Can’t things just stop changing? Has the status quo ever been normal?
Here’s an exercise: think about decisions that you made 5 years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. Did the decisions work out as planned? Did changes along the way impact your outcome?
A few years ago, Charlie and Sarah came to us on the precipice of retirement. Charlie had spent most of his career in upper management with a large company and they were now ready to start traveling and building memories with their family.
To help Charlie and Sarah highlight their existing financial decision-making process, we walked through the exercise above. They readily admitted that many of their previous financial decisions hadn’t worked as planned – but they fully expected future decisions would. This is a very common fallacy.
WHY DID THINGS WORK OUT DIFFERENTLY?
Change is the reason why what actually happened is different from what you thought would happen.
How could this be? If change impacted choices in the past, wouldn’t this hold true in the future as well? This reality was not apparent to Charlie and Sarah and it isn’t obvious to many other investors making important financial decisions.
Things have always changed but today these changes are “front and center” because of how quickly information spreads. 20 years ago, you read the financial news in a newspaper or magazine – today you look at your phone and react emotionally to minute-by-minute changes in the markets.
Change is inevitable – you can’t make it stop. We helped Charlie and Sarah understand that their financial plans made today would likely need to be adjusted in the future – as circumstances changed. Financial planning isn’t a “set it and forget it” activity.
At the core of your long-term financial goals are stories about what your future will look like. These stories contain guesses about the future. Things rarely unfold in accordance with these stories but they are a place to start.
HOW TO DEVELOP SITUATIONAL AWARENESS
Your tolerance for change, even if it’s not really acceptance, plays a large role in your financial future. Successful long-term financial planning requires situational awareness. You have to adjust to real life circumstances and conditions.
The financial planning process contains five main components: assess; decide; act; adjust; reassess. Each step you take in the process is important and contributes to a positive outcome. We ask clients to acknowledge particular events that would necessitate the need to adjust and reassess. That way, when these events occur you know it’s just part of the plan.
Charlie and Susan learned that to become successful long-term investors they had to invest today without knowing precisely what would change tomorrow.
Financial planning provides you with a framework for anticipating change. Since change is expected and part of the process, you won’t be surprised – you won’t over-react. Start there.