Recently, I attended the funeral of a friend. It got me thinking about life and death. Without getting too morbid or philosophical, let’s focus on a tangible financial question related to the circle of life:
How do you live life to the fullest now, yet simultaneously save for the future?
Maybe some examples will help. Let’s suppose you get the sudden urge to travel to Fiji. The adventurous, live-life-for-the-moment part of you says, “Let’s buy the plane ticket,” while the practical, level-headed side says, “Let’s hold off and spend some time thinking about a trip like this.”
We each have a money personality shaped by our natural propensity to save or spend. If your natural tendency is to spend, do you buy the plane ticket right now? NO. If your natural tendency is to save, do you dream about the Fiji trip but never take it? NO.
Put a dollar figure on your dream
Instead, I propose a hybrid solution: Plan for the trip. Research how much it costs and how long you want to stay. Decide on a specific dollar amount you need to take the trip, and figure out how much you’ll need to save each month to meet the goal.
If it costs $10,000 to fund the trip and you can only save $100 a month, you’ll be waiting a long time to take that trip. Either figure out a way to cut the costs … perhaps going to a destination within the U.S. you haven’t traveled to before, or maybe working a “side hustle” to set aside extra money for Fiji.
Here’s another real-life example. My good friend (let’s call him Dan) lost his dad suddenly to a heart attack. Dan’s parents were divorced, and Dan was an only child. So, as a 20-something, he inherited quite a bit of money. Such a tragic event in Dan’s life spurred him to appreciate his own life, so he wanted to travel around the world for a year. Did he start the voyage soon after the funeral? No. Instead, he turned to me in a time of need and asked for financial guidance. I said, “If you’re going to quit your job, you need to have a plan for paying the bills while taking this amazing adventure.”
Dan was disciplined: He took my advice and budgeted for the trip. In fact, he did so well with budgeting (and investing) that he and his girlfriend easily paid for the trip. When Dan returned to the U.S., his inheritance was as large as when he received it! He went on a real African safari, backpacked across Europe and South America and proposed marriage at the Great Wall of China.
A 5-step make-it-work plan
With proper planning and discipline, dreams truly may become reality.
Your dreams are different than mine. Regardless of the goal, follow these simple steps to transform an aspiration into a real experience:
- Step 1. Identify the BIG goal, and translate it into a dollar amount.
- Step 2. Take the big dollar goal, and break it into smaller pieces — monthly or quarterly is typically best. Figure out if this goal is attainable over your desired time frame.
- Step 3. If the dollar amount is out of reach, there are three options: 1) increase your income, 2) cut current expenses, or 3) adjust the goal downward to something more realistic.
- Step 4. Do not compromise. Work toward this goal with fervor and discipline.
- Step 5. Once you’ve hit the goal, give yourself a big pat on the back. You deserve it!
Obviously, if you’re married, it would be important to include your spouse in these discussions to make sure you’re in agreement. This is one area where couples can struggle. You may work toward one goal, while your spouse is focused on an entirely different goal. It all comes back to communication.
Feeling inspired? Channel that energy by asking yourself two final questions: What is your dream? What steps are you taking to achieve it?
Deborah L. Meyer is a fee-only financial planner in greater Saint Louis and CEO of WorthyNest. Her mission is to educate and empower families about personal finance, and her expertise is family-minded entrepreneurs.?/i>
Copyright 2017 The Kiplinger Washington Editors
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