“Every forecast takes a number from today and multiplies it by a story about tomorrow.” - Morgan Housel
Every January your technology screens are deluged with forecasts about what might happen in the stock market and economy during the year ahead. In reality, forecasts represent stories about how you think the future will unfold. Stories are not prophecies.
Ultimately, forecasts are driven by what you believe – what you think you know. However, the world doesn't stand still--people, businesses, and systems adapt.
Your best stories about tomorrow are derived from personal experiences; your worst stories are extrapolations of what others, (like the media), are thinking. Most stories are driven by what you want to happen more than what you think will happen.
WHY STORIES MATTER
When talking with clients, stories about the future quickly come to the forefront. The stories most investors carry around usually follow a formula – some data + some belief.
The difficulty is the world is awash in data. Most data has little meaning until you attach a story.
Because there’s too much data to process you have to make choices about what gets through. Your stories – your beliefs pave the way for these choices.
Steve and Joan were referred to us a few years back as they approached the run-up phase prior to retirement. They both had very clear stories about what they thought would happen in the next few years and during their retirement.
Their storyline changed, however, when the company Steve worked for was sold and he had to retire three years before he planned. Yet another layer of complexity appeared as Joan went through some serious health issues.
Our planning advice to Steve and Joan focused on maintaining flexibility – being able to change directions quickly – and resiliency – having a strong financial foundation that can withstand different outcomes.
HOW ADAPTABILITY HELPS
The role of independent financial planning is not to convince you of either the errancy or efficacy of your stories. Rather, our role is to help you comprehend the consequences of particular decisions within your financial life.
The phrase “often mistaken, never in doubt” applies to many personal stories and it’s usually difficult to see this up close because you lack perspective. We remind clients that building and sustaining a successful financial life demands adaptability. It's important that you avoid being “locked-in” on particular outcomes that may ultimately prove unrealistic.
Every decision you make represents a ‘mini-forecast’ about what you believe will happen – your personal story about the future. Your story might be right or it might be wrong and the outcomes will vary accordingly.
The key takeaway is to realize that your story about tomorrow – your plan – may not happen in the way you expect. The goals, worries, and aspirations that you have today may be different tomorrow. Your story will continually change and that’s ok. Start there.