Monday Morning Quarter-Buck - 04/09/2018: Don't be a Financial Squirrel


“One reason, doubtless, why squirrels are so bold and reckless in leaping through the trees is that, if they miss their hold and fall, they sustain no injury.  Every species of tree-squirrel seems to be capable of a sort of rudimentary flying, at least of making itself into a parachute, so as to ease or break a fall or a leap from a great height.” – John Burroughs

Have you ever noticed how a squirrel seems to lack focus?  They get the job done, but they seem to take the long way around and they jolt back and forth from spot to spot.  I’ve also called this the “oh, did you see something shiny?” syndrome.   Have you ever felt that way yourself?  We live in such a distracting world it is often really hard to focus on one thing at a time. 
What about the sandwich generation?  Kids, parents, jobs, and community all need or want your help and guidance?  Where do you fit in that mix?  I remember a good friend of mine saying after she had a child, “I’ve got mom brain and simply can’t seem to complete a thought.”
As we gear up for the final week before the tax deadline, I hear a lot of people tell me, “I just can’t seem to focus on getting all my documents together.”  Well, not many really want to spend their time doing that chore, but sometimes the procrastination comes with not wanting to know the results.
Remember the phrase, “ignorance is bliss” – and then I add, until it’s not.  The fear of the unknown keeps us from moving forward to many adventures in life, but have you ever noticed that once we’ve planned it out, know what you have to deal with, and put baby action steps in place to overcome the challenge, there seems to be a sense of relief?   Even when the hill is a big one, at least we know it’s a hill and that there is a top to it.  So, the question then becomes do we walk straight up the hill, or do we run side to side allowing ourselves to become distracted by the wild flowers along the side of the road?  Does it have to be one or the other?  Can it be both? Could we decide to set time aside to work on particular topics with complete focus and also plan time to take those much needed “mental” breaks to smell the wild flowers?
I know you are probably wondering where is she going with this?  I’d like you to think about how much time you spend focused on your life plan, which of course includes your financial plan.   Could you isolate yourself for just one-hour each month if it meant achieving a goal in the most efficient manner? I’m recommending that each month you set one-hour aside – just one hour – to focus on your finances.   Are you moving forward with your plan?  What barriers are getting in your way?  What is causing stress?  Where do you need support?  Who can give you that support? 
Don’t know where to start?  Think of it as a mini-vacation (I know, I’m pushing it), and break it up into one-hour segments, you’d be surprised how quickly you can get something done if you “turn off” all distractions:

  • Setting the Tone. Turn off email, cell phones, the TV, whatever is going to distract your eyes from the “road.”  Turn on some “groovy” music that gets you road trip ready.  I know for me, I can crank up the Zac Brown Band tunes and I’m zoned in!
  • Build your map.  You don’t start any journey without a map – so sit down and determine where you are at today.  Put together a list of all your assets, liabilities, income reports (i.e. pay stubs), and insurance policies.  It’s amazing how freeing it is just to know what you have and look at it all in one spot.
  • Learn your route.  Great, you have the above put together, where is it going to get you?  How are these items fuel for your goals?
  • Learn the road blocks and traffic jams.  Brainstorm on what could get in the way, and possible solutions.  Have some “extra” resources or insurance set aside for those unexpected repairs that might be needed.
  • Seek alternative routes and detours.  Sometimes that means reaching out to professionals or digging into research about a topic that you are unfamiliar with, when an unexpected event occurs, “pull over” and examine the plan for other options.
  • Know the fuel usage.   Our money is like the gas that fuels the trip, it only goes so far, so how we use it and where we use it needs to be controlled.  Pull a list of all your expenses and review them, determine if that is the most efficient use of your fuel source or if it should be eliminated.

You can probably tell from this blog, I’ve got travel on my mind!  Brent and I will be making our Spring voyage North in one-week, so for all of you in New York, we will soon be back in the Corning office and we look forward to catching up with you!