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Life is Easier with a (flexible) Plan

Published by: Amanda Howerton, CFP® Date: August 01, 2016

Ever heard that life is easier with a plan? I personally don’t think I’d be a functioning human being without one. In fact, my husband laughs at me because I’m much more apt to plan things out than he is. My husband isn’t opposed to planning, but he wants to make sure we leave plenty of room for flexibility and adventure. He’s my great reminder that life is easier with a plan, but that plan needs to be adjustable depending on changes in circumstance. The ability to change can be a good thing.

2016 has been the year of flexible plans for the Howerton clan as we have seen some major changes. At the beginning of the year, we were excited to think about what it meant for our daughter to head into Kindergarten this fall. We have loved every minute of her being little, and by no means is she the “big kid” she likes to think she is, but she is growing up quickly. That means there are certain things that have become easier as she gets older. In fact, we were hoping to take Grace overseas to London (a city I loved visiting several years ago) or Switzerland (where my aunt lives) now that a stroller isn’t a necessity.

Much to my husband’s excitement, our travel plans, among many other plans, have changed as we are now expecting our second child this December. Thankfully, this wasn’t a surprise baby, but as recently as December 2015 we had not planned on any more children. Travel plans have been put on hold and home expansion plans have been expedited. We will transition back in to diapers, bottles, and sleep-interrupted nights; and we will readjust some goals and expectations as this new bundle of joy makes her way here. We are now long-term planning for college and weddings for two daughters instead of one.

We’ve also had a front row seat as my extended family has adjusted plans as life’s circumstances changed. My brother and his wife find themselves planning for baby expenses a few years earlier than anticipated as their pregnancy was a surprise. My sister and her husband are looking at a fairly large home renovation. My parents have had to take extended time off from work to care for aging parents. These changes were unexpected, nerve wracking, and came quickly for our family. These unforeseen events add to the stress of all our lives.
Having a financial plan can ease some of the anxiety associated with the unexpected. Be it a plan to set aside money for an emergency fund, a plan to save for upsizing a house, a plan to save for earlier retirement (or part-time work in later years), or a plan to replace income in the event of a sudden death. This road map doesn’t erase all stress but it does allow for peace of mind knowing you are prepared for unanticipated challenges. There are only so many financial things in our plan that we can control, namely how much we spend, how long we work, and how much we set aside to meet goals and allow for flexibility.

It is important that we review our financial plan on a regular basis since we are so limited in what we can control. It is important to know how we are tracking with our financial plan during the calm years. If corrections need to be made, these are the easiest years to make changes. These reviews also allow opportunities to discuss flexibility in our plans prior to any unexpected event. We want to enjoy the years when all is going as planned because we know change can happen at a moment’s notice.

The unexpected and unplanned changes to your plans can be sad, scary, nerve-wracking, stressful, happy, exciting, joyous, and on and on. Without any starting point, many of us would be lost if faced with these changes. Beginning with a plan means that the unplanned events can be addressed with flexibility around the original plan instead of a feeling of starting from ground zero. And with flexibility you might just find that change can be a good thing.

Amanda Howerton, CFP® is a financial advisor with Rather & Kittrell. She can be reached at ahowerton@rkcapital.com