financial goals

A Guess as Good as a Plan

Sometimes new clients visit our office with apologies ready: they don’t exactly know what they want or what they might need in the future. And that’s okay. Plans and hunches and visions… It’s all welcome.


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Longing to Be Elsewhen

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Clients, you know I can be a pretty enthusiastic fellow. But I don’t deny that sometimes life can be a grind. Things break and we have to fix them, we sniffle and sneeze with allergies, and there are always bills to pay.

Sometimes we might fantasize that we’re somewhere else, to escape for even just a moment.

It can happen in financial planning, too, but in a different way. Instead of longing to be somewhere else, some people daydream about getting to somewhen else. We can mistake our goals for finish lines: “Once I’m there, things will be okay. Once I get it, I’ll be fine.”

But any worthwhile goal is not just about the finish line. It’s all of it: the preparation, the training, the progress, the setbacks, the community of support, and everything in between. It’s the journey and the destination. All of it.

As we aim our plans and planning toward our goals, it’s good visualize multiple steps along the way—not just the end. What will get me where I want to go? What milestones will mark my progress? What pain can I expect along the way?

In mindfulness meditation, practitioners make a distinction between pain and suffering. Pain is what happens here, a direct result of something painful. A strained muscle sends signals to our brain that tell us we’re experiencing discomfort.

Suffering, however, is the next layer beyond the pain. You can think of it as our feelings about our feelings, like despairing about the fact that now we’re injured and our progress is stymied. That feeling is not the same as the pain that radiates from the muscle: it’s radiating from our minds. It’s a story about the pain.

Pain may be a given for us mortals in our fragile human bodies. But what if suffering were optional? Instead of wishing away each temporary discomfort, we might hang with it—here, in the present.

We can’t selectively escape. When we wish to be elsewhen, we’re not only fleeing the bad: we forego any of the good that might also be here in the present.

Good thing we’re here to keep each other company, huh? Clients, what can we be doing for you? Call or write, anytime.


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Throwing Yourself for a Loop

Sometimes life’s big milestones arrive in a neat, straight line. And sometimes that’s just not what happens—or what we want to happen. How do we plan for a swoopy life?


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Live It Like You Mean It

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You may know already: we generally advocate simplicity in most things. Once our basic needs are met, we’ve got some choices to make. So how do we keep things simple?

When it comes to budgeting, this takes the form of “paying yourself first.” You save and invest to meet your goals, and then spend the rest as you see fit. No need to track every nickel; you will get where you want to go so long as you’re getting yourself paid.

But it doesn’t hurt to also review your outlays in greater detail once in a while. Fixed expenses are those that cannot be changed in the short run: if you don’t pay the electric bill, the company will shut off your power. You have to pay the bills. Total up these kinds of items. You’ll need to know what sort of fixed expenses you can expect each month in order to figure out how much is discretionary—what’s left over for the things you want?

This exercise can be useful because it may point you to those expenses that are regular but are not fixed. For some, it might be a gym membership that doesn’t get used. It might be a streaming subscription for shows you don’t watch anymore. These services are just a few examples: there are plenty of things in life that we try out or that once made sense but no longer serve us.

And when we root these things out, it’s like giving yourself a raise!

We each have long-standing habits or hobbies whose costs we may not have considered for quite some time. Taking a fresh look at our spending gives us a chance to make intentional choices about how we live, going forward:

  • What are you not doing that you wish you were doing?
  • What do you wish you had that you do not have? A few more adventures, a new skill or pastime, something for the house or the yard?
  • Where might your money save you some time?

And the big question: what would you have to change in order to afford that new choice?

This isn’t necessarily “just” a budgeting question, because rather than shift your spending around, you might elect to invest more each month. All else being equal, investing more means you reach financial independence sooner. Access to options: that’s what we’re buying when we pay ourselves first.

We don’t mean to make any of this prescriptive. After all, you are the one who must live your life—not us! We just suggest that taking a step back to look at where our money goes, being intentional about how we spend, these are things that come naturally when we try to live life on purpose.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


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Depth Is a Choice

photo shows the top of a silver ladder coming out of a blue swimming pool

Some people find money talk awkward, to say the least. To others, it can seem tacky or even rude.

We’re in the business of money talk, though, and we know that there’s no planning for the future without it. What’s more—it can be a real pleasure! What could be more empowering than connecting numbers on paper to one’s real life? Getting a story in motion for a fellow human through a financial planning journey?!

Yep, I’ve been told I’m a little excitable.

But I do wonder how much of folks’ baggage about money talk comes from an unexamined relationship with money (or maybe years of being told what’s “proper” and what’s not?).

Clients, we’re not going to make you check any baggage at our door, but we want you to hear this: we recognize that our work gets really personal, really quickly. We know that our financial pasts and our future goals are intimate stories.

Can you imagine having a planning conversation that wasn’t personal, though? “I currently have a number of resources in several forms, and at a date in the future, I would like to be able to spend a certain amount of money for, um, reasons.”

In her book The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker talks about a facilitator she interviewed who compared coming together to entering a swimming pool. “There is a deep end and a shallow end,” the facilitator told her. “You can choose whatever end you want.”

To borrow this idea, we would suggest that financial planning is “an invitation to intimacy, but depth is a complete choice.”

We believe goals are intimate and individual by nature. We’ve talked before about how your neighbor’s retirement plan won’t be yours, your friend’s recent housing decision isn’t a blueprint for yours… You catch our drift?

All this is to say—we are here for the personal, the more pragmatic, and everything in between. We know the business we’re in, and it’s all about… you.

