Gardening season is upon us and across the country people are “playing in the dirt” planting all kinds of flowers, fruits and vegetables. Pam and I just planted our garden (tomatoes and peppers) this past weekend and it got me thinking about financial planning. OK, who am I kidding, I’m a financial planner, EVERYTHING I do gets me thinking about financial planning!
So, anyway, planting the veggies in their little Earth Boxes (highly recommended BTW) on our deck got me thinking and building a comparison between the gardening and financial planning process. Turns out, there are many similarities and a lot of inspiration and motivation that can be drawn from the “process” of gardening. Read on to find out why…
As I sat on our deck looking at our freshly planted tomatoes I thought about the process people go through to plan, plant, maintain and harvest the fruits of their gardening efforts. When I compared that process to what we do when we work with clients, a lot of similarities became evident. What do I mean? Take a look at the quote to the right by Liberty Hyde Bailey. If you replace the “garden” & “plant” references with “financial plan” you have almost the perfect description of what makes the financial planning process successful. My guess is that if you are reading this and have ever done any gardening you would be someone that we would probably enjoy working with. Here’s why I say that:
Planning a garden requires sitting down and deciding what plants/vegetables you want to plant and where you want to plant them. Most people just don’t randomly pick stuff to plant. I mean, really, who wants to plant Okra when Tomatoes are so much more tasty? 🙂 So, picking the seeds/plants you want to put in your garden is essentially a “gardening goal setting” exercise.
The planning of a garden matches up very nicely with the information gathering/goal setting process clients go through when we begin working together. Everyone has a unique background, experiences, likes & dislikes (Okra vs Tomatoes) and a person’s goals and financial plan should reflect that. The challenge is to narrow down the universe of possibilities to those select few items that match up with what you want to accomplish. These goals are as unique as you are and serve as the base for your financial plan.
Once you have decided on what you want to put in your garden it’s time to get planting! You gather up the plants in their little pots and start preparing the soil and putting the plants into the ground. As you plant you’re adding some fertilizer and water to each plant just to make sure you’re giving them the best shot possible. As your garden takes shape you probably are already thinking about what the garden will look like as time goes on and the plants begin to grow.
Constructing the initial financial plan is the “planting the garden” step of financial planning. The initial plan is based on the goals and objectives (the plants) you set and is the starting point. There’s no guarantee that the initial plan will work forever so we build in some steps (the fertilizer and water) to help increase the odds. These could be things like making sure you have enough emergency savings to weather small setbacks or helping you develop a plan to improve your job prospects in today’s changing economy. The objective is to give you and your plan the best odds of success as time goes on.
Once the garden is planted, the work really begins. Any gardener worth their salt knows that you just can’t plant the garden and walk away. Well, I guess you could but the garden probably wouldn’t do very well. So, in order to help ensure a bountiful harvest, you spend a little time each day or week maintaining your garden. You keep the plants watered and fertilized, do your best to get rid of pests and bugs that like to munch on them, spend time pulling weeds that suck up all the nutrients that should be going to your prized Okra, and even trim and prune the plants to keep them healthy. All of this takes time but you do this because you want to have something to harvest and enjoy.
Just like a garden, a sound financial plan will most likely dry up and blow away without ongoing care. That’s why it’s important to revisit, review and update any financial plan on a regular basis. Your life changes and your financial plan needs to change with your life. Too many people go through the whole process of building a financial plan, print out a big fancy report, put it in a binder and then never do anything else with it. That’s a waste of time and money. A real financial plan is a living, breathing document that needs to be updated over time. There’s no set schedule for this (but once or twice a year is typical) because each plan (garden) is different and has it’s own set of challenges (weeds, bugs, etc.). The important thing is to proactively update the plan as things change in your life. A good financial planner will work with you on a collaborative basis over the entire year to keep your plan alive and healthy.
Now that you’ve spent all that time maintaining your garden it’s time to reap some rewards! If you’ve done your job as the gardener by maintaining and nurturing the plants in your care you will probably be able to harvest some tasty food as your garden matures. This is the reward for all your work and the reason you invested the time and effort in your garden. As you pick the veggies or fruit you probably think back to all that has happened between planting and harvesting. In most cases it’s a happy experience and you’re ready to do it all again next year.
Harvesting the fruits of your gardening labor is pretty much the same as achieving the goals you set as part of your financial plan. A true financial plan will have a mix of short and long term goals to help keep you on track, flexible and motivated. As each of those goals are reached a new goal is set. That way you are always “harvesting” from your financial garden.
Is your financial garden healthy or does it need some serious care and attention? Getting through life and achieving the goals and dreams that you want to achieve just doesn’t happen, it takes time, planning and effort. Working with a financial planner that takes the time to learn about you and works together with you to build a financial plan that is flexible and obtainable can make all the difference.
If you would like to explore the options available to you for starting the process of growing your own “financial garden” we would be honored to have the chance to speak with you about our process. You can contact us here or click the button below to schedule a no obligation call.
If you are ready to get started on your own, we’re proud to offer access to a free financial dashboard that can help you organize your assets and track your financial status. If you decide to work with us at some point in the future you will have a nice head-start on the process. Click the button below to get started:
Cheers and happy gardening!