Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Predicting the Future

Recently, I realized that I can't predict the future.

Okay, so I never broke out a crystal ball, but I've always tried to project our budget - and our plans, far enough into the coming months and years to try and give us an accurate picture of where we might be at, goal-wise, at any given point.

I have never - not even once - been correct.

That, in itself, is fine, and quite probably, as it should be. I'm trying to forecast likelihoods and possibilities, not facts. I never imagined I could possibly predict what actualy would happen. But I've been farther off than I thought I would be on many things. Sometimes in our favor, sometimes not, sometimes things just happened on a different timeline.

And everything has always worked out. Typically not the way I planned, but always. Realizing this has been enlightening to me. Knowing that our plans get us there, just sometimes 'there' is a different destination than originally planned

No, as a result of this clarity I'm not tossing the budget and the plans. But my husband and I are going to redesign them so that they work better for both of us, and so they are a tad more flexible. Not sure what that means yet. I've lived with my current MS Excel spreadsheet budget for many years, and I've refined it pretty well, so the idea of making changes is intimidating. But what we are doing is not working as well as we would like, so the time to re-invent is here. I look forward to sharing the redesign process and end state with all of you once we go through this process, which may take a few months.

The first part of this is looking at our goals and our fixed and non-fixed expenses. And we need to create a clear vision as to which goals and non-fixed expenses are in line with our values.

One thing I'm learning as a result of our much-longer-and-more-complicated-than-imagined attempts to become parents, is that sometimes, you just have to surrender to the now. Those of you that live in the moment may giggle that it has taken me 34 years to come to this conclusion, but as one of those type-A personalities who lives for my plans and to-do lists, and gauges a good day by what I have accomplished, I can tell you that I haven't come quietly to this conclusion, but have instead been dragged, kicking and screaming all the way.

And yet, it's a lesson that I've needed to learn. Spending my busy life never stopping to smell the roses means I'm tired and burnt out. So I am slowly trying to find middle ground - that place between letting things go and getting things done. Between living for today, and living for tomorrow.

The first step towards more downtime and a sense that our lives aren't completely out of whack is an unplanned weekend away in June. But that's only to aid our decompression. The real key is for us to come up with a way to look solidly at the future and gauge how, and when, we meet our goals.

For that, it's probably time to bring in the cavalry, a financial advisor. While financial advisors don't come with a future-predicting option, it's time to hear an outside assessment of where we stand, how possible our goals are, and what barriers stand in the way. I don't need an oracle, I just need a clear outside picture of where we stand, and help building a map to get where we are going.

The goal of having someone tweak our plans is to free us up to focus on now - having someone point us in the correct direction will allow us to stop staring at the map and get going. So after we refine our goals and our budget, we'll be seeking out a fee-based financial planner to help us formulate a plan and keep it tuned up.

I can't predict the future. But I can make sure we are headed in the right direction - forward.


Corinne (aka Kore!) said...

Thank you for writing this. I keep feeling like we're getting "nowhere" because we had some goals that we haven't met. Then I realize that where we are today is still a lot better than where we were a few years ago, and we're still doing well, even if the path is different than what we thought we wanted. Thank you for the reminder :)

Lara said...

So this isn't really related to the blog, but I just wanted to thank you for letting Mrs Cents interview you. I really enjoyed reading it and it helped me realize that in order to get where we want to be financially is going to take some hard work and we'll probably make a few mistakes but the important thing is that we learn from them. So thank you again. And I love reading your blog too! :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting the rest of us know that we're not alone when we're not quite where we wanted to be (goal-wise) But like corinne said, we are better off than we were several years ago, so there's that.