For a plan to work, there are a few parts that all need to be in place. So many people don’t have a plan. What’s even more discouraging, for me, is the fact that so many plans are doomed to fail. Did you make a New Year’s resolution related to money? How are you doing? If you’re not still on track, have a look at what makes a good plan and see if you might need to adjust.
Purpose. The purpose is more than just a goal. A purpose is the answer to the question “why?” Why do I want to save money? Why would I want to sacrifice? This is the motivation that keeps you going when you don’t feel like it. My own purpose is to be able to give my kids (and myself) the opportunity of living overseas for two years. Every money decision I make is now framed as: “How does this help me move toward living overseas?”
Non-negotiable Goals. These are the goals that you need to achieve in order to be successful. This means knowing what success will look like and being able to recognize when you’re there. It also means understanding what concrete (measurable) actions are going to move you closer to your fulfilling your purpose. For me, I needed to be able to stop working, have enough income produced by my investments, and complete an education degree at the university. (I’m 2 for 3).
Secondary Goals. These are goals that would be nice to reach, but aren’t deal-breakers. Especially with long-term goals, it’s possible to focus on more than one area at a time. It’s often possible to achieve smaller goals on the way to larger ones. These goals are things to keep in mind, but won’t take focus or energy away from the important goals. For me, I’d like to explore my city and local attractions the way I would a new city that I would visit. If I don’t, it won’t affect my plan, but it would be nice.
Constraints. No plan is free of constraints. We have limited time, money and energy to put into a plan. Other constraints might come from having to account for the needs of employment, colleagues, family and friends. My plan must work within a budget of under $5,000 per month, before my kids are teenagers and as long as my kids aren’t missing out on learning they would otherwise receive at school.
Experience. Most people focus too much on their short-term desires, but some people focus solely on their long-term goals and sacrifice the present. Why sacrifice (painfully) during 40 years of work in the hope of enjoying five or ten years of retirement? Ideally, the short-term experience is balanced with the need to progress toward long-term goals. What kind of experience do I want while I’m putting my plan into action? I’m trying to make the intervening years as meaningful as possible by meeting new people and getting involved in civic social projects. But it could as well be taking up a hobby or learning something new.
Drive. This one is different from the rest, because it’s not really an aspect of planning. Rather, it’s a characteristic of the person planning. It’s your plan. No one else is going to make sure it’s meaningful for you, or force you to work toward your goals. No one is going to force you to take the time to ensure you’re still on track and moving in the right direction. If you can take ownership of your plan, you can make sure it makes sense. If you take responsibility for your plan, you’ll make sure you’re making progress. I’ve found that telling everyone I know about my plan helps me to ensure it’s realistic (because they’ll ask questions, sometimes tough questions) and to take action to move forward (because they’ll ask how it’s going).
Having a plan is good. Having a realistic plan that’s meaningful to you is motivating and can bring some amazing things into your life. What are you planning for? Have you been making progress?