Make Financial Planning Fun

by: Russ Thornton

When it comes to money – your money – it’s easy to fall down the rabbit hole of spreadsheets, charts, graphs, calculations and other “technical” information.

And while you (or your advisor) are busy planning for the best possible future, it’s also easy to lose sight of the here and now.

The way I see it, whether you have a lot of money or maybe not so much, your money should be used to support a great life for you, your family and the other people and organizations that are important to you.

With this in mind, I recall a scene from the 1988 movie Big starring Tom Hanks. I’m sure you remember it.

Anyway, here’s the scene:

In this corporate presentation where one of his colleagues talks about things like “market share” and “total revenue” and financial reasons for launching a new product, Tom Hanks is actually tinkering and playing with the product – a toy for kids.

At the conclusion of the financial presentation where the “suit” has a somewhat smug look on his face and asks, rhetorically, if there are any questions, Tom Hanks raises his hand and asks, “what’s fun about that?”

I think this is an important question for all of us to ask of ourselves from time to time.

And especially when it comes to our financial planning efforts.

We can easily become so focused on preparing for a comfortable, confident future, that we rob ourselves of the opportunity to enjoy each and every step of the daily journey.

While the popular press and many financial professionals encourage you to skip your daily Starbucks and save as much as you can, I think there’s a better solution.

While many planners and advisors ask you how much investment risk you can endure just so they can position you and your money to endure as much risk as you can - again, there’s a better approach.

Rather than working years beyond your tolerance for your current career, perhaps you can explore alternatives to retire sooner, even if you have to make some other adjustments to make it work. Or maybe you can transition to another job, perhaps in a completely different industry, that you would enjoy and could continue with for many more fulfilling years.

I’m not ignorant to the fact that life is uncertain and it takes hard work and discipline to plan for a secure tomorrow.

But I don’t believe for one moment that life is all about difficult choices and sacrifice up until the day you retire. Your life doesn’t begin at retirement, though some financial planners would have you think that way.

If you can’t really enjoy the benefits of your savings, hard work and discipline until you’re in your 60s, well “what’s fun about that?”

Like most things in life, financial planning done well is about balance. It’s about avoiding extremes and finding something that works for you. Both in the present and in the future.

We only get one shot at life.

What if your planned future is so secure and confident that you’re sacrificing your current lifestyle, even if unintentionally, to stay on track?

Of course, we all know people who are too focused on today and will think about tomorrow when it gets here. And that’s not the answer either.

Just remember to keep the focus of your financial planning on living a great lifestyle. Now and every day going forward.

For this reason, I often like to refer to my work as lifestyle financial planning.

It might still call for some tough choices, hard work and discipline. In fact, I’m certain that it will. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the journey and have a little fun along the way.

I work with a lot of women who are doing their best to move forward after going through divorce or becoming a widow.

And many of these women are so fearful of the future 10, 20 or more years ahead, that they’re scared to spend a penny more than absolutely necessary for them to scrape by.

That’s no way to live.

On the other hand, some women, after feeling like they’ve been under their husband’s thumb for years, will become a spendthrift and go through funds from their divorce settlement like it’s nobody’s business.

That’s no way to live either. At least not for very long.

It’s about exploring, finding, establishing and maintaining balance in your life. And with your money.

Also, if your financial advisor is a little too focused on numbers, equations, ratios, economic data, and your money instead of helping you make the most of your life, it might be time to find another advisor.