Clients, write or call when it’s time to update the specifics of your plans and planning.


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SMART Goals in a Dumb Pond?

photo shows a ripple growing in a blue pond with green trees in the background

Use SMART goals.

Be smart about it.

Work smarter, not harder.

You’ve probably heard this advice at a juncture in life; maybe you’ve even said it to someone else. Goals don’t get us very far unless they are explicit, meaningful, and can be tracked. Without them, aren’t they just dreams? “Hope is not a plan,” I’ve heard it said.

None of this is meant to be cynical, but I’m thinking about an important distinction: having “smart” goals won’t matter if they’re pointed in a “dumb” direction. So let’s get out of that framework. Smart and dumb are relative anyway (not to mention judgmental!).

The fit of a goal matters. For those of us youngest children who ever wore hand-me-downs, you know that even the stuff in the best shape isn’t quite right if it wasn’t picked for you. Alignment of a goal matters too: the thing better fit into the big picture. Does achieving a big purchase now help me live the life I want, without side-tracking my long-term goals? Just an example.

And your goals stay yours. Then it’s part of our job to make sure our strategies stay aimed at those goals.

We, too, strive for good fit. We don’t splash around in “opportunities” that don’t align with our principles. We seek bargains, we focus on owning the orchard for the fruit crop, we avoid stampedes. If it’s not in alignment, it could be a distraction or a tangent.

Jane Fonda once put it nicely: “If I want to make ripples, I better be sure I’m throwing my pebbles into the right pond.”

“Right” is relative to your life, your vision. We’re just happy to be part of the effort. Time to check in on your goals and their direction? Call or email, anytime.


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Lining Up the Dominoes of Financial Planning

photo shows a line of snaking dominoes falling on a light blue surface

Clients, it’s normal to feel this way: suddenly a change is upon us, and we feel like there’s more to do than we bargained for. For some, it can feel like waking up to a never-ending list.

I’ve heard it from young folks, just starting out. Once they become aware of the state of their finances, it can be both empowering and overwhelming. It starts to seem impossible to accomplish everything that stretches out ahead of them: big purchases like houses or degrees, big goals like travel or retirement, and all the unexpected stuff in between? Daunting.

Other parts of life can prompt a sense of being overwhelmed, too, like the passing of a partner, a big move for a parent. It can feel like there’s no way to do it all.

Things are not as they seem, though. No one can do it all… at once. That’s the key: nobody can do it all at once.

We’ve talked about this idea before in terms of the many hats we wear in life. Perhaps a better way to think of financial goals, in particular, is dominoes: only one domino needs to fall at once, but the momentum means that each one affects the next. Starting the chain reaction takes the most energy. The rest of it builds on itself.

Think about the prelude to most people’s spending and investing goals: the emergency fund. Once you’ve got this resource in place, you move onto the next goal. But you’re not starting all over from scratch for the next goal. It’s the opposite, because now you have a firmer, better foundation to build on. You’re already on your way with more freedom than before!

Meaningful goals compound. They become a resource in themselves.

Clients, what’s next for you? Where does it fit in the big scheme? Reach out, anytime.


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Lining Up the Dominoes of Financial Planning 228Main.com Presents: The Best of Leibman Financial Services

This text is available at https://www.228Main.com/.

A Loving Plan for Your Relationship with Money

photo shows a yellow sun rising above a silhouetted mountain and clouds in purple and pink below a blue sky

With another Valentine’s Day, folks are reflecting on their romantic entanglements or interests, but it’s making us think more deeply about all sorts of relationships.

What does a healthy relationship with money feel like?

We are not here to give personal advice, per se, but there seem to be some fundamental principles that could serve us well in any partnership.

1. Make way for reality.

The most important of life’s conversations require some vulnerability—and bravery. Whether we’re talking about romantic commitments, financial health, or other big relationships, everyone involved would do well to be on the same page from the get-go.

Start by getting everything relevant out on the table: face and work with the reality of your financial life. The important conversations deserve honesty, even when it’s “just” you and your money!

2. Check your expectations.

For any endeavor, idealizing a relationship can doom it in an instant. Instead, we’d recommend checking in with your expectations about money. Is baggage adding weight to a current financial issue? Does it feel like progress is coming way too slowly?

Sometimes the problem isn’t the issue itself: the problem is how we are framing the problem. Goals can be wonderful, but even as we’re playing the long game, embrace what author Lynne Twist calls “experiences of sufficiency.”

They are those moments when things feel whole and life is full of “enough.”

A meal that satisfies. Sunbeams falling across the countertop. Clothes on your back.

A plan that you allow to inspire some hope. Speaking of…

3. Use goals to light the path you’d like to take.

Not every day of a relationship will be great, but the point isn’t total control of the outcome. Security comes from having confidence that, generally, things are headed the right direction.

So what are the milestones along the way that will remind you of that? That will spark joy, serve others, or continue to connect you to what’s important?

In the end…

Love is all you need! Thanks to the Beatles for this one, but it works. In short, compassion is a great foundation for a healthier relationship with money.

If you’d like to talk about what this means for you, please write or call.


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Play the audio version of this post below:

A Loving Plan for Your Relationship With Money 228Main.com Presents: The Best of Leibman Financial Services

This text is available at https://www.228Main.com/.

Let’s Talk! (You Couldn’t Pay Me to Stop)

Converse, communicate, babble, blather, rant, rave… I love to TALK! Preaching to the choir, but it’s worth reminding everyone: I’m here to do this. By choice. More in this week’s aptly-titled video.


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