A mistake many inexperienced sailors make is setting sail without having first charted their course. They embark without a clear sense of direction and once they finally decide on their destination, they often find themselves lost at sea in the wrong boat with inadequate provisions.
Likewise, in your financial planning journey, you need to decide on your goals. A first step might be to consider whether your goals are realistic and achievable. For instance, while you may long to retire in the south of France, you may not be prepared to sacrifice your wants of today to satisfy your desires of tomorrow.
Once you have decided upon a realistic destination, you need to ensure you have the right planning tools to get you there. Have you planned for multiple contingencies? What degree of “bad weather” can your plan withstand along the way?
The key to a successful voyage is a good navigator. A trusted advisor is like that, regularly taking coordinates and making adjustments, if necessary. If your circumstances change, the advisor may suggest you replot your course.
As with the weather at sea, markets can be unpredictable. A sudden squall can whip up waves of volatility, tides can shift, and strong currents can threaten to blow you off course. Like a seasoned sailor, an experienced advisor can navigate you through these conditions.
Once the storm passes, you can pick up speed again. Just as a sturdy vessel will help you withstand most conditions at sea, a well-diversified portfolio and strong financial plan can act as a bulwark against the sometimes tempestuous conditions in markets.
Circumnavigating the globe is not exciting every day. Patience is required with local customs and paperwork as you pull into different ports. Likewise, a lack of attention to costs and taxes is the enemy of many long-term financial plans.
Distractions can also send investors, like sailors, off course. In the face of “hot” investment trends, it takes discipline not to veer from your chosen plan. Like the sirens of Greek mythology, media pundits can also be diverting, tempting you to change tack and act on news that is already priced in to markets.
A lack of flexibility is another impediment to a successful financial planning journey. If it doesn’t look as though you’ll make your destination in time, you may have to extend your voyage, take a different route to get there, or even moderate your goals.
The important point is that you become comfortable with the idea that uncertainty is inherent to the journey, just as it is with any sea voyage. That is why preparation and planning are so critical. While you can’t control every outcome, you can be prepared for the range of possibilities and understand that you have clear choices if things don’t go according to plan.
If you can’t live with the volatility, you can change your plan. If the goal looks unachievable, you can lower your sights. If it doesn’t look as if you’ll arrive on time, you can extend your journey.
Of course, not everyone’s journey is the same. Neither is everyone’s destination. We take different routes to different places, and we meet a range of challenges and opportunities along the way.
No matter where you are on your journey - just starting out, well on your way or planning to change destinations altogether - Beaird Harris can help you choose the right vessel, develop your plan, and serve as a trusted navigator to help you chart your course and keep you on target.
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Adapted from “Sailing with the Tides,” Outside the Flags, March 2018. Dimensional Fund Advisors LP is an investment advisor registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. All expressions of opinion are subject to change. This article is distributed for informational purposes, and it is not to be construed as an offer, solicitation, recommendation, or endorsement of any particular security, products, or services.
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