Blogs > Your Money

Dave Patterson and Erin Preston, a father-daughter team of Certified Financial Planner® licensees, provide thoughts and suggestions on a broad collection of personal finance topics.  Information provided in this BLOG is intended to be of a general nature and may not be appropriate for all situations.  Readers should consult with their own financial advisors before relying on any information contained herein.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

No Road Will Take You There

There’s an old saying that “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” With your finances, it’s more like: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll likely get nowhere.”

It seems to us that more than a few Americans plod along day to day, without any real plan in mind regarding how to achieve their goals. In many cases, they don’t really have any defined goals, let alone plans to achieve them. They are just living paycheck to paycheck, paying their monthly bills, saving little, running up credit card debt, buying the latest toy or new electronic gismo, while running up cell phone and cable bills of $100 to $150 a month.

To get ahead, one has to have some specific financial goals that guide their spending and saving. There are so many “nice to have things” out there that if one doesn’t have their spending prioritized and use goals to guide their spending, they will likely end up with lots of nice things that provide short-term satisfaction and many regrets regarding their unfulfilled life.

One of the first things we do with clients is to ask them to fill out our Life Planning Questionnaire, to help them sort out what they really want out of life and what they really value. For married couples, we ask each one to separately fill out a copy and then get together to discuss each other’s responses. This helps them to better understand what is important to their partner and lays the foundation for establishing and prioritizing their financial goals. One question we ask really gets at the heart of what’s important in their lives: “If you only had two days to live, what would be your biggest regret?”

Once you’ve spent the time to define what’s really important to you, the next step is to track your spending to see where your money is currently going. You’ll probably find a number of expenses that have no relation to your goals and can easily be cut out. Is that morning latte really necessary? Perhaps a “staycation” (stay-at home vacation) could save you a bundle. Or maybe you don’t really need that fancy cell phone with the expensive digital service plan.

Take a moment to think about how you’re spending your money and what’s really important to you and your family. You may find that you’re just spinning your wheels and aren’t really going anywhere. Having established and prioritized your financial goals can help you find the right road to a more meaningful life.


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