Be mindful, stay well — and work on that financial plan

Business Insider

iStock; Crystal Cox/Business Insider; Skye Gould/Business Insider

  • In these unprecedented times, it is difficult to stay calm about your financial future, especially for millennials, who were just starting to feel confident about the years ahead.
  • Although it's important to think about what's to come, practicing financial mindfulness will help you focus on what you can control right now.
  • Remember that planning is all about you, and your goals — writing those goals down and working towards them is the only benchmark that really matters.
  • Ready to get started? Begin here, with Tanza Loudenback's feature that looks at the elements of a plan.
For millennials, many of whom graduated from college into the Great Recession, it might seem like a cruel joke — just when it seemed like the future had a shape and certainty, suddenly there are once again more questions than answers.Advertisement

When we launched the Master Your Money series in February, the world was in a very different place. But the motivations and deliverables for our work here are even more relevant now. It is fitting that we have arrived at Plan, the second part of our Master Your Money series, where our stories and conversations are all geared to helping you connect your dreams to real-world outcomes.

Even in the best of times, "planning" can sound like a chore. But planning is really just financial mindfulness: focusing on what is within your control, with awareness of your actions and decisions about money every day. It also means not judging yourself for past mistakes. Mindfulness now provides the building blocks for the future.

Mindfulness is particularly important when facing circumstances beyond your control. As BI's Money Council member Eric Roberge, financial planner and founder of Beyond Your Hammock, said, "You need to first identify what is truly within your sphere of influence, and then direct your attention and your energy to those things."
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It can be alarming to see stock market fluctuations impacting 401k valuations and other investments, but experts advise not reacting too quickly to news cycles. "While it may feel natural to panic in situations such as this, it is important to have patience in any decisions on investments," said Kelly Lannan, vice president of young investors at Fidelity Investments.

For those who aren't yet investing, Lannan said now is a good time to start learning about how it all works. "Take this time, when there is interest in the market, to start getting more educated on it." Financial mindfulness also means taking stock of what is truly necessary right now, and what you can do without. "Now more than ever is an important time to revisit your necessary and discretionary expenses," said Joseph Edmondson, Money Council member and financial professional at Equitable Advisors. "If you are uncertain about what your future may hold, now is the time to determine where you might be able to find some savings."Advertisement

Your plan gives you the roadmap to make those choices — to see what is essential to reaching your goals, and what you can do without.

The most important feature of a plan is this, however; it is yours — for yourself, your life, your future. The plan does not belong to Wall Street, or your bank, or your financial adviser — it belongs to you, alone.

So focus on your individual goals, not what the markets are doing or how anyone else measures success. Advertisement

"When you have a financial plan, the focus becomes whether you are meeting your goals," said Chuck Cavanaugh, a member of BI's Money Council and head of wealth planning for Citi, "not whether your investments are performing well compared to their benchmark."

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