Hi. My name is Jonathan and I’m a procrastinator.
The New Year is an awkward time for procrastinators. Not because of the resolutions which surrounded us, though. Resolutions don’t come out of thin air. Resolutions come from reflection.
It’s customary to “take stock” sometime between Jesus’s birthday and New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. For procrastinators, we look back on all the things we should have accomplished. We gaze upon all the things we wanted to do. We see all the plans that stayed locked up in the garage or the desk drawer.
The Wages of Procrastination
Procrastination is bad enough when it leaves you feeling gloomy while you watch The Twilight Zone marathon (since you waited too long to make New Year’s Eve plans). It’s all the worse when it affects a spouse or children. A failure to act can have catastrophic effects when it comes to finance.
I’m not just talking about debt, which can be debilitating. There are a whole host of things involved in getting your financial house in order. As a husband and a father, failing to plan financially for my family isn’t just a character flaw—according to 1 Timothy 5:8, it’s equated to denying the faith.
It can be daunting to think about trying to get your finances straight, but it’s really not that complicated. There are a few key areas that everybody in their 20’s or 30’s need to address.
Things to Consider:
1. “What if something happens?”
Here, we’re mainly talking about disability or death. When you’re young and healthy, insurance is cheaper than it will ever be. At a minimum, you should have enough life insurance to cover any outstanding debts (those which wouldn’t be canceled in the event of death, like a federal student loan). The goal is to make sure that, should something happen to you or your wife, your family would be on solid financial footing.
We’re starting morbid so that we can finish with sunshine and rainbows. You both need a will. A will smooths out the legal process of transferring your assets, according to your desires. It also articulates your desires for the care of your children, as well as end-of-life medical choices. Clear directives during a time of crisis are truly invaluable.
2. “Am I saving?”
For too many of us, the answer is “no.” For the ones who can answer “yes,” the primary savings mechanism is typically a work retirement program. Those are great, but they need to be examined. I know young people who were investing like a 70-year-old might, because that was their plan’s “default” setting.
You and your wife need to look at your investment options and select something that’s in line with your risk tolerance and investing goals. But most importantly, you need to contribute to your plan. Go ahead and set up an automatic deposit to your retirement plan. You’ll never see the money, and you’ll be glad you started saving.
3. “What do I want to accomplish?”
If you know that you’d like to retire at 50 and start teaching at an inner-city school, then those facts should inform your saving and debt-management plan. If you and your wife have a desire to adopt, you’ll need to build up some non-retirement assets. If your lifelong dream is to travel with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs every football season in your retirement (maybe that’s just me), you’ll have to calculate how much you’ll need to make that dream a reality.
With the tools at our disposal now, there is no need to take blind guesses about your monetary requirements. Figure out your number and start off on a path to obtain it.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately, financial planning is stewardship. We’re called to act prudently and with kingdom-focus with those things which the Lord has entrusted to us.
Some advice: get one of these items completed within the next month. If these are already checked off of your list, create another list. If you don’t know where to start, a trusted financial advisor can help you work through next steps.