The Election, Your Finances, and What to Focus On
It’s hard to believe based on the never ending news cycle and increasingly negative attack ads that the 2016 presidential election is still two full agonizing months away.
Unfortunately, there’s no avoiding the next few months of political chaos that is likely to continue—like Winston Churchill once said, “democracy is the worst form of government, save for all of the rest”—but ultimately whether you subscribe to “Make America Great Again,” were a“Bern Down for What” supporter turned Hillary fan or fall somewhere in between, there remains one major outstanding question on many people’s minds.
How will the election—and ultimately the 45th president of the United States—impact my finances?
Focusing on the Wrong Question
Before diving into the endless list of things the next president will have the opportunity to impact, let’s stop and ask ourselves if ultimately we’re focusing on the wrong question.
Sure, the new president—arguably the most powerful man or women in the world—has tremendous power to impact our society. But doesn’t focusing our worries, concerns and angst surrounding this election and how it could negatively impact our finances miss the point? It’s not always easy, but it often makes more sense to avoid worrying about a future that may never happen (i.e. what if my candidate doesn’t win?) and instead focus on what you can control.
We can control things like how much we are saving, how closely we are sticking to a budget, how low we are keeping our investment fees and how closely aligned the way in which we spend our time and money are with our values. Yet, we spend so little time focusing on these high value activities and such a disproportional amount of time focusing on the more emotional and irrational fears surrounding stuff we cannot control. We are, in fact, human after all.
The Value of a Flight Plan When Flying
The best way to tackle an uncertain future is not to worry about it, but rather to plan for it.
Think of it like this: commercial airline pilots spend considerable time prepping for a flight before they ever get off the ground. They determine the best route to their destination, the ideal cruising altitude, they walk through a laundry list of pre-flight protocols, they look at the weather, plan to avoid turbulence, the list goes on.
And then they take off and not surprisingly something amazing happens: things don’t unfold exactly as planned. A storm moves in quicker than expected, some additional turbulence occurs or maybe there’s a larger headwind than expected.
Whatever unexpected events occur, the pilots are ready for them because they’ve created a plan that takes into consideration many of the unanticipated events that can occur in flight—without dwelling on them. By having a plan, pilots have a framework for how they will arrive at their destination safely in the face of uncertainty. Then when unexpected events do occur—think your least favorite candidate winning the election—they simply make appropriate course corrections to ensure a safe landing.
Combatting Election Uncertainty with a Plan
The world is fraught with uncertainty and it is only amplified by the timeframe for which we have to plan. While baby boomers entering into retirement need to plan for a two to three decade retirement, young professionals must consider their entire lives when planning. From babies, to job layoffs, to buying a first home, to that distant thing called retirement, there’s no shortage of considerations and uncertainties on the horizon. Now add in $20,000 in student loans and an election year to really make things interesting. The uncertainty can be almost overwhelming.
Which is why so many people fail to ever start. They fail to plan because of how overwhelming the uncertainty of the future actually is—especially during an election year. The only way to combat the uncertainty of anything is to develop a plan that can help provide clarity around the things worth focusing on today, while allowing enough flexibility for the inevitable course corrections in the future.
So, go vote come November and remember that while the president can impact everything from taxes to the economy and everything in between, you’re better off focusing only on the things you can control. And the best way to determine what those things are is to have a plan.
You’ll probably end up a lot happier too.
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