Where Do I Go From Here?

On the great blog Frugal Dad, he posed a great question: I am debt free, but where do I go from here? I get asked this question quite a bit in my practice, so I thought I would dig up this article I wrote to help answer it. It is a great question and people get overwhelmed with the quantity of things they “should be working on”. Every financial company will give you a checklist of things to be focused on and of course the things they sell are “critical” no matter who you are! This just isn’t practical!

 

How can you make sure that you are making the best financial decisions? No matter what stage in your life you are at, there are important decisions that need to be made. It is important to know what areas to focus on. But the world of financial planning and advice is very broad, how do you know what things you should be worrying about and which can wait until later?

 

You know where you want to go. But how do you get there?

 

20’s and 30’s “The Early Years”

You are at the beginning of your professional career. You have done everything right up to this point. You went to college, found a good job, and are working hard to climb the corporate ladder. You are probably starting a family. This is the time in your life to lay good foundation. You should focus on the basics like:

  • Budgeting
  • Paying off debt
  • Starting a savings plan
  • Providing basic legal and insurance protection for your family

Establish good habits now, and it will be much easier to implement more sophisticated strategies later on. A solid foundation will allow you to make smart choices as you move through life and enable you to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves.

 

40’s and 50’s “The Wealth Accumulation Years”

These are generally your peak earning years. You will have more cash come in (and go out!) then at any other time in your life. Maybe you are putting the maximum into your 401(k), but still have some money left over each month. Do I pay off the house? What about college? Am I saving enough for retirement? Now is the time to build on that foundation you built earlier in your life and really start to grow your wealth. But growing wealth effectively requires comprehensive planning involving things like:

  • Education planning
  • Tax Planning
  • Savings goals
  • Investment planning

By having a comprehensive plan you maximize your opportunities and minimize your weaknesses. Don’t wait until you are ready to retire to ask, ‘can I retire?’ Start now and you will be well on your way to comfortable retirement.

 

60’s “Transition Years”

This decade is the most common time for people to make the transition to retirement. You have worked and saved up a nice nest egg. But you can’t buy groceries with a 401(k), or pay for a vacation with a rental property.  You need answers to that fundamental retirement questions: “How do I turn my wealth into a monthly check?” Managing risk also becomes critical at this stage of life. You may not be able to replace the wealth that you have built if you lose it. Protecting it becomes a higher priority than growing it. You should be focused on issues like:

  • Retirement income planning
  • Diversified income
  • Risk management
  • Tax planning

A well done retirement income plan can provide you peace of mind for years. It provides a consistent income stream that you can rely on in good markets and bad. It takes the guesswork out of retirement so you can start enjoying your well-earned retirement.

 

70’s and Beyond “The Legacy Years”

Once you have done all the traveling you want, spent the time volunteering, or playing golf, most people start to slow down. That is when the biggest questions come out. How do I use my accumulated wealth to establish a legacy? You realize that you don’t need all the money you have accumulated. But how do you transfer it to the next generation? These can be some of the most complex issues to face including:

  • Estate tax issues
  • Gift tax issues
  • Charitable trusts
  • Legal issues

The worst thing you can do is leave your wealth without a plan. Don’t create a mess for your heirs, or let Uncle Sam take a bite out of what you worked and earned. A well done estate plan can make sure that you know your legacy will outlast you!

 

Financial planning is a well-covered topic in the financial press. It is a common conversation to have with family and coworkers. There is so much information, in fact, that most people do nothing, because they don’t know where to start. We hope that this general guide can help you stay focused on the task at hand, so that you can grow and transfer your wealth successfully!

 

 

Broker Dealer Disclosure:
INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR OF MONEY CONCEPTS INTERNATIONAL, INC.
All Securities through Money Concepts Capital Corp.  Member FINRA/SIPC
11440 N Jog Rd., Palm Beach Gardens, FL  33418  Tel: (561) 472-2000
NCH Wealth Advisors and Money Concepts are not affiliated.

 

 

Business Plans

People tend to dramatically underestimate how important business planning is. “Strategic Planning” sounds like a very scary concept. It sounds like something that military leaders to prepare to annihilate an enemy, or something that large companies do that is really a waste of time and money.

 

Planning for your business is critical at the beginning of the business and as an annual task. In this post, I will give you an outline for creating a business plan for your new business idea.

When starting a business, people have a tendency to have very unrealistic or undefined ideas. It is always a good idea to put these ideas to paper so you can find where the holes are, define your goals, and make sure you are going to reach them. A good plan will remind you why you are working in this business, what you are working towards, and that you CAN, in fact, get there! You make choices for your business every day, it is critical that you have a “map” to help guide you through those choices.

