A couple of times a year our family takes road trips to visit our extended family out of state. With two young kids it’s no small endeavor. So, after packing the minivan to its limits with all of the necessities and more, including countless bags of roadworthy high sugar snacks “for the kids,” we finally head off in the crisp dark hours of the early morning.

Prior to pulling out of the driveway, there’s a few important steps on the pre-trip checklist that are always a requirement:

  • Everyone’s used the bathroom, check
  • Seatbelts, check
  • Entertainment for the kids, check
  • Drinks and snacks within driver’s reach, check
  • GPS fired up with target destination, check

No matter how many times we’ve made the long trip across four states to see our family, the last step before pulling out of the driveway has always been a critical one. Yes, we’ve made this trip multiple times. Sure, we know the general direction to head in. Certainly, there’s a fair likelihood we might find our way to the destination without it.

Still, every time on every trip we fire up that GPS before we’re even out of our neighborhood and at the first coffee stop half a mile down the road.

There are three critical reasons we’ve found this to be important every time we set out on these journeys.

  1. It’s Goal Oriented. Having the GPS helps us focus on where we’re going and how we intend to get there.
  2. It’s Dynamic. Maybe it’s just our bad luck but over the 1,000-mile drive there’s bound to be some kind of traffic, closure, or speed-trap up ahead and the GPS promptly warns us about these before we are affected by them.
  3. It’s Actionable. Gone are the days of glancing at an unfolded paper map providing zero feedback. The GPS commands action; “get in this lane!”, “turn now!”, and “divert!” Then, when the kids get hungry for more than car snacks, a quick search yields the closest McDonald’s one can find.

These three key aspects of our GPS have seemingly and regularly made our road trip much more successful than otherwise. As a financial planner, I’ve seen these same three things make all the difference in individuals’ financial journeys as well.

While a lot of folks begin down the financial planning process with a hint of skepticism towards its usefulness, concerns about it restricting their lifestyle, or worries about the results it might produce, nearly everyone I’ve witnessed walk through the planning process has found it immensely helpful to them as they chart their financial journey ahead.

This is because a financial plan functions just like a GPS for your financial journey. It is Goal Oriented, Dynamic, and Actionable.

  1. Your financial plan is about your goals
  2. Your financial plan allows dynamic updates and changes
  3. Your financial plan produces actionable feedback

 

Goal-Oriented

One of the key aspects of a financial plan is that it takes clear tangible goals you have for your life, brings them into focus, and develops one or more potentially good routes to arrive at this goal.

The benefits of being goal-oriented are that doing so helps you focus on where you are going and good ways to get there. While there may be many routes to the same goal, the financial plan – along with your planner – can help illustrate which routes make the most sense.

 

Dynamic

It’s said that a great plan is great until something changes, and something always changes. The best financial plans are not static and rigid documents but dynamic tools that can adjust and adapt to the circumstances you encounter.

The benefit of dynamic financial planning is that you and your financial planner may be able to view and talk about some of the obstacles that lie ahead well before they impact your plan. This allows you to make changes needed to arrive at your goal in the time and manner you desire.

 

Actionable

The best financial plans go beyond simply providing you data and information, like the folding maps of previous days. An actionable plan provides the next best steps you can take to get on a course and stay on course to achieve the goals that are most important to you.

The benefit of actionable feedback from your plan is that you’ll know precisely what steps to consider taking next and the impact these will have on your overall goals. No longer will you need to make today’s decisions in a vacuum but instead see the real implications each of these decisions have for the journey ahead.

 

As a financial planner, I often see people with all styles and kinds of plans for the financial journey that lies ahead of them. However, after having walked that journey with many folks over the years, it’s clear that the best tool to navigate the roads ahead is a plan that’s goal-oriented, dynamic, and actionable.