Jack Welch, business guru and storied former CEO of General Electric declared, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.” Or “something else will,” we add.
That “something else” may be the press, with an avalanche of dour stories that leave you feeling that the world as you know it is fracturing, tenuous, changing, hostile. You get the impression that the pandemic, politics, civil unrest, the stock market, or whatever, is signaling radical change that could upend your assumptions about the future.
“This changes everything” is the mantra du jour.
Okay, I get it. With a drumbeat of alarming pronouncements from cable and network news assaulting your brain, cell phone intrusions, bloggers, Twitter alerts, and Zoom meetings with more questions than answers, it’s hard to develop and maintain perspective. Technology and our wired world make it harder to unplug, but chaos and uncertainty aren’t new. Walk down Memory Lane to the tumult surrounding the Vietnam War protests, bombings, and riots, and then climb back up through energy shortages, recessions, market crashes, 9/11, wars, prior pandemics, etc.
Look at timelines involving your immediate family or close friends. There were challenges, setbacks, losses, as well as triumphs and joy along the way. With America, with your family, with companies, hard times pave the way for overcoming, for progress, reinvention. What’s the common denominator in advancements over time? A vision of a goal and future outcome, a willingness to take prudent risks, and a plan to get there.
Sean Covey, son of the famous motivational guru, Steven Covey, wrote “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.” He wisely advised, “If you decide to just go with the flow, you’ll end up where the flow goes, which is usually downhill, often leading to a big pile of sludge and a life of unhappiness. You’ll end up doing what everyone else is doing.”
Floating a stream on a hot summer day can seem like a pleasant diversion, until the dam upriver releases a cascade of water and swamps your raft, you’re swept over a waterfall, get sucked into a whirlpool, crash into a rock, and to top it off, you’re a bad swimmer. Daily life is an exercise in risk. A survival plan is basic.
When it comes to finances, a friend in Florida, Dan Moisand, CFP, writing in the June 2020 Journal of Financial Planning, noted, “When I see someone made a bad financial decision, I can usually trace the problem back to a lack of a plan, a bad plan, abandoning a good plan, or failing to revise a plan as needed.”
Perhaps the term “financial plan” is a misnomer. What you need is a “life plan,” but even that term may be too sweeping. You face myriad challenges, life transitions of one kind or another, related to your journey across the years as you surf your personal age wave along with traveling companions who are part of your life, some with you for much of the duration, those you love and care for. Ideally you have long-range plans related to family, career, various stages of life, and your earthly mission, considering your immortal soul.
Depending on where you are on the age continuum, life transition challenges may involve education and training, marriage, the arrival of children, buying a house, starting a business, selling a business interest, career decisions and changes, relocations, planning for retirement, taking care of aging loved ones. You know there are risks to everything you do, and strategies to manage risks are part of a prudent plan. If you’re hiking a wilderness trail, you worry about wild animals and hidden dangers in the unfamiliar landscape. In the journey through life, you must have a plan, alternatives, resources and trail guides to deal with various challenges, including the 5Ds that can derail assumptions and the status quo, including a business or career disability, death, disagreement, divorce, dissolution. Financial planning, better termed, “financial life planning,” deals with the money aspect of life transitions planning, including the “what if’s?” surrounding any envisioned goal or future.
The COVID-19 experience has us being more introspective, contemplating timelines and what’s really important. Has your experience raised questions about relationships, including your personal, work, community, and spiritual families? What do you plan to do about altering plans in response to revised thinking and new questions? Have you missed the “coffee conversations,” the personal exchange of greetings and ideas, getting “out and about?” Have time frames changed relative to potential life transitions, especially big ones like marriage, children, career, succession, retirement?
The great pandemic reset is underway. Go with the flow or take the helm and captain your ship? Be buffeted by vicissitudes or harness change for goal actualization? What’s the role of money, given challenges and aspirations? If you have more questions than answers, that’s what life transitions planning counsel is for.
Lewis Walker, CFP®, is a financial life planning strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-3553;firstname.lastname@example.org. Securities & advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA, otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group. He’s a Gallup Certified Clifton Strengths Coach and Certified Exit Planning Advisor.