Embarking on a financial plan is like sailing from Europe to North America. The voyage won’t always go to plan, and there’ll be rough seas. The odds of reaching your destination increase greatly if you start by sailing west.
A mistake inexperienced sailors make is not having a plan. They embark without a clear sense of their destination, often finding themselves lost at sea in the wrong boat with inadequate provisions.
The first step of an investment journey is deciding on a goal. The second step is considering whether the goal is realistic and achievable. A friend of mine once joked, “I just went over my investment account and figured out I can live comfortably without working for the rest of my life as long as I die next Thursday.”
Once you are set on a realistic destination, you need to ensure you have the right portfolio to get you there. Have you planned for multiple contingencies? What degree of “rough seas” can your plan withstand along the way? A prosperous voyage always has a reliable navigator. A trusted advisor is your navigator; regularly taking coordinates and making adjustments. If your circumstances change, the advisor may suggest you replot your course.
As with the weather at sea, markets can be unpredictable. A sudden storm can threaten to blow you off course or even worse, capsize you. Similar to a seasoned sailor, an experienced advisor will work with the conditions. Just as a well-built vessel will help withstand most conditions at sea, a well-diversified portfolio will have counter-balances to help defend against these unexpected conditions.
Most voyages are rarely filled with excitement every second. Patience and discipline are required. Distractions can send sailors, like investors, off course. In the face of temporary market fads, it takes control not to veer from your chosen plan. Like the sirens of Greek mythology, media pundits can also be diverting, pressuring you to deviate from the plan by acting on ‘breaking news alerts.’
A lack of flexibility is another impediment to a successful investment journey. If it doesn’t look as though you’ll make your destination in time, there’s nothing wrong with extending your voyage, taking a different route, or even moderating your goal.
It’s critical that the sailor and investor become comfortable with the notion that uncertainty is inherent to the journey. It’s why preparation and planning are essential. While you can’t control every outcome, you can prepare for the range of possibilities and understand that you have clear choices if things don’t go according to plan.
If you can’t live with the volatility, you can change your plan. If the goal looks unachievable, you can lower your sights. If it doesn’t seem as if you’ll arrive on time, you can extend your journey.
Of course, not everyone’s journey is the same. Neither is everyone’s destination. We take different routes to different places, and we meet a range of challenges and opportunities along the way.
However; for every one of us, it’s critical that we are prepared for our journey in the right vessel, in the right direction, not lose track of our destinations, stick with the plan, and entrust an experienced navigator to chart our courses and keep us on target.
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