Thursday, August 22, 2019

Money Can Only Buy “Stuff”

When is the last time you stopped to assess your life?  I wonder if your thoughts are the same as mine.  I look around now and am simply grateful.  My possessions might not be glamourous, my clothing stylish, nor my vehicle extravagant, but I feel content. Maybe contentment comes with age, travelling down life’s bumpy trails, or simply with gratitude.   I don’t know the secret prescription to this peaceful contentment drug but I know its importance. From a financial viewpoint, before we kick-start the financial planning process -- the “I want” stuff -- we may be wise to kick-back and evaluate what we have.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Money has never made man happy, nor will it; there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness.  The more of it one has the more one wants.”   

The first step in the financial planning process is to set our objectives and rarely have we ever discussed the things money can’t buy.  Now I begin to believe we should. The list below compiles essential items we often overlook when striving to achieve financial success. Without a doubt, our financial goals are important.  The true objective is to strike a balance.  Getting to the end of our lives and having lost sight of these vital elements to a life well-lived and well-loved would be tragic. 

Recently, I stumbled upon a new perspective.  The material items we consider valuable today will end up in a heap of trash in the future.  We can easily trap ourselves into buying the new refrigerator with a single ice maker from Lowe’s, a gaming laptop from Best Buy, or a reclining leather home theatre sofa from Wayfair.  Enjoying a comfortable lifestyle needs to be weighed with building ourselves and creating meaningful relationships.

Can you see how easily we get caught up in the busyness of “doing” and forget the pleasure of “enjoying”?  We get absorbed in the having more “material stuff” and we lose sight of obtaining the “priceless stuff”.   As these relaxing months of summer come to a close and a new season of goal-setting and achievements pops up, let’s ensure our priorities include the “invaluable stuff”.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Connect the Dots

Do remember your favorite games and puzzles as a child?  One of my memorable puzzles was “Connect the Dots”; maybe you remember this one too! You drew a line from one number to the next in the correct sequence. And the best part was seeing the image unfold before your eyes. Of course, this happened only if you knew the correct order of the numbers.  When you’re a beginner at counting, this didn’t happen accurately.  The eraser became your best friend for fixing the errors so the perfect image appeared.

I bet you don’t realize you do this puzzle as an adult.  Imagine the years of your life as a series of dots. The line between each year represents the time you work and play at your studies and careers.   And in this space between the dots, you spend and save your money.  Each year holds a series of goals, dreams, and aspirations you strive to accomplish.

Here’s the reality.  Time seems to drag when you strive. Wishing a phase of your life was finished doesn’t help things happen any quicker.   As a medical student, seven years at university seems like an eternity.  As a parent, saving for your children’s educations from the time they’re born seems impossible. Waiting for your mortgage to be paid off seems to be a heavy burden over the span of twenty-five years.

Because things don’t happen as fast as you would like is not a reason to be discontent on your journey.  My mind is stuck on the story of the rabbit and turtle.  (You can say “the hare and tortoise”, if you prefer.)   As long as you know what you want, where you are headed, and how you will get there, “slow and steady” wins the race.

A financial plan, created with your numbers, helps your life’s image unfolded.  All your goals, dreams, and aspirations are on those lines between the series of dots.  You don’t have to wait until your life is complete to know whether you accomplished all of your heart’s desires.   You and your children will be educated; your mortgage paid off; and before long, you will be retired and witness your children experience the same challenges you did.  

The time is now to evaluate whether your numbers are aligned.  Your first step is to evaluate your priorities so you can finish the race.  I need you to imagine you are 105 years old, sitting in a rocking chair at your nursing home and looking outdoors through the window. You have all your faculties you are as smart as a whip. When you look through the window, you imagine watching a movie made of your life; you see all the things you said you wanted to do and you did them. You were not discouraged by believing you were too old, too young or not educated.  You were not concerned about money or any obstacles that might stand in your path.   You said, “I want to do this; and you did!” 

Using a brightly-colored sheet of paper (preferably 8½”x11”), fold the paper four times until you have what looks like a 2”x2” square.  So once you unfold it to its original size, you see sixteen squares on the front and back.  Thirty-two spots to write your goals, dreams and aspirations. The ones you saw played in your movie.  Some may or may not involve money (i.e. learn to play chess, write a book-the cost will be in the publishing, or take winter vacations in Mexico).  This exercise will not be completed in an hour or even one day.  This type of exercise takes time.  Keep your antenna up; see what others have done; if you like what you see, put it on your list. 

Remember you must grasp the pen and write on paper.  Just thinking about your aspirations is not sufficient.  The magic happens in the process of writing your aspirations. Your aspirations are your dots.  

Once this exercise is complete, we can connect the dots and create your perfect image. Are you willing?