One of the most rewarding aspects of being a financial advisor is working with clients when they realize a financial plan isn’t really about finances, per se, but rather what they want to accomplish with their lives. At that point, the conversation shifts abruptly from numbers to life goals. The numbers inevitably make a reappearance later – and may sometimes constrain goals – but at least for a bit, clients have an opportunity to think about what they really want to accomplish with their money and their time.
Most of the time, goals are centered around funding a traditional retirement or education for children, but occasionally goals are a bit different. In the spirit of encouraging you to think outside the box in terms of setting goals, I wanted to share a few of these with you*.
A More Flexible Life
Over a decade ago, John and Ashley were Federal employees who had transitioned from military service. They had standard 9 to 5 jobs, but both enjoyed travel a great deal. They decided they wanted to find careers that would allow them the flexibility to travel when and where they wanted.
By the time they met with me, they had achieved that goal and, fortunately, along the way we determined that they had saved enough to supplement their pensions and live a comfortable retirement. Furthermore, because they both enjoyed their jobs and had the flexibility they needed, they were planning on continuing to work for the next few years thus further strengthening their retirement picture.
Bob and Sally both had corporate jobs, working in sales and marketing respectively. 50 to 60 hour work weeks weren’t uncommon for either of them, and Sally had a commute that could take her an hour each way. By the time we met with them, they were more than ready for a change.
Bob wanted to buy a small business and Sally wanted to pursue a career as a writer. Making the transition would require earning a great deal less and they would need to draw on their savings for a time during the transition. We worked with them to set a budget and established a timeline for business growth that would ultimately cover their cash and savings needs. We also helped Bob and Sally understand what benefits they’d need to replace via Bob’s business and what savings options were available to them as the business grew.
Although the transition was not without it’s ups and downs – particularly during the most recent downturn – more than a decade on, Bob and Sally are doing well. The business is flourishing, Sally has established herself as a writer and they have more time to spend doing what they want to do.
A Second Act
A career change isn’t an unusual goal, particularly for clients that are working in demanding jobs and are relatively early in their careers. Amanda was a PhD working in medical research for the Federal government. Her goal was to change careers and move off the grid and support herself via writing. While the change would result in lower income in retirement, a combination of good savings habits, a government pension and lower costs made the career change feasible. Although the change is still a number of years in the future, knowing that it was possible provided her with a real motivational boost.
Each of the above goals began with some variation on the question of what the respective clients wanted to do with their lives. It was our job to confirm that the scenarios were financially feasible, but by beginning with a much deeper question, the clients were able to craft more meaningful – and motivational – goals.
* – Names and other identifying details have been changed.