Colored Sticky Note Magic
A Simple Way to Discover Your Financial Priorities
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I know something is coming in the mail today, a bright new Apple MacBook Pro. I’m excited. I bought my last new computer back in 2012 so it’s time.
I’ve been planning for it to arrive for the last few days. After I got the UPS notice that the delivery window would be between 3:15 and 7:15 pm, I cleared my schedule so that I would have small, unimportant tasks to do during that time. As soon as the doorbell rings, my new MacBook will have my full attention.
I know it’s silly. It’s just a computer. But I’m somewhat of an Apple geek and I’ve never had anything this powerful (2.3 GHz quad-core 8th generation i5 chip) in my hands. I’ve been thinking about a new one all summer. And every time my current MacBook Air bogs down when I start up a Web conference or try to edit a video file I dream of the time when things will be different. Today is that day!
What Gets You Dreaming?
For some it’s computers and for others it’s cars. For some it’s travel and for others it’s clothing.
What gets you dreaming? Write it down. Get a pack of colored sticky note pads out and write down your life goals and goodies and line them up in a timeline. As you add new ones, move the old ones around.
Be realistic, but do it. Write it down and put it in a place where you can see it. Think about it for a few days. Come back to it often.
Talk about it with your spouse or partner. Get them to do the same. Share and compare. It will be fun.
Goals Not Funds
Focus on goals like “buy new car”, “graduate”, “European vacation” or “stop working full-time” rather than “car fund”, “college fund”, “vacation fund” or “retirement fund”. We’ll get to funding them later. Just focus on the end result.
Your goals and goodies are yours, not someone else’s. There’s no judgement. Everyone has different priorities at different times of their lives. Some people will focus on short-term goals and others will focus on longer term ones.
There may be a temptation for you to judge your goal as irresponsible. Don’t do it. Your goals are only irresponsible if they hurt someone. Are you providing food, clothing, and shelter for your family? Are you providing an education for your kids? Are you obeying the law? If these are yes, don’t sweat what other people might think of your goals.
But if you’re married or sharing your life with someone, you’re going to have to compromise. Compromise is the art of finding what is acceptable to both of you, not using every tool necessary to get the other person cave to your wishes. Arguments over money are the number one cause for divorce, so use this time to strengthen your relationship rather than divide it.
Your timeline has consequences. Front loading your goals makes hitting longer term ones harder. Living for today is OK if you’re willing to take the consequences of not being able to live the way you want in the future.
The reverse is true as well. If you’re always planning for tomorrow you may “kick the bucket” tomorrow and never see the fruit of your labor.
Be discerning and write down a few consequences on a different colored sticky and arrange them into the list accordingly. Don’t get discouraged and remove any of the goals. But you might need to make some adjustments based on your new knowledge.
Everyone has different financial goals that sit somewhere along this timeline. The priority of your goals can move up or down depending upon your life’s circumstances.
My MacBook goal developed in the last few years and I bought it when my business needs outstriped my old MacBook’s capabilities. I could afford it, but I waited to buy it because there were other things that were more important at the time. But, if my current computer had died 3 months ago, the priority of this goal would have shifted very quickly
Look at your timeline and make some conclusions about your future. Are most of your goals short-, medium-, or long-term goals? Are they mostly anchored in time or are they more fluid. Write these conclusions down on different colored stickies and arrange them above your timeline. Again, there’s no judgement here. You are considering the consequences. But if you need to move some of the stickies around based on this new knowledge, do that now.
Most likely, most of your goals and goodies are not funded yet. Let’s face it, if they were they wouldn’t be goals anymore.
And funding them is a delicate balancing act. It’s really where the importance of each goal comes into sharp focus. At the end of the month, there just might not be enough money to go around.
And how do you know how much you have to allocate to your future goals. Well, that’s a discussion for another time, but it all revolves around what I call a freedom tool. And that’s a budget.
Back to the Timeline
Now that you’ve allocated some money, it’s even more clear what your priorities are. Sometimes timelines are deceptive in that it appears shorter term goals are more important. But that’s not always the case.
Take another look at your sticky note timeline and group them in low, medium, and high priority based on funding. Don’t move them, just give them a number or even rewrite them on different colored stickies. And write the amount you’re allocating to them on a regular basis. This will give you a very clear visual representation of your goals on several different levels.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want
The Rolling Stones have it right. We can’t always get what we want, but we can get what we need. This exercise will help you separate your future needs from your wants and help you prioritize them so as life changes you can change with it.
What are 5 future goals or goodies you can start your timeline with?