What's Your Back-Up Plan?

Jeff Bernier |

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." 

Adapted from a line in the poem "To a Mouse" by Robbie Burns; used in Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

By Jeff Bernier, CFP®, ChFC, CFS

As my children have gotten older and with an excellent team at TandemGrowth, my wife and I decided that it would be interesting to live one month per year in a different location. We never purchased a second home and felt we’d rather visit different places and just drop off the key on the way out. 2020 was to be our first year of what we planned to make an annual event.  

Being the planner that I am, we researched locations and homes and found the perfect place in old town Key West for the month of May 2020. Then Covid showed up and plans were cancelled.

No worries, we rescheduled to go in 2021 when it is safe to travel again. Then we had some family issues that needed our attention - plans again were cancelled.

As I write this, I am supposed to be traveling with my son, Nick, to Montana to fly fish.  Last weekend I had a medical issue that required emergency surgery. Fishing plans with Nick cancelled.

Obviously, things do not always go as planned. Life happens.  

The message of today’s blog is the importance of having a plan B, C and D as back-up plans to plan A. As we build detailed and custom financial plans for our clients, we usually begin by asking questions to uncover the ideal plan.  The ideal plan is the “pie in the sky” plan—if everything goes as planned—it usually won’t! It is the plan that potentially has the highest level of spending, giving, legacy, education costs, earliest retirement date, and the lowest number of financial risks.

We then ask detailed questions to determine a minimum plan. In other words, what is the longest you could see yourself working, what is the least amount of spending, legacy, gifts, education, and the most financial risks? From this, we can build scenarios and decide in advance the tradeoffs that would be acceptable if things do not go as planned. As circumstances and goals evolve, together we tweak these plans at every stage of your journey.  

By doing this thinking upfront and through our collaborative coaching process we help you clarify what matters most to you. When setbacks occur, we hope you are able to be resilient and still enjoy the journey – even though the journey may be different than originally planned. I’ve been telling myself this a lot lately as I’ve been changing my plans. It is not about what I am missing, there are new things that I am getting to do. They are not necessarily worse; they are just different than I originally planned. 

So, while I’d love to be on the Bighorn River tomorrow as planned catching monster brown and rainbow trout, I can get some much-needed rest and relaxation knowing that the fish aren’t going anywhere – they’ll be there later this year too.

I am also trying to learn to enjoy the present and be intentional about living every day consistent with my values regardless of the context - whether enjoying a tropical drink watching the sunset in Key West or having a cup of coffee on my back porch watching the bird feeder.  

A note about service and enjoying your work 

I have been blessed with relatively good health and, until this past weekend, I’ve never spent the night in a hospital. While my issue was relatively minor and my stay was short, I was blown away by the care and passion in the work of the team at the hospital.  I had a similar experience on a beach trip with the grandchildren in May. (See, no need to feel sorry for me in canceling plans – we made another plan!) While I was sitting on a balcony drinking coffee every morning, I watched the lady who handled the landscaping at the outdoor shops and pavilion. While she took care of the plants, she danced around and made it look like watering plants was the most important job in the world. It made my morning each day!

If you would like to hear a conversation about dealing with setbacks, check out our podcast The Money and Meaning Show—Season 2, Episode 7:  The Experience Transformer: Turning every experience into a learning experience (click to listen).  

As you build your financial plans, always have a plan B, C, and D. Be clear about what matters most so, when life inevitably happens, you are prepared. Circumstances and goals evolve. A trusted Financial Advisor can help you evaluate choices with the hope that you will be confident in your future and able to enjoy the journey. Our team would love to help you in this process–feel free to schedule a call here!

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

James 4:13,14 NIV



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