Changing Course – Darren Straniero, CFP®
Recently Jill & I took a quick trip to surprise her mom and this required us to fly down to Miami. As we boarded the plane, I peeked into the cockpit. The pilots were in there, doing their pre-flight checks. We moved on down the aisle, took our seats, and prepared for takeoff.
For us, getting to Miami was as simple as booking tickets, boarding the plane, and buckling up. The pilots had a little more on their plate. Before they even boarded the plane, they had a flight plan. I’m not a pilot so I don’t know what that exact flight plan consisted of. To me, the flight plan looked like this:
- Take off from BWI
- Take a nap
- Fly south toward Miami
- Continue napping
- Land at Fort Lauderdale airport
Pretty simple. Not easy, though.
I don’t even have to imagine the more intricate details that went into getting that flight from the departure gate to the arrival gate. I don’t know what they were but I know it was way more detailed than what I listed above
I also imagine the flight plan didn’t go exactly as the pilots planned. We experienced quite a bit of turbulence throughout the flight. Maybe this was anticipated. Maybe it wasn’t. Maybe they expected more and we experienced less. Or vice versa.
My point here is that our pilots had a plan. Before they even boarded the plane, they knew exactly what they had to execute in order for the plane to arrive at their destination. And they have to expect going into every flight that something in their flight plan might not, ahem, go according to plan.
So what do they do when this happens? They make changes to the flight plan. They might increase or decrease elevation, they might take a route more east or west, north or south of the intended plan.
They adapt and adjust.
It got me thinking about this financial planning stuff, again.
I’ve talked about the importance of planning over the actual plan itself. Life is not a straight line. Jill & I are walking proof of this (4 kids in 2.5 years). And recently I’ve walked side by side with a couple of clients experiencing life events that weren’t part of their plan:
- an unexpected job change because the current job was no longer fulfilling
- parents who needed financial support
- an earlier than expected opportunity to buy a retirement property
None of us could have predicted these events would have unfolded 3 months, 18 months, 36 months ago. And while we could say the third example was part of their “plan”, the timing certainly wasn’t planned for.
The good news is each of these clients were prepared for their life event through the planning that’s happened along the way. Part of their plans involved (say it with me) focusing on factors we could control. Factors like rates of savings and having cash on hand. And when their plans changed course, we were able to change course with it. We simply did a little more planning.
Our financial plans will never work out exactly as the numbers tell us — just as our pilots’ flight plans won’t always be as smooth as planned. The key here is having the ability and know how when it comes time to adapt and adjust.
The key is in doing the planning along the way.