Have you ever had to sneeze while driving? It’s terrifying! You’ll have to close your eyes and convulse your body* all while maintaining safety on the road. Having a financial plan is very similar to preparing for this unexpected, horrifying sneeze.
Preparing to Sneeze While Driving
- Make Sure the Path Ahead is Clear – The first step to a financial plan is figuring out where you want to go. List your 3 biggest financial goals (be sure to include retirement!). Figure out how much money you will need for each one. Work backwards. Start with retirement. If you can save money early on for retirement, you won’t need as much in the long run. What is your second-largest money goal? Work down from there. Once you’ve figured out which direction you’re heading financially, you need to make sure there aren’t large obstacles in your path. When you’re about to sneeze while driving, you make sure you’re not heading for another car, a wall, a median, etc. You try to make sure you plan to avoid those as best you can. If your top 3 financial goals are: a solid retirement, the down-payment on a house, and an international trip for your family, buying an RV won’t fit in. If buying an RV is on your list, maybe that international trip has to wait. Those priorities are up to you, but you have to decide BEFORE the RV goes on sale. If you haven’t made a decision up front, you’ll crash into anything that comes up. If you have your financial goals solidified, you have no problem turning the wheel to avoid those choices and get back on track toward your financial destinations.
- Place Your Hands Firmly on the Wheel – Your financial plan should be automated so it moves forward without your help just as the car will continue moving forward during your sneeze. Life happens. If the financial plan is automated, you have less of a chance of derailing all your plans in the midst of trials.
- Sneeze! – The funny thing about sneezes is that sometimes you get warning, and sometimes you don’t at all. It just happens. And in an instant, you lose all control you previously had. Life is like that. Sometimes you know a big change is going to happen (job changes, having a baby, getting married, etc.) and sometimes it just happens (death, illness, job loss, etc.). The important point is that at some point in your life, you will sneeze. And not just once. We all sneeze many, many times in our lives. We may not know when we will sneeze or get any warning before doing so, but we will all sneeze (many times while driving!). Life will happen. Over and over again it will hit and you will lose all control. Prepare for it as best you can.
- Readjust – When the sneeze passes, it’s time to make sure you’re where you need to be. If you veered out of lane, get back in. If you crashed, assess the damage and move forward. After hard times in life, when you finally emerge, it’s time to readjust. Have your shorter-term financial goals changed? Is it time to find a new path? How can you get back on track?
Creating a financial plan always sounds so stuffy. In reality, it’s just making sure you don’t completely crash the car while sneezing.** A financial plan can keep you from destroying your finances when trials inevitably hit.
What “sneezes” has your financial plan seen you through?
*I’m known for my loud, violent sneezes
**Next time you sneeze in the car, I hope you’ll subconsciously start thinking about your financial plan.