A Planning Overview

Planning is not automatic. Most people start in the wrong place or with too narrow a vision. The parts are
Vision, strategy, tactics, and logistics.

Vision

The generalized idea of what you want to accomplish. Could be retirement at 60, or financial independence at 40. Or maybe a life where money is secondary. It doesn’t matter what you want if you are willing to pay the price to have it.

Recall H.L. Hunt’s rules of achievement. “Decide what you want, decide what you are willing to exchange for it. Establish your priorities and go to work”

The first step is deciding what you want. That automatically includes a list of things you cannot have because of that commitment. For example, suppose you want to become a partner in a law firm. Assuming you have the talent, it will mean billing 60 to 80 hours a week while you are an associate. That has an adverse affect on your social and/or family life. It can affect your health. It will affect you attitude. What happens if it doesn’t work out?

Second. Be focused. If you have too many wants, you may accomplish none of them. Resources are consumed and cannot be used twice. An hour once invested in one want, is available to no other. The same idea with dollars. Spent and gone. The only difference is dollars are replaceable. Usually by investing time.

You need a won’t do list.

Write it all down in detail. You’ll need this to remind you later. That provides motivation to continue when things get tough later. And they will.

When your vision is clear you can begin to refine it.

The strategic layer

You have dealt with the what you want in defining your vision and its value to you.

The other “W” questions.

What resources do I have or can I acquire? What resources other than talent and time can I bring to bear?

Who is with me, who can help me, do I have a network?

When do I start, finish?

Where will I be? What is the cost of living? Taxes? and so on.

Why do I want this? Cost benefit. It’s more than money and prestige. How does it fit with your view of what life should be?

The tactical layer

Tactics are methods. They are how you convert your vision into something actionable.  Many tactics have evolved over centuries and are well known and possibly easy to implement. Have a network. Know what a good resume looks like and why. Understand who will be deciding on your application and what they expect to see. Interviewers like candidates with a coherent plan.

In other manifestations, it will include financial tools like investment plans, a borrowing policy, and insurance. It will involve lifestyle choices and an idea of limits. For control an annual cash budget is helpful.

Seek experienced help to find more tactics you didn’t know about. There is no point reinventing what other people already know.

The logistics layer

When you have connected tactics to your strategic limits, and your vision, you must still carry out your choices. You would be surprised how often people make plans they don’t implement.

The advantage to write down your choices is clear. It is easy to learn from the differences between planned and actual.

Good plans evolve. As the Prussian military strategist Von Moltke expressed:

“No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main enemy forces. Only the layman believes that in the course of a campaign he sees the consistent implementation of an original thought that has been considered in advance in every detail and retained to the end.”

Life is your opposing force.

If you don’t amend your plan as life, society, unforeseen events, and limits appear, the chances of success are near zero. That’s how the world works.

Be aware of secondary effects that result from your plan. These are the key to how you react to change. The question to ask is build your plan and its tactics, then say, “Okay, what then?” If you can anticipate secondary effects, there is a chance you”ll be able to carry it off.

Review your plan and its outcomes about once a year. Some elements longer, some shorter.

The bits to take away

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

Write it down. If you don’t write it down it never happened.

Learn from what didn’t work. You won’t see that unless you write it down

Know what your planning means to you and to others

Wishing is not a strategic vision.


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I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, 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. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at don@moneyfyi.com

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