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Good Planning Means Asking “Why”

Published by: Chris Kittrell Date: November 11, 2012

My mom & dad will tell you that as a kid I loved to ask, “Why?” Why do I have to go to school today? Why can’t I have ice cream for dinner? I drove my parents crazy asking “why?” My parents have been greatly amused as I continue to live out this phenomenon as the father of two daughters. I have struggled at times to patiently survive the onslaught of “why”. Along the way I’ve realized that knowing the answer to those three simple letters is important whether we’re five or fifty-five, especially as it relates to our money. The basic reason behind our earning and saving money usually comes back to three needs: food, shelter, and clothing, but what is your “why” after those needs are met?

I remember starting my first job out of college. I finally felt capable of covering the basic needs for my family. What should I do next with the meager amount of money that was left over after those expenses were covered? Mr. VP of HR at my new company handed me a packet and said this is your 401K enrollment packet, complete it and turn it back in by tomorrow. Those years of driving my parents crazy with, “Why?” started paying off at this moment. I made the decision to ask Mr. HR why? Why should I, as a 23 year old recently married college graduate, take money from my paycheck to save for something that seemed a lifetime away? Thankfully, Mr. HR answered my question and I was on my way to saving for retirement.

My next “why” around the subject of money came when my oldest daughter was born. I would come home from work, and all I wanted to do was hold my daughter. I was amazed that I was a father, and I was overwhelmed by the feeling of the need to provide for my family. During the blur of bringing our daughter home my Dad jokingly said, “Well son, you better get started saving for her college.” I remember thinking, “Why? There’s plenty of time.” This was answered inside of me through my desire to provide options and the best life possible for my newborn daughter.  Another “why” was identified and I started saving for my daughter’s college education.

After your families basic needs are met what is your answer to, “Why?” What’s truly important to you about money? About saving? About investing? It needs to be powerful enough to move you; powerful enough to provide motivation. You are well on the way to defining “why” once you define what is most important to you and your family.

Life sometimes gets in the way of the greatest plans. It’s easy to get caught up in the humdrum of daily activity and skip asking the “why” of our lives. Spend some quiet time with yourself, your significant other, close friend, or trusted advisor and talk about what excites you looking to the future. When actions with your money align with your financial goals the result is peace of mind in spite of life’s uncertainty. There is great power in knowing your “why”.

Chris Kittrell is co-founder and Senior Financial Advisor with Rather & Kittrell. He is available at ckittrell@rkcapital.com