Do you have a “pending” file? How long have some of those actions been pending? How many relate to your personal financial plan?
Consider the synonyms for “pending”: unresolved, unsettled, up in the air, on ice, unfinished, on the back burner. I don’t know about you, but unresolved financial matters in my life are a leak for my energy and feelings of well-being.
Why do we have pending financial actions? Sometimes we struggle with paralyzing indecision based on lack of knowledge, uncertainty, or negative past experiences. Often, we are distracted by other seemingly pressing matters. I recall a Wall Street Journal article titled “Multitasking makes you stupid.” We often need to focus on a task, especially if it appears difficult.
To move from pending to progress, we need to be intentional, create measurable steps, and even add accountability. Since we often don’t pay attention to things that we don’t see, we need to write down our action plan, strategize with our family or an adviser, and set timelines and deadlines.
The first intention should be to reduce our financial pending list to two or three top priorities. Then, we can identify two or three specific actions we can do this month. Then we can pick one thing to do this coming week to create momentum, no matter how big or small. As examples, here are a few financial planning action items that may be circulating through your life right now:
Tax planning: Once you’ve got all of your tax reporting forms, get them organized and file your return.
Estate planning: It seems that every few years, state or federal estate regulations are in flux. With each change, you need to review and possibly update your estate documents.
Life is a series of transitions: Marriage, birth, retirement, death. Subsequently, it is important to update your insurance coverages – types, amounts, beneficiaries, etc.
Investments: With an extended run-up in U.S. stock market values, it is vital to review and rebalance your portfolio. Consider diversification opportunities, often applying some contrarian logic. Do you have exposure to global markets? Are you updating the risk/return profile of your bond strategy to reflect the likelihood of rising interest rates? Do you need to create some cash for an upcoming expense?
Often, we get stuck in a pending mode as a result of our own unrealistic expectations. A perfect solution is a myth. Or, we might be buried under a mentality of “woulda, shoulda, coulda.” I absolutely cannot change the decisions that I made yesterday. But, I can definitely strive to make better decisions today and tomorrow.
What we need is progress. Think simple and essential. A trip of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step.
When I check-off a pending item from my financial to-do list, I almost always experience two things: a tremendous sense of relief and/or achievement; and recognition that the action wasn’t as complicated or difficult as I previously imagined.
It seems appropriate to summarize with the wacky wisdom of comedian Larry the Cable Guy: “Git-r-done.”