Make a better financial plan. Make a Life Plan.


I come from a family of list-makers. Even though this is part of my DNA, anyone can make lists and plan ahead. You most certainly can learn the craft if it doesn’t come naturally. This post is about my end-of-year list that has become my annual "Life Plan". 

The Life Plan idea came along organically due to some rough times I had personally where I wanted to hone in on a vision and make a plan to improve every aspect of my life. Along the way, I discovered this process is really fun.  My husband and I have made this a team effort, where at the end of the year we have a celebration. The two of us go out to a great dinner (without kids) to talk about all our accomplishments over the year (no bad news allowed!). Following this meeting, I begin the Life Plan for the next year and we review and agree upon it. The trick with the Life Plan is to make sure you are calendaring activities on a monthly basis to help you accomplish the Life Plan. This is an annual plan, but it may have both long- and short-term goals. Get it all down on paper, a spreadsheet, or on your favorite task-tracking app. Review and re-work this list as needed throughout the year. The idea is to have flexibility and not be too concerned by the daily ups and downs of life.  Below is a list of categories we use in our Life Plan. Once these are developed, we calendar out the action items needed to see them through. 

Personal: These are goals for my personal life. The goals may be to increase exercise, see friends more often or to improve my Spanish-speaking skills. My husband also makes a set of personal goals. 

Financial: Our financial goals may include things like increasing the contributions in our kids' 529 plans, increasing our emergency savings, or decreasing insurance costs. 

Career: A big goal for me this year is to stick to an editorial calendar for more frequent posts! 

Home: We always have a long list of projects we want to complete. It is important to put a dollar amount and a date on what will be accomplished. This list never ends! 

Charity: We have a list of charitable causes we feel strongly about supporting. We plan out what we can give in money, time, or donated goods. 

Vacation: In the ideal world we'd have a lot more of these. Since they are small in number, we plan them out so we can go as big as budget allows. We always shoot for one family vacation and one couple's-only vacation but the latter is dependent upon kind friends and relatives who support this idea by watching our two wild boys.

Bucket List: We may not get to many of these, but this is a catch-all for anything than inspires us. This might be to start taking more photos, go see another Pearl Jam show, or plan a trip to Europe for our next big anniversary. These are kind of "the icing on the cake" or fun things to aim for within the year. 

My Ideal Future: This has been a story at the end of the Life Plan that I write. It paints a picture of what my ideal life looks and feels like. It helps me to solidify the vision. 

The one take-away I'd like you to have is that this process is actually fun and rewarding. Focus on all you were able to accomplish at the end of the year. Anything that wasn't tackled can always be on next year's list. Dreaming is fun, but I've found that getting it all down and out of my head actually produces results. And, when you have buy-in from a partner, there is that magic called accountability. Share with me your thoughts!