 

This is not a guide on how to write a formal business plan. It will not get you funding from venture capitalists and it will not get you a loan from a bank to start your business. If you need either of those things, there are lots of great tools online for writing formal plans. If you think need to write a formal plan, it is best to enlist the help of someone who knows what they are doing.

 

This is a guide to help you make sure your business is realistic and that it will support you. It will help you solidify your ideas into a solid concept so that you can act on it. In my experience, almost no one needs a formal business plan.

 

With that being said, the follow outline is what I usually recommend to clients for how to do their planning:

 

Vision, Mission

What do you want your business to do?

How do you want to do it?

What will it look like when you accomplish those things?

Who is your ideal client?

What does your ideal business look like?

Why are you in business?

What is the unmet need you are fulfilling, or what need will you meet better (or cheaper)?

 

Your Vision is a short paragraph describing these things. Your mission is one sentence that describes how you will accomplish that Vision. Neither of these things need any sort of numbers or quantification. At this stage, the money is irrelevant. You should have touchy-feely concepts like “I want to have more freedom in my life” or “I will make the best widgets in town”.

 

Goals

This is where you quantify things. Create a list of goals that are specific, i.e. Have 50 clients paying me $100 a month, or Sell $10,000 a month worth of widgets, etc.

 

This is NOT a to-do list. If you have things you need to accomplish to reach your goals, those items go on another list. Do NOT put “Buy a Widget Machine” or “Learn to operate a widget machine” here. Goals are strictly an “if I had my ideal business, how much business would that be” or “How do I quantify my success?”

 

Budget

I’ll say it again.

MAKE A BUDGET!

 

Seriously, don’t skip this step! In fact, you are going to make a budget TWICE; one for you personally and one for your business. This will give you an idea of how much money you need to make in your business. Once you have made your budgets, go over them again and add at least 10% to all your expenses. When you first do the budget, don’t worry about income, just list out expenses. Do not forget to include annual or semi-annual expenses. I like to divide these out to their monthly equivalent, it makes the numbers easier to deal with.

 

Do the Math!

Now that you have your ideal business, and how much the expenses are going to be, see if you actually make enough profit to cover your bills. You would be shocked how many people fall short when they do this the first time. Keep playing with the numbers until you reconcile your ideal with your needs.

 

Then you need to make sure that you will actually be able to get all the work done. I once had a client who skipped this step (see what happens when you skip the budget step!?) and when his business failed and we analyzed it he realized that he had to work 70 hours a week to produce his “ideal” amount of work. This did not include any other aspects of running a business, which take time.

 

I like to create a weekly schedule so I can see, in black and white, what is expected of me. Do not forget to include: marketing time, administrative time, financial and accounting time, and FUN time! Oh, and the actual work. It takes a lot to run a business; you can’t be in production all 40 hours a week.

 

Marketing Plan

OK, so we know why we are in business, we know where we want to be, we have an understanding of what it takes to get there and how well we will be living if we do. So now we just need the clients! (just…. HAHAHAHA!)

 

This section can be a little tricky but you need to identify how you are going to reach your clients, what your marketing pitch will be, and what your message is. I typically don’t recommend that you do “market research” or anything formal like that (unless you are making a brand new product). I usually tell clients that you need a 10-second pitch, a 30-second pitch, and 5 minute pitch. And you need to memorize them. Then you simply have to identify as many places as you can to deliver these pitches.

 

My other advice on marketing, if you have start-up capital, is to enlist the help of pros like the awesome Gurus at Kneadle. These guys have forgotten more about marketing than I will ever know.

 

This is not a blog about marketing. There are LOTS of ways to get your message out, you just need to explore them. Every business will be different. But you need to put some serious time and effort into developing an idea of how to get your message to your ideal clients.

 

Timeline

This is the next critical step. You have some great goals and a way to get there. Now you need to lay out some month by month goals. If you try to get 100 customers right out of the gate, you will never start because it is such a HUGE task. So lay out reasonable expectations so you can focus on just one thing at a time. One of the greatest strengths of this planning process is that the BIG ideas are done, so now you are free to focus on the small stuff and you can be comfortable doing that because you know how each small thing is getting you closer and closer to your ideal goal.

 

Operations Manual

For you really ambitious people out there, the last step is to write how you want your business to operate. Create daily checklists. Create a “new client checklist”. Put pen to paper so that if you had to step out of your business, someone could step in and run things for you. This is the ONLY optional part of this planning process, but I have found it to be invaluable.

 

Once your business has been running for a year or so, this will become mandatory.

