“We make plans and God laughs.” We write business plans, make family plans, and most importantly financial plans to guide us today on the path toward where we want to be tomorrow.
But what happens when the unexpected occurs? Competition or outside forces foil our business plans. Divorce, infidelity, remarriage and “blended families” muddy the future we’d envisioned. A recession or economic slide makes a mess of our finances and financial plans.
Much has been written about the perils of planning. Boxer Mike Tyson put it most bluntly: “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
This doesn’t mean planning is a fool’s errand. Quite the contrary. Putting to paper your vision for business, life and finances is critical to at least knowing the results we seek. But how do you plan for the unknown?
If caution has you concerned that your plans may not play out as you’d hoped, you’re not alone. When Bill and Melinda Gates announced their impending divorce, Ms. Melinda French Gates publicly stated she might want to readdress the mission of their foundation, and that she thought the $10 million inheritance Mr. Gates intended to leave to each of their children, in their estate plan, was insufficient. That’s seemingly not how Bill had envisioned their future.
What if Bill or Melinda remarry? How will these best laid plans be impacted by the new blended families?
How should you plan for tomorrow? Keep the following ideas in mind…
Inflexibility. This was among the five perils the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants cited as common to financial planning. The others were unrealistic expectations, emotional decision making, inaction and unclear values and priorities. Planning requires involvement and forethought. It’s not a spectator sport.
Consider hard realities. Consider the realities of “grey divorce.” While divorce has been on the decline for the past 20 years, divorce among those 50 and older has doubled. You thought you made it through child rearing and become empty nesters, only to see separation and divorce wreak havoc to your plans. You’d planned enough for two under one roof, only to see a division of assets or spousal support payments leave you rethinking your plans.
Plan for the worst, hope for the best. If you plan for the worst, you only have upside to contend with. Case in point: Inflation, rising interest rates and their impact on the economy. All three are certain to take a bite out of any retirement plans. It’s difficult to plan for a specific economic event, like the Great Recession. But a good financial planner and investment advisor knows that economies run in cycles. They watch the markets, rebalance portfolios depending on specific trends, and help stabilise returns and provide investors peace of mind.
Start early. An early start in investing helps grow the portfolio and prepare for – and recover from – future instability. Baby boomers approaching retirement age are certainly looking at the market uncertainty differently than their children with money in the market. An early start and awareness of the challenges, put you ahead of the game.
Changes to tax law or surcharges. Benjamin Franklin once wrote, “in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” The same may be said for the uncertainties of politics. The current administration has proposed new taxes and hinted at the possibility of surcharges on trusts or distributions of the ultra-wealthy. Social Security and Medicare are perennial targets. If your retirement relies heavily on your current tax status or government programs, be prepared to respond to possible changes.
What can you do? Talk to your financial planner, tax advisor and trusts and estates attorney. Craft your plans, and perform an annual review with your family, significant other and your advisors. Are your investments and accounts structured with “the unexpected” in mind? When your situation changes – someone mentioned in your plans passes, or you divorce or remarry, for example – reopen the conversation and documents, if necessary.
This goes beyond your own plans. What about your senior parents? Are their investments, trust or will, and advance directives in place? Want to witness best laid plans going awry? Watch as a person passes intestate, and the estate is left to the family, attorneys or court to hash out.
Expecting the unexpected is akin to anticipating that there will be “unknown unknowns” that you must be prepared for. On top of that, we often suffer occasional “inattentional blindness”, or not seeing what’s right in front of us because we were distracted.
I help families prepare for the unknown. If you need help to prepare for your future, drop me a line at: firstname.lastname@example.org