When the iconic Mission Impossible music starts blaring, we all know what’s coming.
A fuse has just been lit! The clock is ticking! It’s up to Ethan Hunt (played perfectly by Tom Cruise) and his talented team of spies to save the day again (they’ve done it six times so far).
They’ve got two hours, give or take, to call on their wits, skills, and bravado to disarm the bomb, defeat the villain, save the world, or all of the above.
Our financial lives are lot like an MI movie—minus the great theme song. A clock is ticking. Big things are at stake. But often we don’t feel any urgency. (Can you imagine an MI movie featuring Tom Cruise sitting on the couch reading the paper for 90 minutes?)
In our 20s, we tell ourselves the fuse is SO long. Why rush? Here’s why: Because money grows over time. Delay the mission of “pursuing financial health” and you’ll pay a steep price down the road. In your 20s, the main thing is to get started and establish good saving habits—ideally, at least 10% of your income.
By our 30s, we sense we need to get started. But there are so many distractions. The new house. Kids. New cars. It’s all expensive, right? If you aren’t saving much in your 30s, it’s likely because of debt. The average American household pays about 30% to 40% of income towards servicing debt. What if some of that cash flow could be recovered and redirected towards saving?
When we hit our 40s, the music gets louder and the fuse gets shorter. Maybe you’re maximizing the contributions to your 401(k) plan, but you wonder if it will be enough. If you’re sending children to college, you likely worry about how that will impact your own ability to retire one day.
The 50s are when many are tempted to panic. You never imagined being 50. “Old people” are 50! You’re only 15 or so years away from retirement age! You stare at your list of debts and your 401(k) balance and you reach for your antacids.
The race against time is why we love Mission Impossible movies. But in our financial lives, the fact that the clock is running out produces mostly headaches and heartburn.
Just like in MI movies, the solution to your “impossible” mission requires wit and talent. Bravado is good too, but we can replace it with a large dose of initiative. You just need to get going.
So here are three steps to take, no matter your A-G-E.
1. Assess your current situation. What’s your income? Your monthly expenses? Your debt obligations? What’s the balance of savings and investment accounts, including your 401(k)?
2. Get an advisor and a plan. Some people can do all this themselves, but if you haven’t to this point, you probably shouldn’t hold your breath. Interview as many advisors until you find one that’s a good fit for you and together create a plan.
3. Execute that plan. It isn’t enough to craft a plan. You’ve got to put it into action. And if we’re talking about retirement, don’t confuse an asset accumulation plan with a retirement income plan. More than simply assets, you need a plan for turning those resources into a stream of income in retirement that will provide for you as long as you live.
No matter what your age, your clock is ticking.
What’s it going to take to light your fuse?
A great place to start is by reading my new e-book “How to Put Money Worries in Your Rear View Mirror – The Financial Freedom Roadmap.” It’s free—and a quick read. Email me at email@example.com and I’ll get it to you right away.
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