Woman writing plans in a notebook

And then what happened?

My day job is managing the best financial planning firm in the UK*. My hobby is writing the best sci-fi books in the UK**.

There’s not nearly as much difference between the two as you might think.

Financial planning and writing fiction both involve stories. They each have a main character who makes choices and deals with the consequence of those choices.

The purpose of fiction is to give the reader enough information that they understand what’s happening and then have them ask ‘and then what happened?’

It’s to get them to turn the page.

Everyone has a story because everyone is a main character

Financial planning has the same goal. But this time it’s a true story – one that is still being written. Our clients are real people, making real choices, and dealing with the consequences of those choices.

Financial planning is writing the true story of your life.

A book on a shelf is complete. The story has been told. The reader is discovering it for the first time. They read it because they want to know ‘and then what happened?’

Real lives are not complete. We live in the moment, unsure of what comes next, uncertain if we made the right choices so far. Real people must make imperfect decisions with incomplete information all the time.

This is never more true than when you are dealing with money.

And part of that challenge is that we don’t know how the story will end, and we don’t know the plot twists that will surprise us along the way.

(Who expected the mid-point of 2020 to include protests against police brutality to be taking place around the world while in the middle of a global pandemic? You can’t make this stuff up, it would be implausible.)

On a more personal level, we don’t know what life holds for us. We don’t know what happens next.

We tell ourselves we have plans, but often they are no more than vague hopes that things will turn out okay. They are outcomes we think would be nice, but we never set the day.

Marriage Story

What if weddings worked like this? Imagine you agreed to get married. You tell your friends and family, and then you sorta-kinda hope it will take care of itself.

Even if you set a date you need to actively work toward it. You need to take steps to make sure it happens, otherwise the day comes and goes, and no-one has got married.

(This is also why my road trip across the USA hasn’t happened yet…)

Your financial life is exactly the same as this. Exactly.

It’s not enough to sorta-kinda hope that things work out the way you want when you can take action to make them happen.

It’s not enough to sorta-kinda hope that things work out the way you want

That doesn’t mean the outcome is guaranteed. There are no guarantees in life. Even the world’s best planned wedding will fall apart if the bride or groom don’t show up. But without making the plans, what do they have to show up for?

Even a ‘perfect’ financial plan (there’s no such thing as ‘perfect’, but stay with me) does not guarantee a perfect outcome. But if you don’t have a plan, you’re leaving everything to chance.

And if leaving things to chance was a plan, then all financial planners have to do is recommend that their clients play the lottery. It would be easy, but it’s not good financial planning.

Making a plan is important.

Planners and Pantsers

Writers tend to be one of two types. Those who write by the seat of their pants (aka pantsers), and those who write an outline of their story (aka planners).

I’m a planner (bet you didn’t see that coming!) I work with an outline which sets out the flow of the story, and tells me what the characters will do and say to make the story happen.

I plan the important parts in detail because without them the story doesn’t work. The less important parts get less detail. If it’s important, it goes in the plan.

If it’s important, it goes in the plan.

Most important of all, I know how the story will end before I start. The whole book works toward that point, so I need to know where I’m going, and how I’m going to get there.

The more detail I have in the plan, the more options I have when I need to change it. Change is inevitable, after all.

And the way to make the plan is to set out some element of the story and ask myself ‘and then what happened?’

Making a plan is important

If planning is important for a story, for fictional characters, you can see how it’s far, far more important for a life like yours. For real people like you.

So how do you make your plan?

I suggest you write it like a story. Literally sit down and write it. You are the hero, after all. You are the main character in the story of your life.

How does your story end? Well, how do you want it to end? What do you want your character – you – to have accomplished?

What does your happy ending look like?

Where are you now? Where does your story begin?

Write it all down, then start working through your story. At every moment in the story ask yourself the most important question.

And then what happened…?

What obstacles could you face along the way? What could go wrong? What challenges will slow you down? What unexpected thing could happen? What would their impact be? Would these be a disaster, or merely an inconvenience?

And then what happened…?

What goals do you want to reach during your journey? Are you planning your life around one big event, or are there lots of things you want to do, to see, to experience? Are you aiming toward something you want (like a house) or away from something you don’t (like a mortgage).

And then what happened…?

Maybe your story involves retiring early. Or clearing debt. Or buying the perfect forever home. Perhaps it means saving enough to work part time. Or studying enough to work full time in a new job you love. (Retirement is not the end of your work, it’s a transition to the freedom to work as you choose.)

You could be in act one of your story. It could be that you’re just getting started. What is the first step you’re going to take? What’s the second?

And then what happened…?

Your plan is the story outline for your financial life. You can wing it if you want, but you’ll have a much better chance at getting the outcome you really want if you go through your life with purpose.

What you want to do, and how you want your story to end, is your choice. No-one decides that but you.

But if you want some help putting that plan together, if you want a partner to help you write the story so you can live it, well that’s where we come in.

So now what happens?

Get in touch on Linkedin, or call me on 020 8559 2111.

True stories are the best. I’d love to start helping you write your own.