A Billion Dollars & A Billion Miles
What do Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson have in common? They are founders and entrepreneurs; they are billionaires, and they are all competing in this modern-day space race.
These three have achieved all their financial goals and much more. Long ago, they surpassed the status of financial freedom. And, at some point, they had to decide “what’s next?”
Their “next” was not small – they were dreaming big. The exclamation mark on their legacy will be to go where no man has gone before.
I am sure some, or all of these gentlemen, grew up reading sci-fi books, watching Star Wars or Star Trek, and wondering if they too could one day sail into the mysterious unknown of the universe at large. For Carnegie, it was libraries stretching across our nation. For Gate’s, it was and is his foundation, and for Mother Theresa, it was the example of her life that will continue to inspire others for generations.
A financial plan concludes with a legacy.
Ok, so maybe you and I will never reach billionaire status. That’s ok. And, if that is your aspiration, more power to you.
You don’t need billions to dream big. Suppose you read this blog and enjoy saving, investing, and making sound financial decisions. In that case, there is a good chance that you will achieve all of the primary financial goals you’ve laid out for yourself, such as funding your retirement, paying for college for your children, acquiring a second home, and so on.
BUT if you haven’t started to dream BIG, there is also a chance that you will come to the final chapters of your financial plan with some unallocated leftovers. This leftover surplus is how you fund these big dreams.
For our family, we approach this dream process like a treasure hunt. We look for clues throughout our past and our day-to-day lives, for the things that bring us extra joy, and the things that intrigue us. The if-we-won-the-lotto-this-is-what-we’d-do-with-the-money type of things. We’ve recently been meeting with folks who have adopted or fostered children, as we believe this is potentially a calling for us to be involved in. In what way? We don’t know. We are still in the treasure hunt phase – curious, interested, and searching.
When dreaming big, the process can be as enjoyable as the conclusion. So, I ask you, what are your BIG dreams?
Next Steps, Checkpoints, & Finish Lines
A big part of financial planning is the process of organizing accounts, financial documents, expenses, income sources, etc.
We also organize our goals.
Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result (Oxford Dictionary).
I like to organize goals into three categories – next steps, checkpoints, and finish lines.
For me, this structure reminds me a lot of when I used to play video games. I wasn’t always focused on getting to the last level and defeating the final villain in Super Mario Brother’s. I first focused on the obstacles at hand (next steps), then sought out the checkpoints that allowed me to save my progress (checkpoints), and yes, the overall goal was to surpass this level and the entire game (finish lines).
Financial planning is about vision – where am I going? And strategy – how will I get there?
Most financial plans are chock-full of strategy yet lacking in vision. These plans are full of next steps, sprinkled with checkpoints, and nearly void of finish lines. The lack of organization around this process hinders savers/planners from getting to that dream big stage I referenced earlier.
Balancing Contentment & Ambition
When I build out a financial plan, I hope that this plan will help to spark joy and happiness. Much of happiness is based on our perception of whether we exceed or fall short of our expectations. The financial plan is in place to set reasonable expectations.
It is that classic management 101 structure for setting S.M.A.R.T. goals: Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Time-bound. If we make attainable and realistic goals, we have a high likelihood of surpassing the bar we set for ourselves, resulting in happiness.
Does this mean that we always set a low bar? No, this means we set targets within reach, and then we set new targets incrementally higher, gradually stretching ourselves over time.
This point in time is where we must strike that balance between contentment and ambition.
I remember being in grade school and attending Awana at church, a sort of Christian-based Boy Scouts program. In this program, we earned badges and different achievements for memorizing bible verses. For this reason, I will never forget Philippians 4:13 – one of the first scriptures I memorized – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
This verse inspired me as a young Christian; it made me ambitious. I remember seeing Christian athletes growing up with bracelets and t-shirts that highlighted this scripture. A reminder that nothing was impossible. It wasn’t until college, when I took a course on Philippians, that I studied the preceding verses.
Paul, the author of this letter to the Philippians, writes,
“…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
Ambition comes on the heels of contentment.
As we set out to dream big, we first need to learn to be content with our current status and provisions. Finding a level of gratitude for our current stage and then pressing on to the next checkpoint.
So, What’s Your “Next?”
The question that I will leave you with is, what is your “next?”
Here is a simple exercise to conduct with your financial advisor. Review your financial plan together, and continue to ask, “Then what?” As you peel back the layers of your plan and your financial aspirations, the hope is that you can get to the bedrock of legacy – the “then what?” that matters most.
Are you dreaming big enough?
Do you need to go on a treasure hunt and search for the types of legacy-bearing goals that will deepen the meaning of your financial plan?
These are questions only you can answer, and as I said earlier, the process here can often be as enjoyable as the conclusion.
So off you go…