When I was a girl, my parents both worked outside the home. They were paid on alternating weeks, so every week, there was a paycheck to distribute. Before kids, mom was a bookkeeper in a bank, so she handled the household finances. Every Thursday night after supper, mom got out her green wire-bound notebook, 10-key, and a stack of envelopes. Yes, my mom was Dave Ramsey before Dave Ramsey was cool.
I grew up watching my mom pay the bills, pay off the mortgage, buy cars, boats, the RV that we used up north. She funded vacations, educations, graduations, and two weddings. Mom also had a terminal illness. Eventually, Dad took early retirement to help care for her. Different decisions had to be made financially, but retiring early didn’t hurt their standard of living. It might have taken more strategy and thinking than the weekly paychecks, but Mom figured out how to retire Dad early. And she did it all at the kitchen table with her notebook, 10-key, and envelopes.
Mom always had a plan for the money. No matter what new funding issue arose, she would simply sit down with her notebook and figure it out.
When I graduated from college, I wanted to buy a car. I had a full time job, an apartment, and time on my hands. She asked me if I had a plan, if I knew not only how I was going to buy a car, but also how I was going to cover gas, insurance, and maintenance. She then laid out a simple idea — take $50 from each paycheck and move it to savings. Over time, increase that amount so that eventually, the money put to savings would equal or exceed the car payment, gas, etc. Mom’s little plan for my car worked. My actual costs worked out to be less than what I was putting away in savings.
Mom’s plan worked throughout my life for other things. I used mom’s plan to get myself into and through law school, buy a house, even make career changes.
Planning your life, career, future, or even retirement years seems daunting — there’s so much about the future that we don’t know. But just like my mom, we can tear off smaller chunks and figure things out a bit at a time.
There are four questions that the answers to which will help you plan any goal or endeavor you set before yourself:
1) What do you want to do?
2) Where do you want to do it?
3) Who do you want to spend your time with?
4) How much is this goal going to cost?
Once you tear off a corner off your future and decide to figure out just that one part, answering the above four questions will help you make a plan. It worked for my mom, it worked for me, and it can work for you too.