What’s the Point of a Plan?

There is an old saying “Man Plans, God Laughs” which seems particularly true for me this week.  I had plans to do certain things and the entire week seemed to blow up with other things instead.  Not all the other things were bad, like my 185 piece Bone Kickstarter order of minis arriving about three weeks earlier than I thought, but these events rather just tossed my original plans out the window.

This got me thinking of retirement plans and how that issue also happened repeatedly to me.  I would make a saving plan and do my calculations and then things would shift dramatically by no fault of my own and then my plans won’t be useful in a year or two.  So why then do we plan out our money and time in retirement when in fact we know the plans will never actually work out that way?

In my case, I would say the point of the plan was the thought exercise.  It was asking ‘what if‘ and then trying to determine the answer.  The answer might never come to pass but the exercise is still useful as it provides you a bit more understanding about the risks, issues and problems you might encounter in retirement.

In short, you learn about things that might never come to pass but it does provide you input on the magnitude of potential outcomes.  So if you enter an extended period of low investment returns you know what that might do to your investments and you can think about how that would make you feel and how you would react to the issue.  This provides a degree of confidence to you on how to deal with the issue and by extension other issues that do come up.

Or you can plan out various ways to fill your time and realize that you feel busy enough with only using half of those items.  So you still don’t have time do do all the hobbies that you want even in retirement.  You might feel a bit guilty about ignoring things but it doesn’t stop you from changing your hobbies down the road when a current hobby ceases to be interesting.  The plan isn’t useless just because it didn’t work out the way you thought.

Perhaps the biggest shift in a plan that ever occurred to me was moving up my retirement date.  I started this blog back in 2006 fully thinking that retiring at 45 would be a difficult goal.  It was more a dream than reality when I started.  Then I did better than I thought on investments and paying off debt so I slowly moved backed my retirement date by a year or two.  Then finally when my wife mentioned she wanted to keep working for a few more years that pushed me over to revise my target down to 40 (and even then I left six months before that).

Was my retirement a good plan?  It was in theory and only time will tell if it will work out in the real world but so far things are working.  Of course, not as expected or projected but we expect that now don’t we?

So why do you plan even if you know it won’t work out?

2 thoughts on “What’s the Point of a Plan?”

  1. I am going through a similar thought process. I plan because it gives me a map to follow and a false sense of security. At the very least if I plan, I have somewhat of a net in place even if it is half a net, to save myself.

    Case in point: I was supposed to work until the end of summer and now it has been cut short. Net? Half in place, but at least there is one!

  2. @Sherry – Yep, a half placed net is WAY better than nothing. Sorry to hear things didn’t work at your current contract.

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