How Long Is Your Long Run?

When I think about the long run, I’m usually thinking about what I would call “retirement.” It’s a state I hope to reach in my fifties or sixties or so where I can spend my time working on projects that may or may not result in any sort of financial gain, but simply projects that I can enjoy. Almost every thought about the “long term” in my life leads to that point.

I asked my mother a few days ago about what she considered to be the “long term.” She basically pointed to a point about ten or fifteen years down the road when my children are graduating high school.

I asked my oldest son what he thought about the future and what he thought of as the biggest thing that would happen in his life. He thought about it and he said it would be when he was a parent, roughly when he was my age. Let’s call it twenty years.

I asked my father-in-law what he thought of when I said the words “long term” and he pointed to a point about eight years down the road when he hoped to retire.

Seven years. Twelve years. Twenty years. Thirty years.

One of us is looking at that long term with (relatively) shorter-term retirement savings in mind as a tool to get there. Another sees the route to the long term coming through health maintenance. Yet another sees it as a natural outcome of growing up. For me, it’s all about the long-term retirement planning.

We all have very different definitions of the long term. We all have very different actions we need to take to get there.

Whatever your definition of the long term is, though, you don’t just get there by wandering in the wilderness. It takes work, and it takes a plan.

I’m saving steadily for retirement and putting that money into investments that are fairly high-risk. As time marches on, I’ll be pulling the throttle back and moving into less risky investments.

My son is so excited about school starting in August that he’s already wondering about school supplies.

My mother rather carefully watches the food she eats.

My father-in-law is saving for retirement hand over fist.

We each have our own visions of the long term. We each have our own path to get there.

The key word in personal finance is personal. We all have different goals and dreams. Those goals could be as close as a year into the future or it could be several decades down the road. Depending on where we’re at right now, the things we need to do to get to that point might be drastically different, even if the goals are similar.

What’s the point? You’ll find the most success with personal finance – and with life – if you don’t just copy someone else’s plan. Instead, learn the principles and figure out your own plan that takes you to wherever (and whenever) your long term happens to be. Along the way, don’t be afraid to grab great ideas from others and add them to your own plan, just as long as it keeps taking you to wherever it is you want to go.

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