As I build my business, I’m finding that the cost and the depth of the financial planning process can be daunting to some “first time users.” While doing some reading this weekend, I discovered a parallel I hope we can all relate to.
Ever start your own business? Before you rush to say no, what about a lemonade stand when you were young? Or ever help your parents with a garage sale? I know I did! I loved being near the change box, counting the change over and over. There was preparation needed for both “businesses.” For the lemonade stand, you need all the ingredients, you need to pick the right corner, you need a table, and sign. You also needed at least one fearless loud kid to yell at the cars passing by. For a garage sale, you need product that isn’t too shabby to sell. You need a cash box, some tables, and hopefully someone who’s good at organization so that your products don’t look like a trash heap. You also need a few good salespeople who aren’t afraid to approach the customers.
Young entrepreneurial ventures not sinking in? What about a side gig? Do you like to code in the evening hours? Do you like to make jewelry? For me, it’s cookies and calligraphy. Here’s the thing though, I didn’t just pick up some butter and sugar, or pick up a calligraphy pen and immediately make some money doing it. It starts as a seed in your mind, or a comment from a colleague that you are naturally good at something. Doesn’t it? Then that seed grows until (for me) it becomes a great vision of what could be. In the meantime, I baked for about 2 years before feeling confident enough to consider selling my cookies. I’ve been doing calligraphy for a little over 10 years and I’m still learning new techniques. I’ve tried different ingredients or products in search of the best techniques in both ventures. I’ve tried different marketing techniques, and tried to get out there and talk about what I’m doing. Nothing has gone according to plan, it rarely does, but it’s the process that you look back on and enjoy.
Financial planning is not a one-time service. You can’t data dump on your planner, wait a few months, and get a one-time plan that solves all your issues and gets you on the path to success. Rather, we in the business call it a financial planning process for a reason. The plan is just a building block. What you’ve done up to now is another building block. You received money messages and beliefs from your family growing up, whether you realize it or not. Those are part of the planning process as well. You’ve tried one or several jobs in your life – those have taught you messages about money. Maybe you’ve delayed paying a credit card, or stretched yourself thin in pursuit of a better life. That is also part of your financial planning process. So the one-time plan a financial planner creates for you is one step in a lifelong process. A financial planner isn’t a cure-all for you, but he or she should be there to listen and help you navigate life’s challenges while focusing on what your end goal is.
End goals vary from person to person, no question. But don’t we all just want to feel secure and that we will be okay? Whether that’s saving a little or a lot over life. Whether you have a pension, or have to create your own retirement savings vehicle, the number you choose isn’t as important as the purpose the number serves. So I encourage you to approach financial planning as your new side-gig, or as a business you want to start. There is a mental phase, a gathering of data and analysis, a business (or financial) plan, a testing phase, a launch, and ongoing research and development. There is an annual review of how everything went, and plans for the following year. There is a measure of success or failure. There isn’t a one-time business plan that then works itself out, is there? The business plan needs people. You as an earner and consumer, need people. If that’s family to support your DIY planning goals, wonderful. If that’s a financial planner, find the right one. Someone you can trust.