Written by: Corey Janoff
“If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice.” - Unknown
Somebody in our office posted this great quote on the bulletin board above our copy machine this month. It applies to all aspects of life, especially financial planning. Many of the readers of this blog are doctors and doctors know about sacrifices as well as anybody. Physicians give up a lot of fun in their 20’s to go through the rigors of medical school and training to become board certified healthcare professionals. If you want to be a doctor, you can’t party and travel the world to “find yourself” all throughout your 20’s. There is nothing wrong with a youthful decade of enjoyment, but you must sacrifice a lot of the fun to achieve your goal of becoming a physician. If you do want to indulge in your 20’s, you will likely sacrifice the ability to become a doctor one day.
If I want to become a competitive marathon runner, I am going to have to make a lot of sacrifices. First off, I will have to start running more (or running, period) to get in shape. Training for a marathon takes time. I would eventually work my way up to running for a couple of hours a day, several days a week. I have a wife, two young kids, and a side job as a financial planner. I would have to give up spending time with my family and at work, in order to improve my running abilities. I would also have to sacrifice a lot of the food I enjoy and tighten up the diet. Alcohol consumption would have to be cut to a minimum. I would probably need to get more sleep too. I would need to start getting weekly pedicures, which I have heard are fantastic, but again require time (and money). The occasional round of golf would be replaced with long-distance runs. I am not willing to sacrifice all those things, so I’m going to sacrifice achieving my fictitious dream of becoming a competitive marathon runner. Sorry ladies, you won’t get to see my legs in those short running shorts.
What are Your Goals?
Financial planning is all about setting goals and creating a strategy to achieve those goals. For example, your goals may be:
- Pay off student loans within 5 years of entering practice (or starting your career).
- Be financially independent and able to retire by age 55, if you choose to.
- Pay full cost for children to go to in-state public universities for four years each.
- Take an international vacation every other year (estimated cost of $10,000).
Now, creating a strategy to achieve those goals is pretty simple. It is just math. How much money do we need to devote to each goal in order to make it happen in the timeframe we desire? Depending on what your goals are, the amount you need to direct towards goals each month/year could vary. Odds are, you will discover that in order to achieve all of these goals, you will have to adjust other less important goals or cut back on some lifestyle expenses.
What are You Willing to Give Up to Achieve those Goals?
Unless you are Jeff Bezos and can pay your ex-wife $35 billion and still have $110 billion leftover, you probably can’t afford to do everything you want. That means, you have to pick and choose what is most important.
If you are a physician about to enter practice and your goal is to pay off your $250,000 student loans within five years, it probably means you can’t afford to buy the house you want…. yet. You may have to settle for a smaller starter-home in a less desirable location or continue to rent for a handful of years until you have achieved your goal of paying off your student loans. Sacrifices.
If you want to be financially independent by age 55, it will require you to save and invest a substantial amount of money. This means you may not be able to spend as much on other things, like cars, clothes, artwork, vacations, charitable donations, etc. Tradeoffs.
If you want to pay for your children to go to college, you need to save up for that. Every dollar saved is a dollar that isn’t spent. Every dollar spent is a dollar you didn’t save. You might have to forgo financing a Tesla and buy a used Honda instead, so you can afford to put enough money into the college accounts. Can’t have it all.
If you want to take an expensive international vacation every other year, that is fantastic. I’m a big fan of world travel. However, that might mean you have to minimize the spending on domestic travel and direct all of your vacation dollars towards that one big trip. You probably can’t take quarterly trips to Vegas and fly first class to Monaco in the even years if you want to achieve all of your goals.
Sports Provide Great Examples
I love sports, because it’s the best live entertainment on the planet and there are many life lessons that can be learned. Work ethic is an obvious one. Professional athletes make some of the biggest sacrifices in order to perform at an elite level every day. Many of them give up any resemblance of a normal life and devote their lives to their craft during their playing career.
Most football fans can agree that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever (for now, until Carson Wentz finishes his career). In the promotions for his Tom Versus Time Documentary on Facebook Watch, there is an audio snippet of him saying something to the effect of, “I’ve given up my life for football. Are you willing to give up yours?” He has made football priorities one, two, and three in his life, above everything else. Everything else takes a back seat. If you want to usurp him from his throne of quarterback GOAT, it will require some extreme dedication and hard work.
From soft college kid in 2000 to six time Super Bowl champ in 2019
Now, you may not like the idea of having such an unbalanced life and most people wouldn’t. There is a reason only one Tom Brady exists. Nobody else was willing to make the sacrifices he has made over the course of his career to achieve the greatness he has achieved. Some have come close, but nobody has been as extreme as Brady in their pursuit of excellence.
You don’t have to pursue extreme goals (unless you want to). There is nothing wrong with being “normal.” But the life lesson still applies. If you want to accomplish certain goals, it will require you to make sacrifices elsewhere in life in order to devote the necessary resources towards those goals.
What is important to you? What are your priorities? Structure your life and your financial strategy to ensure your priorities are met. Everything else can be moved down on the priority list. Sure, you may desperately want to put a swimming pool in your backyard and are willing to work extra shifts in order to pay for it (sacrificing time for money). But the swimming pool isn’t going to keep your family together, so you better make sure you are devoting enough time to your family first. Or maybe the swimming pool is the missing link to familial harmony. Who knows? Everyone’s situation is different.
I’m not here to tell you what your goals should be, or what you should give up in order to achieve those goals. Only you can decide what is important to you and what you are willing to sacrifice in order to make those goals a reality.
First order of business is to write down your goals and rank them in order of importance. If some are equally as important, you are allowed to have ties. And it’s OK if your goals change over time. That is one reason why reviewing your finances every 6-12 months is important.
Next step is to develop a strategy to achieve those goals, making sure the top priority goals are most likely to be met. From there you can let everything else fall into place.
Finally, review progress periodically and revise the strategy as need be.
This is way easier said then done. Again, we have limited resources, so odds are you are not going to be able to accomplish everything you desire in the timeframe you prefer. But if you can make sure the important stuff is met, life will be much happier and a lot less stressful.