Planning by Design for a Better Life

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Anthony Bartlett, ChFC, CASL, AEP, RICP

One thing in life that is certain is that change is inevitable. It’s essential to be prepared to handle whatever challenges arise. Being adaptable goes a long way toward addressing change and helps face life’s adversities no matter how serious they are. Being able to adapt is key to success, whether financially or otherwise.

An important part of adapting is having a planLife is always better with a plan and planning by design is better than planning by crisis. A well-thought-out plan focuses on the objectives, helps eliminate concerns and anticipate problems, and provides benchmarks for decision-making. It is also a great way to cope with change and be focused on future-oriented decisions. A plan provides a base upon which to build anything, whether a skyscraper, a highway, or a secure and prosperous life that can weather life’s ups and downs.

As we all know, 2020 was unlike any other we’ve ever experienced. At times, it seems that the whole world was in turmoil. COVID-19 has profoundly impacted the economy, resulting in entire industries either significantly reducing business or coming to a halt. An unprecedented number of layoffs and work reductions in a short time resulted in personal financial crises that have affected almost everyone in America. A historic presidential election has also highlighted the political, social, and cultural divisions in our country. All of this is tiresome and makes people wonder what’s next.

Such abrupt precipitous changes have resulted in a decrease in people’s feelings of self-worth. Suddenly losing a job because of something out of a person’s control and not providing for themselves or their family is enough to frustrate anyone. People relied on unemployment which may not have been enough, while the federal government support ended months ago.

Such an unexpected personal financial situation causes people to feel they weren’t worth what they’d once been. The belief that before there is an improvement, there are more dark days ahead is widespread. Life plans have been interrupted. Early retirement has been forced on many people and caused them to make financial decisions, which affect the rest of their life before they ever thought they would have to. Retirement plans and IRAs have been tapped leaving much-reduced assets for people to fulfill their retirement dreams. For example, claiming Social Security early means a lifetime reduced benefit. It can be claimed only once and using the wrong claiming strategy can work to someone’s disadvantage.

This is where a flexible, adaptable plan, that has a strong foundation, helps cope with such issues. Without it, a person could wallow in the sea of overwhelming financial crises and make decisions that don’t protect their future interests.

For many people, their net worth is tied directly to their self-worth, how they feel about themselves. In these times, they feel as though they’ve fallen short. It is vitally important not to allow any perceived fall in self-worth to have a negative impact on life.

No matter how difficult the current situation is, better days are ahead. Beginning to plan for the future is vitally important. Getting the financial house in order allows the opportunity to get a jump on coming out of the situation.

To come out on top, a person must view themselves as an investment and practice financial self-care. They must view themselves as worthy of financial advancement. Doing this provides a positive change in self-worth when managing finances and planning for the future.

While this may be possible without a plan, it will not be as successful as it would be with one. If a person considers himself or herself an investment, they want to be as successful as possible.

Something to note is that a person’s beliefs drive their behaviors. There are several factors that influence their emotional response to money matters. What did they learn about money when growing up? How do they feel when they think about it? Were they raised in a culture that had a particular view of money? Were they taught about credit, personal finance, and investments? Personal thoughts and feelings have a direct impact on actions.

Recognizing these factors and taking them into account when preparing a plan allows for even greater flexibility because it addresses a person’s known emotions about money. Following a plan is key to overcoming and controlling the emotions surrounding money.

An individual’s definition of financial success also plays a significant role in how they feel about money and their perception of their self-worth. Early in their career, a young person may think that earning a specific salary equates net worth with self-worth. A mid-level executive may feel she’s not being paid what she’s worth which generates negative feelings about her situation leading to lower self-worth. Young, single people approach money matters differently than a married couple with three children or parents with kids in college.

Gender plays a significant role in views and expectations of money. Thankfully times change, and years ago, a man was generally the highest earner. Today women have much greater participation in the workforce and a woman’s contribution to household income has grown significantly.

There is a correlation between education level and a person’s view of money and self-worth. Generally, the greater the education level, the greater the income and the greater confidence a person has about their financial future.

A person must commit to building a better future for themselves, taking steps today for a better tomorrow. It takes dedication, commitment, perseverance, and discipline to build a comfortable, prosperous, and enjoyable tomorrow. They must determine what they want to achieve financially. Planning is essential to financial success, whether facing life’s everyday ups and downs or in times of historic financial and economic upheaval.

(This article original appeared in TheStreet: https://www.thestreet.com/retirement-daily/planning-living-retirement/planning-by-design-for-a-better-life )

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