You might think you have a financial plan but in fact you may not. And believe it or not, the exact opposite of this is also true. You might not think you have a plan when in fact you do. In order to know if you have a financial plan or not we need to get clear on our terms.
What Is A Financial Plan?
In order to have a financial plan you need to answers two questions:
- Will you run out of money?
- If you run that risk, what do you have to do differently now in order to reduce the odds of that coming to pass?
If you know the answers to those two questions you might have a financial plan. Just be aware that in order to really know the answers to these two questions you must also know:
- How much income do you have now?
- How will your income grow over the years?
- How much income will you have once you retire? What are the sources of that income?
- How much does it cost you to live each month on average right now?
- What will it cost you to live in the future?
- How much have you accumulated? How is it invested? What is it earning?
- What will your investments be worth in the future?
- How much income will your investments generate down the line?
Obviously you can’t answer each of these questions with absolute certainty. You base your plan on assumptions about inflation, interest rates, returns, cost of living etc… that are reasonable. That’s the best anyone can do
If you don’t know the answers to those first two questions or if you came up with answers without answering the eight questions below them, you don’t have a financial plan and you need one. Not having a financial plan is like steering a ship in the fog. Sooner or later you run aground. You’ve worked too hard all your life to gamble on your future Pilgrim.
I spoke to a nice man early last week. He wanted to run a plan but I told him not to waste his money or time. Why? Because after I spoke with him for about 10 minutes I knew that he couldn’t do anything to make a plan work. He was up to his eyeballs in debt, he wasn’t willing to change his lifestyle or reduce his spending, he couldn’t earn more money and he was in his mid-60s so he had limited time to make a substantial difference. I’m sorry. It rarely happens this way but if you aren’t willing to take action (sometimes drastic action) a plan may be no use to you. You just have to be honest about it.
Had this person created a financial plan, here’s what it would have told him:
- Why and how to get out of debt.
- He cannot afford to retire.
- If he does stop working, he will run out of money.
There was nothing he could do to change that outcome other than make drastic cuts to his standard of living. I knew this without running a plan and so did he. A plan wasn’t going to get him any closer to achieving his goals. It’s not a magic pill.
My advice to this man was to do everything possible to get out of debt and then we’d consider running a financial plan for him. I knew that if he was able to shed that debt, a plan might be useful but until that happened, it was just a waste.
Out of the last 50 people I’ve met only 2 that fall into this category. Running a financial plan wouldn’t tell them anything new and wouldn’t help them create a better future. But the good news is that 96% of the people would find it useful and in many cases, a game changer. Those are pretty good odds if you ask me.
Do you have a financial plan or are you one of the people for whom a plan is useless? How do you know?