Over the past 11 years I have prepared around 500 financial plans. Each plan provided a road map with actionable items to be completed. Assumptions such as inflation rates, rate of return, life expectancy, earnings potential and other goals were incorporated into the financial plans I drew up for clients. Looking back, likely less than 5% of the plans were followed through with. Only a handful of my clients regimentally followed the plan I helped put together. The people that did follow the plans are now debt free, have a respectable amount of savings and have noticeably more freedom in their lives. I do not take credit for the select few that are now “sitting pretty”. There is a common characteristic within this small group of people. They tend to be aware of how the world works, they are hard workers and they clearly see that being a slave to an unsustainable system is not desirable for them. They plan accordingly. They see the value in hard assets. In addition, planning should go much further than simply financial planning. Finances often dictate what we are able to accomplish, but I am living proof that you can make massive changes that do not involve just finances. I know many wealthy people who are relying solely on their financial resources going forward. This is a big mistake. Self reliance will trump traditional assumptions such as savings. We need to plan in much broader terms and have a focus on simplifying our lives rather than planning for higher future consumption requirements.
Change is a constant in life. Each of us have unique circumstances that dictate what we can and cannot accomplish. The world is devolving rapidly and the systems that we have relied upon for decades are crumbling right now. Our systems are being weakened by government policies, corporate shenanigans and an uninformed populace. Currencies are collapsing all throughout the world. Unemployment is growing like a tidal wave and government benefits will not exist in there current form in the not so distant future. Debt deleveraging is just beginning. With this mindset there are many things we can do to better our situation. The importance of planning must not be underestimated. I understand how futile it can be for many people. Divorce, unemployment, family and other issues all impact what we can do from a planning perspective. It is a good idea to acknowledge deficiencies within our life so that we can rectify certain aspects of our life.
As I stated in a previous article, I believe the most important thing anyone can do from a preparation standpoint is to become aware and learn new skills. It is imperative to take stock of your current situation. I highly recommend you learn about what is going on and then analyze your life. I am a big proponent of writing things down. For me, I need to visualize things before I construct a plan to move forward. I like to brainstorm and put my thoughts down on paper or on a spreadsheet. Do what works for you, but make sure you highlight what your end goals are so that you can create a plan.
The are several reasons why I am writing about planning today. Lately, I have had numerous conversations with people that are feeling stuck. Certain facets of their lives seem to be out of their control. The number one issue I see has to deal with a spouse that is living in a fashion that does not align with the person who is aware of the world. Chris Duane did an excellent job on his “5 Stages of Awakening Videos”. If you haven’t viewed the videos I encourage you to do so. Around seven years ago I spoke with Carolyn Baker, an author & psychotherapist, for a couple hours. I called Carolyn because I noticed the reluctance that my former clients displayed as it pertained to them learning about the “real world”. I wanted advice on how to communicate with people as it pertains to the changes that are occurring. It is hard for the average person, with no knowledge of economics and geopolitics, to wrap their head around what is going on. Often one spouse refuses to “come on board” and make lifestyle changes. On Carolyn Baker’s website, she wrote the following:
I have come to believe that one of its most wrenching aspects may be a situation in which one partner in a relationship is well aware of collapse and actively preparing for it while the other partner is resistant to the notion of any future that is not brimming with optimism and infinite opportunities for a rich, fulfilling life. The disparity does not appear to adhere to gender stereotypes. In other words, sometimes women are collapse-aware and actively preparing while their male partner is resistant to their efforts. In other cases, male partners have been researching collapse thoroughly and are at their wits end in their attempts to convince a female partner to join them in preparing. In either case, the divergence of perspectives is agonizing for both individuals.
In the past, I experienced what Carolyn was talking about. I always remind myself that I can only control my own actions. I do not concern myself with what my friends and family are doing or not doing. I go about my business in a calm and collected private manner. If someone wants to pick my brain and discuss the world; I am happy to provide my thoughts, but I do not go out of my way, other than on this website, to try and inform people. There is so much information available to us that can help us in all areas of planning for change. I recommend that you start your planning by thinking about your biggest stresses. Write them down. Take a step back and think about how is it possible to improve your situation in an effort to eliminate or reduce your stress. Reach out to people such as Carolyn or myself to get an idea of how you can deal with stress issues that seem futile or hopeless to deal with. Talking to like-minded people will give you a sanity break.
If you have health issues; I suggest you learn as much as possible about your health concerns. I believe, in many cases, that a change in lifestyle can significantly repair health issues many people face. For instance, consider watching the documentaries “Food Matters” and “Fork Over Knives” (Both are on netflix and available online). These two films involved people that were basically written off by the medical establishment because their health problems were so severe, but they ended up eliminating their health problems by making different lifestyle choices. In addition, it would be worthwhile to learn about alternative medicines and treatments that do not rely on our unsustainable establishment healthcare system.
Debt is another major issue for most people. Again, as previously stated, there is world of information available online to help with tackling these problems. I have focused a lot of my energy and resources into reducing my expenses and consumption habits. Activist Post just listed an article titled; “How to simplify your finances“. I have found that the best way to get out of debt is to cut expenses and make a plan. Set realistic goals that involve rewards. I have certain items that I want to payoff and then I focus on saving for a specific item I need and will subsequently purchase when I have the savings. It is too easy to just buy what you want and worry about the consequences later. Having worked in finance, I can tell you that most people spend beyond their means and then freak out when they get into trouble. Be methodical about what you purchase and weigh your options. Ask yourself, do I really need this now? Often one spouse spends in a manner that is inconsistent with the other spouse. This is a very difficult issue for many people. If you are having this issue try talking about it and coming up with a collaborative solution that works for both of you. If it is hopeless to fix I strongly suggest that you separate your finances from each other. Sometimes people need to hit rock bottom before they are willing to wake up. Do not bail them out when they hit the bottom. You can provide moral support, but not the financial support.
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As I highlighted in a previous article, housing is often the most challenging area of planning. My goal is to build my own house. I don’t think it is reasonable to purchase and pay off an overvalued home in today’s market. I am aware that housing prices are elevated because of low interest rates and reduced lending standards by banks. I understand that housing will sink most people in the coming months and years ahead. I have the capability to build things. I have experience doing construction work and I continue to learn new skills. I am comfortable taking on a major project. Each of us know what our strengths and weaknesses are. If you do not have the skills to build perhaps you can look at alternative housing options like tiny homes. I’m not suggesting you go out and buy a brand-new trailer, but alternative ideas will help you think about what your options are. Fair Companies is a cool website to check out for ideas. Perhaps renting will be good enough for you. It will take some time before I am in the position to build, but in the meantime I am focusing on my near term goals so that I will be in the position to tackle building a home.
You can read more from Jeff Fitchett at Trivium Analytics Canada.