False Precision in Financial Planning

Craving Certainty

Recently The New York Times published an article about financial planning and how much people crave certainty. The result is that many financial plans have page after page of numbers and graphs and charts. The more numbers, the more confident people feel about the future.

But these plans can be so overwhelming that many go unused. In the Times article, author  and planner Carl Richards deplores this kind of false precision. He argues that for most people, the future is impossible to predict and plans must be flexible to account for the vagaries of life.

The planning process itself forces people to think hard about their goals and priorities. Often, latching onto a firm goal, even if it’s one that’s difficult to attain, might make success more likely than having a vague but less lofty goal.

Being disciplined and thorough in planning can yield significant results even if the ultimate destination is far removed. Identifying the key variables and options during the planning process can provide a clarity of purpose and a route to get there.

Planning and adapting the plans from time to time are a valuable exercise. Just don’t get too caught up in the details and miss the big picture.


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