 

Tips for Successful Planning:

I always recommend that the Vision, Mission, and Goals part of the planning process take place away from the office. You WILL lose focus if you are in the office or at home where your attention can be pulled away. This part of the planning requires sustained big thinking, which is MUCH harder to accomplish than it seems. The other steps may require you to be at the office with a computer so you can create spreadsheets, do research and such. But for the big thinking at the start, go someplace quiet (no, NOT Starbucks) and just scribble stuff down on a pad. I discourage people to use their laptops at this stage, because they have so many distractions built right in.

 

Have a separate page that is your “To-Do” list. As you go through, you will constantly have random ideas, be thinking of things you need to do, or things that need research. Use this as your catch all, get it out of your head and KEEP GOING. Do NOT stop writing your vision because you just had an awesome idea for how your letterhead should look. (Seriously, I had a client that did that…) If you aren’t sure about something, just make your best guess, make a note and move on. Keep the juices flowing!

 

Try to accomplish all of this in one day, two at the most. If you set it down and try to pick it back up again it WILL lose something. This process is all about each step building on the last. Do NOT let it disconnect. You have your entire life to do the work, take TWO FREAKING DAYS and get this all out. I promise, the world will still be there when you resurface and it wont be any worse off.

 

It’s as simple as that!

Now stop reading blog posts and go do some work!

Luck is Made

I have noticed a trend in successful people. Some of the most successful people I know, particularly those that became successful quickly, feel like they do not deserve their success. When you ask them how they got to where they are (which people always do) they typically say things like:

  • I had a door placed in front of me.
  • I don’t feel like I DID anything to get where I am.
  • I don’t know, I just got lucky.

My favorite example of this is the oh-so-brilliant Brett Kelly, who will never admit how freaking brilliant he is. Read what he has to say on his blog here.

In my personal opinion, this is a bunch of crap. Of course, it does make for great stories. It also makes people not feel bad about being successful when talking to others. But most importantly, it feeds the very American Dream of getting rich quick. People don’t want to hear about the 1,000 bad ideas that failed or the late nights and hard work it took for most people to be successful. They want to believe that they just have to “get lucky” and will sit around doing nothing, wondering why they haven’t gotten lucky yet.

I have had a reasonable amount of success in my life and when people ask me how I got where I was, I have two very simple answers:

1. If you put yourself in lots of places, eventually one of them will be the right place at the right time (which is how most people describe luck).

I tell this to my staff all the time. You will never find clients if you sit in your office and wait for them to show up. You have to go to Chamber gatherings, networking groups, alumni groups, social clubs, WHATEVER, just GO to SOMETHING. Do NOT give up. Just because you went to an event and no one called to make an appointment doesn’t mean it was a failure. It just was not the right place at the right time. But you did accomplish something. Each time you go somewhere that is not the right place at the right time, the odds say you are THAT much closer to being in the RIGHT place at the RIGHT time!

Business takes hard work people! And perseverance!

2. Always say, “Yes, I can do that.” Even when you can’t. Then just figure it out as you go.

This is the one that always makes people the most mad. “But you can’t tell someone that you know how to do something you have never done!”

Really? Have you ever tried doing it? No? Then how do YOU know if you can or can’t? On top of that, if you don’t know if you can or can’t, the person you are talking to certainly doesn’t know!

Do you think I got where I am by being meek? Or cautious?

NO!

I got here by nodding and smiling at clients and bosses and saying, “Yeah, totally, we (I) can do that,” then being smart enough to figure out what it was they were talking about before the deadline and making it happen.

This is my “be reasonable” disclaimer. If you are trained as a dog walker and someone asks you to do open-heart surgery, don’t volunteer and then figure it out as you go …

But VERY few things in this world are that complicated and can’t be solved with a good network of people (which you made when were accomplishing point number one) and the freaking wonder that is the Internet.

So, the moral of the story is this:

Luck is made. If you want to get lucky, get off your butt and start making it happen.

Business is Simple

Seriously, it really is… I know it doesn’t seem like it when you are in the trenches of running a company (of any size). But that is only because you have forgotten (or never knew) that all businesses are made up of several very simple premises (thanks Josh Kaufman for the summary):

  1. Businesses produce something of value
  2. That people want or need
  3. At a price people are willing to pay
  4. With enough profit to make it worth it to the owner

See?

Simple.

Ok, to be fair, if you get into the details of how to accomplish each of those four things, it can get a little complicated or confusing. But this is the first lesson that all business owners need to learn. We will get into the more complicated stuff later. But if you don’t fully grasp this, and can’t explain how your business does these four things, then you either A) don’t actually own a business or B) will never actually understand the more complex stuff.

People always overestimate how complex business is. This isn’t rocket science-we’ve chosen one of the world’s most simple professions. -Jack Welch