Financial Planning As War

I read an article recently entitled Wars are Not Won By Military Genius Or Decisive Battles. It outlines a view of war that makes perfect sense when applied to the financial independence goal, or the financial opportunity goal, or the financially secure life goal.

The article makes several points that easily translate to financial life.

“War is the most complex, physically and morally demanding enterprise we undertake.”

That is no doubt true for a society. For an individual, a life plan with the necessary financial wherewithal, will suffice as a substitute. People often do not accept the complex and demanding nature of their life plan. Those people do less well.

“War is thus far more than a strung-together tale of key battles”

In a life plan, the battles are decisions. Most of us think of those decisions as a strung together narrative describing how we have conquered and failed and rose to fight again. How we came to where we are now.

“We must understand the deeper game, not look only to the scoring. That is hard to do because battles are so seductive.”

Getting caught up in the details fails. Part of their attractiveness is they are detailed and easily understood. In financial terms most of the battles are the equivalent of buying products or implementing a plan. The battles are always the outcome of a particular tactic that has been applied to achieve a certain goal. In many cases the outcome is a success, but it is rarely the outcome exactly expected in the beginning. Success is assigned retrospectively. 

“The idea of the ‘decisive battle’ as the hinge of war, and wars as the gates of history, speaks to our naive desire to view modern war in heroic terms.”

War needs a longitudinal narrative. Battles won make nice reference points to connect the eventual victory to its foundations. Life plans and financial plans are like that too. You see little points of decision or product when you look back. Not enough. Successful points viewed from afar look important but they can delude.

“There are no geniuses. …. Claims to genius distance our understanding from war’s immense complexity and contingency, which are its greater truths.”

For people, life plans are complex enough. Decision making under uncertainty. Changing external variables. Changing internal ability, lost resources, and lost time are burdens few overcome. We evolve to a place and argue it is where we were meant to be. Given the struggle and what we learned along the way, that could be true.

“Modern wars are won by grinding, not by genius. Strategic depth and resolve is always more important than any commander.”

There we have the key to financial success. Persistence, depth of understanding and a resolve to achieve a general goal. There is no perfect leader that just makes it happen. 

“Celebration of genius generals encourages the delusion that modern wars will be short and won quickly.”

Genius people, together with their genius advisors, will not win the life success war. It is a delusion. The success will come from hard work, much time, and dedication to the purpose.

“Losers of most major wars in modern history lost because they overestimated operational dexterity and failed to overcome the enemy’s strategic depth and capacity for endurance.”

Your opponent in financial matters and life in general is formidable. It is the world around you. Objective, and often ruthlessly so. Beautiful, yet threatening. Resource rich, but unevenly distributed. Rewarding a skill and then changing its mind.

The world owes you a living, but collecting what it owes can be quite trying.

Financial independence is a grind.

Get over it.

Don Shaughnessy arranges life insurance for people who understand the value of a life insured estate. He can be reached at The Protectors Group, a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency in Peterborough, Ontario.  In previous careers, he has been a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you.  don@moneyfyi.com  866-285-7772

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