For most of my adult life – and particularly over the past few years – I’ve written several novels and some partial novels. I’m well aware that they’re not good ones, even as I’m writing them. Instead, I work on them in order to improve my skills at characterization and plot development.
As I’ve improved, I’ve come to realize that revision is at least as important as completing that first draft.
The first draft can be extremely rough. Words are poorly chosen. Charaters are poorly developed. The plot meanders and doesn’t stick to the action.
The reason for that is simple. You’re constantly throwing in ideas as they come to you, and those ideas may or may not have anything to do with your overall vision for the book. You might think of a number of great details about a character, but those details do nothing at all with regards to advancing the main narrative.
A financial plan follows this same pattern (as does a budget… or a career plan… or a business plan…). The first time you write it all out, you’re throwing in lots of ideas as they come to you. Usually, you’re incredibly optimistic in terms of the changes you believe you can make in your life and that ends up creating a financial plan that’s unrealistically positive.
Guess what? Most people fail at this juncture. A hermit’s life isn’t for most people and they end up failing along the way.
It’s not a personal failing. It’s the failure of an overly ambitious plan.
What’s the best way to fix it? Revise it. Take what you’ve learned from your failure and dive back into your plan. Give yourself more breathing room and extend the timeline of events a bit further into the future. Reduce some of the spending cuts.
You’ll likely find it much easier to progress along your financial journey, but this is only the second draft, after all. More can be done.
Look for big things to cut from your life, ones you didn’t even think of before. Cancel the cable and throw out the television. Move to a completely new location. Sell your cars.
The more time you spend evaluating the goals in your life and looking seriously at the daily choices you make, the closer you’ll get to the right balance for you.
Keep revising. Keep adding and subtracting from your plan. It’s a living document, one that’s not set in stone. Keep thinking about your goals and keep asking yourself what you could be doing in a better way to achieve those goals.
Yes, your plan will change over time. It will adapt to how you actually live your life. The rough spots that made things challenging will be chopped away, while aspects of your life that don’t matter much at all will begin to disappear. Your first attempt at a plan to reach your goals will begin to seem hopelessly naive and overly challenging.
Personal finance is personal. Don’t expect your financial plan to exactly match anyone else’s, much as your life doesn’t match anyone else’s life. It’s all about you and finding a path that works for you to achieve your goals, and that doesn’t happen overnight.
Revise, revise, and revise again. That’s how you’ll find a plan that actually works well in your life.