Every night I plan for the next day, listing the six most important things I need to accomplish. I prioritize the list from most to least important. My goal is to start each day with the highest priority and not skip to a lower one because it is easier to accomplish. This is a great way to keep focused throughout the day. For longer-term goals, an interesting financial planning idea – and also one of the simplest – is to write a letter to yourself. More specifically, write a letter from your “future self” to your “present self.”
Imagine yourself in five years, assuming everything has gone more or less as you hoped it would. You’re healthy, in good financial shape, saved money for retirement, and, well, you know your hopes better than I do. The point is that the future you is writing a letter of thanks to the present you. Future you might thank present you for exercising regularly, because future you is fit and looks good. Future you might thank you for being thrifty and watching your budget, putting you on track to retire comfortably – or you may even be retired.
Future you also might thank you for taking time to smell the roses along the way, for maintaining close relationships with friends and family, for spending a little more time accomplishing goals (Starting a new business? Traveling to see the world? Keeping better track of your expenses each year?) instead of spending unproductive downtime in front of the TV.
In other words, thank yourself for achieving specific actions. Then look over the letter and know that these are things you will thank yourself for someday. Commit to doing them and save the letter. Every week or two, read the letter and ask, “Am I on course? Am I earning the thanks that future you may give me?”
The point here is that you want your future life to be as good as it can be – as full of fulfillment, happiness, joy, and prosperity as possible. Your actions between now and then will, or will not, make that happen. The letter is a fantastically powerful reminder that you’re counting on yourself to take care of your future.
Meanwhile, in between the times you spend with the letter, you can get to know a variety of future selves (the “You Next Week,” the “You Next Year,” the “You Five Years From Now,” etc.), and begin to ask these future versions of yourself about decisions you make now. How much of the money you earn today should go to your future self for retirement? What would you, a week from now, like to have cleared off your desk? Would you like to have learned a new foreign language by this time next year? Are there things that are hard to do now, but that you will wish you had done?
Doing this will help you navigate through the complexities of life with a clear vision. And, if you can do that, you’ll be one of the few in the world who are not muddling through their days. You could arrive in the future with no regrets about how you spent the precious, irreplaceable hours of your life.
The Financial Consultants of Upton, Draughon & Bollinger are registered representatives with, and Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC 207 Ansley Blvd., Suite A, Alexandria, LA 71303, (318) 442-4944.