One of the most difficult things to explain to a financial planning client is when some of their goals are unattainable. This is usually due to their current financial situation (savings rate, assets, debt, etc.) and planning assumptions (expected stock market return, inflation, etc.).
However this is not an unusual situation. I like to think this occurs because we all have ambition and want the best for our loved ones and ourselves. Regardless of our good intentions, a financial plan needs to be created with attainability in mind. This means the financial plan should be realistic and sound (not too aggressive). Here are some options you can explore if you find yourself in a similar predicament.
Achieve Financial Freedom
I’m pretty sure that everyone shares the goal (and dream) to become financially independent. Who wouldn’t want to have complete control over their day-to-day schedule? Given that we cannot obtain our idea of financial freedom, we can always reduce our consumption and change our lifestyle to ultimately reach our goal.
In example, I personally chose to continue to live in my condo verses taking out a huge mortgage on a "McMansion". This decision (somewhat of a sacrifice) alone has reduced the burden of sticking to a tight monthly budget and changing my lifestyle. So in short, redefine your idea of financial freedom and think about what small sacrifices you can make to increase your overall happiness.
Retire at a Specific Age
As we have learned in past years, our retirements are not as secure as we once thought. This was originally evident with the shift from defined benefit to defined contribution pension plans, however the increase of market volatility over the past few years has proven it. Some workers may have to keep working for a few years longer than what they desired. This is provided that they would like to maintain their current standard of living.
Just like our ability to obtain financial freedom, we have a choice when it comes to the lifestyle we want to live. Sometimes adjusting luxuries (assuming there are one or two) or increasing short-term income may allow you to retire on time.
Fund Family’s Education Expenses
We all want the best for our families and because of this we usually want to ensure that they can attend the best college they can. Depending on certain financial situations, paying for a loved one’s education expenses may not be completely obtainable.
Regardless, there are some options including applying for student loans, seeking additional employment and utilizing other Federal and State financing programs. Despite these options, the best way to fund College tuition expenses is to start saving early and investing in a 529 or Coverdell Education Savings Account.
Funding Annual Vacation
The last goal that we might have to re-prioritize is our vacation plans. I understand the value of a well deserved vacation to somewhere exotic. understandably this is not always practical every year. So with that said I like to recommend going on an exotic vacation every few years and in the “off years” enjoy less expensive get-a-ways. I will speculate that there are probably a bunch of awesome and inexpensive places that you would enjoy in your local area.
Re-prioritizing vacations doesn’t mean “don’t take them”, it means find an inexpensive alternative way to enjoy your summer and winter break while your saving for the great ones.
At the very least I hope this post assured you that you are not the only one that might need to re-prioritize financial planning goals now and again. I stubbornly believe that happiness is a mindset that is best without the burdens of financial struggles. So determine what goals are the most important to you and adjust the others.