As a fee-only financial advisor, I get the opportunity to spend time really getting to know my clients, and I am very fortunate to have a great group of folks to work with. I am always amazed at what my clients can teach me through their life experiences.
I recently was meeting with a client who used to perform consultative work for the military. As we were discussing the importance of holistic financial planning she related it to this military mantra: “NO BATTLE PLAN SURVIVES FIRST CONTACT WITH THE ENEMY”.
Wow, what a wonderful nugget of wisdom! This is not only true for the military’s work, but it’s also true for our financial planning experiences. In my opinion, the only difference is the word “enemy”. While some folks would say the word “enemy” would make sense in this context( maybe their enemy is over-spending), I feel the term “life” is appropriate to replace enemy.
Life is constantly on the move. We seem to be busier than our parents were. Life is pitching fastballs to us that sometimes we just can’t hit.
So, what does all of this have to do with financial planning?
Financial planning is a process…..not an event. Financial planning is a process constantly in flux and ever changing. Always tweaking and making adjustments, we must keep our eye on the big picture and strive to stay objective. Adjusting and rolling with the changes is healthy. Again, as a fee-only advisor, objectivity is the cornerstone of my practice. This is one reason I feel almost everyone should work with an advisor….at least at some point. This is also why my wife and I have our own fee-only financial advisor. We want an unbiased opinion.
While the creation of a financial plan is a great first step, it’s not the only step. We must implement the plan, monitor the plan, and then adjust the plan.
The military does a great job of planning for contingencies, but the enemy is also trying to step on those plans. When the military is faced with an unexpected situation they go back to the drawing board and make adjustments. The battle plan is always changing.
We too must adjust our financial plans. Whether it’s an unexpected inheritance or a long term illness, we can be assured that we will all be faced with some sort of financial curve ball. If we simply give up, or try to move ahead with a plan that doesn’t fit the situation, we may be in for a difficult financial ride.
The key is not to give up and learn to deal with the ebb and flow of our personal finances. Don’t quit! Go back to the drawing board and adjust the plan. This is one of the aspects of my practice that I really enjoy. I don’t operate from a boiler-plate template. This approach keeps me on my toes, and I love it.
We can all take a lesson from the military’s playbook and remember that whatever plan you have in place at this point will probably change in the near future. If we realize no plan is perfect and are willing to reevaluate, we will give ourselves the best chance for financial success by realizing it is a process….a long term process.