If we all could achieve all the things we want in life and when we want to achieve them, none of us would need advice. The reality, however, is that life is about trade-offs and rarely is something achieved without having to compromise somewhere else.
So achieving your goals starts with listing them, weighting them and assigning priorities. This can be hard to do on your own. But even harder is conceiving a strategy to achieve those goals and sticking to it amid multiple pressures. This is where advice comes in.
Reason #8: Setting priorities
If anything defines growing up, it is the realisation that you can’t have it all. Choices may seem infinite when you’re young, but the reality of limited time and resources eventually dawns upon all of us. Pursuing one goal inevitably means back-pedalling on another.
You might delay tertiary education when you are young so as to travel the world and gain experiences. But on returning home, you find your more qualified peers are settling into high income, high prestige jobs and you’re left wondering whether it is too late.
Alternatively, you might have been one of those who stuck with the books when others we’re seeing the world. You’re in your 30s now, mortgaged and married with children, and find yourself regretting that you never travelled extensively as you had hoped.
You might be someone in their 40s or their 50s, financially secure in a well-remunerated, if uninspiring, corporate role, but hankering to start your own business and increasingly aware of the limited window available to do so.
There are no right or wrong answers in any of these situations. Different people have different priorities, reflecting different tastes, values and life philosophies.
But it’s also true that our priorities change as we age and as our circumstances evolve, and it’s often not clear even to ourselves that this is happening. We habitually tell ourselves our priority is ‘x’, but the reality is we’ve moved onto ‘y’ without knowing it.
Seeking out advice at these times can represent a significant investment in your own future. This is not because an adviser will give you a specific list of recommendations about what to do next, but rather to help you realise what your priorities actually are.
One of the first questions a financial planner will ask you, after taking account of your current situation, is what you feel is most important to you in life. It’s a question that most of us dare not ask ourselves, but it can be revealing.
For instance, if being close to nature and the outdoors is what you love the most, why are you spending your life in a city tower, battling to work in the traffic every day?
Of course, you might answer that you do this because you need the money to pay the mortgage. So the adviser might then ask, “OK, if money were no object, what would you change about your life now?” That can get you thinking.
Making a choice
What advice achieves in these circumstances is to help reveal to you what you value most and to help you make a choice. The aim is to add clarity to the opportunities and obstacles – both real and imagined – that are before you.
Once you have made your decision, the adviser helps by providing you with a process and a plan to get to where you want to go and, more importantly, to keep you disciplined and accountable so that you follow through on it.
Ultimately, a financial plan connects a long-term goal with a series of short-term objectives and marks your progress along the way. Naturally, there will be an investment recommendation, but that is only a means to an end.
If your priorities change along the way, the plan can be tweaked to accommodate. In the meantime, you have a financial coach on call to provide the clarity, structure and accountability you need to get it all done.
Well, not all of it, but the important bits at least. That’s why they’re called priorities.
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