Develop 5-year plan to prioritize your life

By Dave Sather
Dec. 31, 2017 at 8:58 p.m.
Updated Jan. 1, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Dave Sather

Dave Sather   Contributed Photo for The Victoria Advocate

As the dominos slid across the table, the question was posed: "If you had five years to live, what would you do?"

The game stopped, and our eyes widened. This wasn't our typical conversation peppered with juvenile insults.

Everyone realized if you had just one year to live, things focus on the immediate future. However, five years forces you to think longer while reminding you to accomplish something today.

Obviously, there were certain basic issues.

Make sure loved ones are in a stable financial situation with enough life insurance to pay off debts, get kids through college or tech school and leave my spouse with a nest egg.

Fix my money-pit of a house or hire someone to fix it. Better yet, convince my spouse it's time to downsize and make life easier. A big house is a waste of time and money. It makes more sense to pay down debt or get kids through college than to pay unnecessary property tax and insurance.

Go rent a dream car for the day - all the fun without the long-term commitment.

After covering the obvious, the conversation turned more philosophical.

Comments were made such as, "I want to feel valuable."

"There is an innate desire to not be forgotten."

"I am looking for mastery, autonomy and purpose."

"The quality of our lives is measured by the quantity of time and quality of relationships with the people in our lives."

"We are insignificant in the history of time. Impacting the lives of others benefits society geometrically."

From this conversation, several trends emerged.

Have meaningful conversations and relationships. Life is rarely black and white. It is endless shades of gray. Even if you disagree with someone, take time to appreciate another's perspective. You might learn something.

Tell people who matter that you love them and apologize to those who are deserving. Set the record straight with others. Allocate time to the people who add value to your life. Time is your most valuable commodity. Once it is gone, you cannot replenish it.

Determine if you make the world a better place or detract from those around you. Do something to give back to charity. Life is boring if it is all about you.

Do at least one conscious good deed each day. Do something thoughtful that makes someone happy you are alive. When thinking about death and the insignificance of one's life relative to history, it makes me think about how important and good it feels to help others.

Document your story. Leave a written diary, blog or video legacy to family and loved ones so future generations will know who you are and what was important to you.

Write a little bit each day. The writing process requires concentration, creativeness and cohesiveness of thought. Some may be important or philosophical, while others may be silly or offer guidance.

Teach your family. Education and critical thinking are some of the most valuable gifts one can offer.

Do everything in your power so they are taught and truly learn what is most important in life. Help them learn not just for a grade but to actually gain knowledge that will serve them the rest of their lives. Share whatever wisdom you can on how to live, treat other people and take care of themselves.

I hope my spouse finds a new partner in crime, someone who can create great memories in their remaining years. I hope the kids know this person is not my replacement but an enhancement for their lives.

Watch less TV. Put the phone down and quit constantly checking email or social media. When I see the number of times I check my devices, I wonder if I am a lab rat in a Pavlovian experiment.

Actively pursue endeavors that engage you in life and living.

Get outside, enjoy some fresh air and walk the dogs.

Take a trip each year. Although a bucket-list trip is great, I have just as much fun at Palmetto State Park or Big Bend. Focus on experiences versus material things.

Force yourself to take time away from the office. Balance is needed for all things. Turn over the keys to your staff. They are awesome and will need to take charge. I'll help as much as I can, but it is time to give up control.

However, I would keep getting up and going to work. I love what I do as it forces my brain to stretch. It makes me think about how the world works. This reinforces how important it is to have a fulfilling career. Find your passion.

And I would destroy my friends at dominos - Peter, draw two!

My conclusion (I think) is there needs to be balance and purpose. Each person will have different variables for this equation. As such, live with intensity today while always planning for the future. Don't wait until you've had a bad situation to make your list and start checking off items. Everyone needs a rolling five-year plan.

As we welcome 2018, consider the paraphrased words of Mahatma Gandhi "Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn (and plan) as if you were to live forever."

Dave Sather is a Victoria certified financial planner and owner of Sather Financial Group. His column, Money Matters, publishes every other week.



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