Sometimes The Best Thing to do is Nothing
Building the habit of consistently assessing your finances and evaluating if your plan remains the best course of action for your circumstances is an integral part of achieving Financial Freedom. Life priorities and our related goals evolve as we mature, and our circumstances can change quickly due to a multitude of factors, some of which are beyond our control. So it’s vital to be able to employ critical thinking and tweak or completely restructure your plan as needed.
But it’s also equally as important to recognize when to do nothing at all.
A common trait I see in people who are actively seeking FF is that they are often eager to reassess and employ new strategies. Freedom seekers are generally pretty motivated, think outside the box type of people, so implementing change and being open to new ideas is typically not a problem. Conversely knowing when to stay the course, be patient and change nothing, that tends to be a lot more difficult.
Getting distracted by new and interesting opportunities, or making unnecessary changes, can pull your focus from your overall goal and even derail the most solid of financial plans.
Mike and I have found this to be one of our biggest challenges. We constantly struggle with the urge to do something. To make changes, to make a bold move, to invest in a new opportunity, or try our hand at a new business. It’s the very drive that got us here in the first place, but now instead of running with it, we actually have to consciously rein it in. Because the reality is, even in our final years of reaching Financial Freedom, we didn’t need to take any big risks or deviate from the plan. The plan was working.
What we needed was to be patient. To allow the plan to unfold to its completion. In truth, it was the hardest part of the whole process.
There were times when we felt like we were doing NOTHING. But looking back, what we were really doing was allowing the hard work that took place at the front end of the plan, (reducing expenses, increasing income, saving more, improving our investment strategy), we were letting all of that HAPPEN.
In many ways, a great financial plan is a lot like a well-established garden. It takes a ton of work, heavy lifting, big changes, and lots of decisions at the front end. You’ve got to heavily prune away the excess, completely remove items that are too invasive or don’t work with the overall goal, and have the vision to see what the space can become.
The first couple years require a lot of time invested, focus, commitment, and hard work. But once the garden is planted and firmly takes root, now comes the need for maintenance and patience. Small trims, ensuring the soil is ideal, little tweaks, but essentially you are allowing it to grow. Giving it time and opportunity to develop into the masterpiece you envisioned.
A sound financial plan can be approached in exactly the same fashion. Don’t forget about the maintenance, but once it’s rolling, give it the time it needs to grow.
For motivated people, exercising patience is easier said than done, but one way to do exactly that is to regularly reflect on the total progress since you started your plan. While changes may not be dramatic when looking at just a month or two, when you step back and assess a year, two, three+, it can be really invigorating to see just how far you’ve come. It can also give you the confidence to know that what you are doing is working, and the fortitude to remain patient and stick with it.
Mike and I employ this strategy on a monthly, if not weekly basis. We frequently talk about where we were just a matter of years ago, and what we’ve been able to accomplish in a relatively short period of time. Not only does it serve as fuel to keep us patient and focussed on our plan, it’s an additional opportunity to practice gratitude and reflect on just how thankful we are.
So the next time the urge to change your financial plan strikes, or what seems like an undeniably great investment opportunity crops up, stop for a moment and ask yourself if that change will serve to improve your overall plan, or will it pull focus and resources away from what you are really trying to achieve?
If your answer consists of the latter, doing nothing may just be the better option.