“We must acknowledge that we are living in a different world right now, and adjust to it” - Alan Franks
Before we dive into what I recommend doing financially at the beginning of a new year, it’s important to keep in mind why we do financial planning. I fully believe that a strong financial plan is the ticket to living the life of your dreams. Doing financial planning correctly makes life more fun and less stressful, and is in my opinion the key to living your fullest life.
So on that note when we look back at 2023 and ask ourselves what it is that we want to do more of and what is it that we want to do less of, understand that most of your answers will probably not have to do with finances at all. That said, whatever we decide to do more of or less in this new year will most likely have a financial consequence- either good or bad.
Regardless, we still must answer the question of “what do we really want.”
Here are a few exercises that can help answer that question:
If you have ever played sports, you know the power of studying film after a big game. The tape doesn’t lie! Everything good, and everything bad, is open for scrutiny! What bigger game is there than the last year of your life? Unfortunately, there’s no documentary team following you, but we do have photos and videos in our phones that can be easily accessed and reflected upon.
We have more photos than we’ve ever had, but we never look at them anymore because they're stored amongst thousands in our phone. Each year my family does a photo book where we put the highlights of the year, and it puts in perspective how much we did, how good of a year we had, and how grateful we truly are.
Coming out of the pandemic, last year was a year of pent-up demand. People traveled more than ever, got married more than ever, and in general spent more money than ever. Personally I had 4 different week-long trips in a 12-month time frame, which I hadn’t done since my honeymoon!
Overall, 2023 was rather straining on our clients' budget, but it was a heck of a lot of fun. As we look forward to 2024, hopefully we got some of those big trips and projects out of the way and we can settle back into a normal year of spending.
There is no better time than now to go back and look at all of your transactions from the previous year. As a business owner, I must do this for tax filing. I wouldn’t say it’s the most fun thing I’ve ever done, but it sure is informative. Our money tends to follow our values, and it’s interesting to see what values we acted on in the prior year.
There are a few ways that you can look at every single expense you had in the prior year. One is on a bank statement or credit card statement, another is that oftentimes of credit cards will categorize the expenses to make it easier for you, and then another is on the software that we use with each of our clients. The software is great, because it will combine all the expenses from each credit card and checking account and allow you to categorize them by date, category, description, and value amount. This helps paint a picture of your year and gives you insight into where your money went.
Each year there are new challenges, particularly when we look at the last 3 to 4 years. Our world has changed significantly since January of 2020, and if Covid was the new normal – post Covid is the new-new normal. Inflation might be simmering down a bit, but that just means the prices are rising at a lower rate. Unfortunately, I have not seen a proportionate increase in revenue or income to keep up with the increased expenses from the grocery budget. We must accept that we live in a very expensive world right now, and the sooner we can adapt, the better!
The first thing we must do is accept the situation that we are in- no more denial! We must acknowledge that we are living in a different world right now, and adjust to it. Money was cheap to borrow the last few years- now it is not. Money was flowing in rather easily for a lot of people, but maybe business has slowed or that sales quota rose drastically. Things were still somewhat cheap a few years ago, but those days are over and we must adapt.
Maybe that’s doing a yard project on your own rather than hiring it out. Maybe that’s eating in when you would typically eat out. Maybe that’s deleted the food delivery app on your phone or making a sacrifice in an area that you really do care about.
Whatever it is, we have to understand that things are more expensive than they’ve ever been, and when mixed with a stagnant income or even decreasing revenue like a lot of our clients experienced last yeart year, it makes for a very precarious, tight, and cash-strapped situation.
So, looking into the new year- what are you going to do to adapt?
Someone told me that one time. This quote stuck because I was early in my career I was getting kicked in the face over and over, and I really needed a friggin hug. There was no one there to hug me, but I did have a great support system there to keep me going.
Accountability is the secret ingredient that gets us to where we want to go quicker than we would on our own. It’s underrated and misunderstood because it’s hard and people don’t want to have it. Whether it is accountability on personal goals such as weight loss, diets or exercises, life goals such as travel, or career moves like starting your own business or side hussle, each of these may not seem like financial goals- but they all have financial consequences. Writing down your goals, and telling other people about them sets an intention that makes it more likely to be accomplished. And surrounding yourself with people who love you enough to keep you accountable is one of the most important things you can do for your future. Of course, we are here to be your accountability partner if you would like.
I’m not necessarily into themes or sayings when trying to define a year. For instance, one year I declared as the year of “NO”. I was stretched too thin, constantly tired, and not taking care of my health so I declared this the year I would tell people “NO” more often. That failed miserably. The reason it failed is because they’re just simply words, and in the end action is all that matters.
What action are you going to take this year? What will define your 2024?
Last year, we had a lot of big events that defined our year. In January, Allison and I started IVF. In March we got pregnant. In April I went to Hawaii and then tore my Achilles. I launched a book in the second half of the year, and our baby Helen was born in November. Last year was the year of the baby and to a smaller extent – the book!
Something will define your year this year, whether it’s something that you do or something that happens to you. My advice is to focus in on what you can control.
I could not control whether or not the IVF worked, and whether or not we would get pregnant, but I did everything in my power to set us up for success. I had no control on whether or not I would stay healthy, and yes, I did stretch out before my Achilles snapped on me. But I did control how I could respond and started doing push-ups and pull-ups as quickly as I could and attacked physical therapy with vigor.
But I could control writing that book, and that was the commitment that I made, to get this book written and launched before my baby got here.
What will you do these next 12 months that will define your year? Let’s make it happen, we are here to help.
William Franks is a registered representative of and offers securities and investment advisory services through MML Investors Services, LLC. Member SIPC. (www.sipc.org) The Mill Financial Partners is not a subsidiary or affiliate of MML Investors Services, LLC, or its affiliated companies. 1050 Crown Pointe Pkwy, Suite 1800, Atlanta, GA 30338. 770-551-3400.
The views and opinions expressed are those of William Franks. Williams Franks views are not necessarily those of MML Investors Services, LLC or it’s subsidiaries.
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