The consistent action is a small (small is consistent, large is generally not sustainable), automated deposit into a savings account every month or pay period. Now, set aside 10 seconds every time the deposit happens to celebrate the action you took– do a freedom happy dance and give yourself a high five in the mirror. When you hit your target, you can celebrate then too, but the more important and harder part of the equation is the action that leads you there.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk, now go out and slay your financial values and share with me the actions you start to celebrate regularly.
With love, Jenifer Sapel, ChFC Founder of Utor Wealth Financial Planner, podcaster, boymom, cyclist, hiker, whiskey drinker, friend
Jenifer Sapel, ChFC is a Registered Representative & Financial Advisor of Park Avenue Securities, LLC (PAS) OSJ: 333 N. Indian Hill Blvd, Claremont, CA 91711 909-399-1100. Securities products/services and advisory services offered through PAS, member FINRA, SIPC. Financial Representative of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian), New York, NY. PAS is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Utor Wealth LLC is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Guardian. Utor Wealth LLC is not a Registered Investment Advisor. Material discussed is meant for general informational purposes only and is not to be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice. Although the information has
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