2020 is behind us and good riddance! It’s a new year and time for those pesky resolutions that always seem so difficult to maintain. With the uncertainty that COVID-19 has brought to our lives and the economy, getting organized, focused and clear about your finances, particularly in ways that will help plan for emergencies and the unexpected, will be even more important in 2021. In the following article, I hope to give you a few ideas to help implement and maintain your financial and personal priorities in a manner that allows for greater success this year.
The overarching theme of this article is to do less. Set your sights low. Quit trying to build Rome in a day. All too often in the past, I set myself up for failure. I tried to bite off more than I could chew and it made me feel lousy and I would jettison all of my planning and go back to my bad habits and suboptimal behavior. Change is difficult and if you want to have the tenacity to stick to a new plan you need to set the bar low enough to be attainable and to keep you motivated. The following are a couple of hacks I have used to under-promise and give myself a chance to over-deliver on my annual priorities. When you put all of this together you just might achieve more by working less.
Start to practice the 80/20 rule also known as Pareto’s Principle. This is an aphorism that asserts that 80% of outcomes (or outputs) result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event. Pareto discovered that most things in life are not evenly distributed and you can often get more done by focusing on key activities. As Abraham Lincoln said, ‘If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first six of them sharpening my ax.’ A corollary in retirement is to focus on your plan over your investments. In my experience, long-term investment success comes from continuously acting on a plan while investment failure comes from continuously reacting to current events in the economy and the markets. It’s not as glamorous or entertaining as researching the next big thing, but it will likely prove more lucrative and will provide a better foundation from which to pursue your true retirement goals.
I keep a sticker on my computer that says K.I.S.S. No, I’m not a fan of glam rock rather it’s my reminder to – Keep It Simple Sherrill. Complicated plans and systems will zap your energy and delay your desire to move forward. If you don’t know exactly how to begin you often won’t. Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” The process of refining an investment plan or priority into simple steps can often take a lot of time but the rewards are usually well worth the effort. An example would be to build your retirement portfolio using simple rules and principles that are time tested rather than complicated heavily marketed products. When wall street builds a better mousetrap, investors are usually the mouse. A simple structure is usually more transparent, easier to monitor, more liquid and generally more reliable.
I’ll admit that planning can be boring, and it can get complicated. That combination beckons for procrastination. It’s so much easier to watch “Mad Money” or get a tip from your brother in law on a supposed low-risk high-reward opportunity. As Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work”. If you find yourself getting stuck – use the 2 Minute Rule. This comes from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done and simply asks you to start a new habit by just allocating 2 minutes in the beginning. Rather than try to go run 3 miles, just put on your running shoes the first day and build from there. If you always wanted to write a book, just start with one sentence. If you’re building your financial plan, just start by downloading your latest financial statements. Motivation comes from action, not the reverse. Implementing little steps will go a long way to building strong habits.
Planning for 2021 doesn’t have to be difficult and you can save yourself a lot of time by doing less. Use Pareto’s principle to figure out where to best focus your efforts. Use the KISS Method to create an easy to implement plan. Use the 2 Minute Rule to get started. In fact, before you toss this article, take 2 minutes and go to www.yearcompass.com and download their free planning template for 2021. Happy Planning!
Gardner Sherrill, CFP, MBA, is a certified financial planner with Sherrill Wealth Management. To learn more, visit sherrillwealth.com, a Bradenton wealth management firm specialized on living in retirement.
The opinions expressed in this material are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.