Financial planning is about setting goals and setting up a plan to reach those goals. However, life never works out as planned. That doesn’t mean that we don’t achieve our goals, but that life is full of surprises, and the route leading to our goals may take twists and turns along the way. An effective plan needs to be continually updated and possibly modified to account for the detours along the way. But the goal, if it’s well chosen, remains steady and motivates whatever effort is necessary to overcome obstacles.
My goal is to live with my family in Hong Kong. We will live in an apartment in a tall tower, hopefully with a view of the South China Sea. We will live in a large building, with a games room, movie room, pool and indoor playground for the children. We will be within walking distance of grocery shopping and a public library, cheap restaurants, frequent public transit and cheap taxis. We will also be able to travel on discount airlines to visit some of our favourite places in southeast Asia and discover new places: Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Australia. My wife and I will work at the Canadian International School, where our children will attend, which will cover our living expenses. Our investments from home will cover our travel and a trip home to Canada every year.
But, as I said, life never works out as we plan. My wife decided to stand for something she believes in and ran in the recent municipal election for public school trustee. She learned a lot, she worked hard, she met some amazing people and had every intention of winning. Election night, however, brought unexpected results. She came in only 2% behind the winning candidate. We had plans, goals and ideas that were wound up in the expectation of being very involved in public education and her trusteeship. After all of the preparation and effort that went into the campaign, we were very disappointed. In talking with other unsuccessful candidates, it seems that many of them had to reevaluate their plans and goals.
We weren’t in that situation, however. We already had a goal of living overseas, and the trusteeship was only a plan for involvement in the meantime. Having a goal seemed to make it easier to pick ourselves back up and keep working for it. It gives us something to dream about, rather than focusing on our recent pain. Now we need to find other ways to stand and work for what we believe in. But in no way has our ultimate life plan suffered a setback.
One drawback is that having an exciting goal makes it more difficult to be patient. While I have my job to focus my attention each day, my wife has been looking at university requirements for the teaching program, at travel around Hong Kong and at luxury apartments for rent. Seeing the amenities and the lifestyle that’s available, that we could enjoy on two teachers’ salaries, makes me impatient to be there. I’m brought back to reality by the fact that we aren’t teachers yet, and there are a couple steps in our financial plan that will take a year or two before we can even go back to school. Still, I would take impatience over directionless disappointment any day.
What motivates you to do whatever it takes to reach your goals? In what ways will your lifestyle be more enjoyable later because of your monthly savings now?