Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Getting the Life You Want

Before I met my husband, I had a series of unsuccessful relationships. Wait, that’s an understatement. At our wedding, all of my friends said that they never saw this day coming. How could they? I never thought I’d get married. I never wanted to get married. That’s what I wanted, so that’s what I got. A whole string of relationships that were doomed from the start.

After one relationship in particular ended, it dawned on me that that I didn’t have any clue what kind of person I wanted to be with and I was questioning my leave-it-to-fate approach. 

So, I sat down and wrote a list of everything I wanted in a man. The list was front and back; ranked in order of importance; organized and disorderly at the same time. It took months to compile. Traits were crossed off, rewritten, and then added again in the margins. It didn’t matter what it looked like, it mattered that I knew, for the first time ever, what I wanted in a partner.

A month later, I met him. It wasn’t love at first sight. We worked together and became friends. After a few months, we went on our first date – it was the best night of my life. Out of complete and utter disbelief, I reviewed my list after our first date and checked off ¾ of my wants. After a month of dating, we were considering moving in together, so I went back to my list, you know, just to double check – sure enough, I checked off the remaining wants, except for two. One was that he didn’t have any tattoos – I could live without. And I don’t remember the second one…obviously it wasn’t a deal breaker at the time and hasn’t been an issue since.

What does this story have to do with money?

That list, made me realize that I need to know exactly what I want in every aspect of my life. If I don’t know what I want, how am I supposed to recognize it when it’s right in front of me? Or how am I supposed to work towards something if I don’t know what it is?

On the one hand it has made me a bit of a control freak…I have a spreadsheet for a number of things that most people would consider crazy. But on the other hand, I know that the only constant in life is change. My lists are just an outline of what I want when I create them. My wants change often. My lists are updated accordingly.  

So, when it comes to my money, I have a series of spreadsheets that make up my life map: career, investments, retirement, etc...For instance, my career map includes my perfect job list and a projected trajectory of my lifetime earnings to reach my retirement goals. As for savings, I have a projected expenses spreadsheet to make sure that as we earn more, we save more, not spend more.

My investments spreadsheet includes the real estate that I want to buy, when (based on estimated market crashes), for how much, and at what price point I would consider selling each property.

While I used “I” and “my,” that doesn’t mean that my husband and I didn’t sit down and figure all of these things out together. The first and most important thing we did, was we separately wrote down our life goals. Then we compared our lists. Luckily, most were the same or at least similar. We discussed, ranked and compromised. Then, we came up with the strategies to reach our goals. 

It doesn't sound very romantic...It's not. It's life. But remember, behind all the numbers are goals and that's just another word for dreams. 

-Leah Schonlank

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