Ok, so the big day is finally here. This milestone has crept up on me but it feels like the right time to reflect on what being 40 is all about and set some goals for the future.
For most of my life’s major events such as emigrating, getting married, having kids and becoming a business owner, I’ve been fortunate enough to get through these moments with relative ease. I always felt in control and I had the attitude that things would ‘fall into place’. Sure, I studied hard and made some plans but I didn’t really overthink it too much to get where I am today.
What I have found is the older I get, the more accepting I’ve become of who I am. I’m more comfortable in my skin (that pasty blue Irish freckly type) than I’ve ever been before. I feel much wiser (many would argue with me on that one!) than before and have set some clear goals that I am motivated to achieve.
Time seems to be passing quicker than ever before. Having kids opened my eyes to this feeling. Each time I measure them on the height chart, I think that they have a long journey ahead of them, but also that in the blink of an eye, they will be adults. Yes, time is ticking and my knee injuries, greying hairs and 40th birthday cards all serve as reminders that perhaps it’s time to get serious and start planning for the future.
Many of my peer group have turned or are turning 40 at this time. There is a common theme amongst us is that family is the most important thing of all. It took a little while for my light bulb moment to happen but I now realise that my purpose in life is to provide an environment for my family to live, love, laugh, grow and feel secure. This purpose has never been clearer with the 40 bells chiming in my mind.
I’m really looking forward to this phase and feel good about the goals I have set for myself and my family. One might call the goals, ‘wishes’ with defined parameters. I understand that to achieve my goals I must make a commitment to them. I have attempted to set goals in the past, though never fully committed – a bit like New Year resolutions which are usually in tatters by end of January! But these goals are different this time round. I realise my goals must be SMART (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic and time-related) – without being able to measure progress, that commitment can wane.
The goals are now clearly displayed on a sheet of paper on my fridge so I can see them every day. Having the goals displayed visually like this has helped my wife Amy and I, immensely. It keeps our individual and family goals front of mind. We have both financial and lifestyle goals that are equally important and work hand in hand.
A goal that I have recently achieved was to get on top of our family spending. We now meet each week as a family and discuss our progress which makes us accountable and keeps us on our toes. Even though I’m a financial planner and have spent some time getting my financial house in some kind of ‘order’, there are things that we still need to work on. I have got some of the ‘grown up’ plans in place, like my estate plan and insurances and my debt and investment/super plan is currently working well. On the other hand, we had never looked at our spending plan as I was comfortable that we had more than enough to make ends meet and have fun. Planning or goal setting was not really on the agenda – time was on my side. But we agree that this needs to be a big focus for us going forward. We want to maintain a good lifestyle whilst at the same time understand that the choices we make now will impact our future. We must balance our current wants with our future needs.
We now see our current spending plan more in the vein that it allows us to spend as opposed to restricting our fun! It is the foundation for all future planning. We are more informed than ever before and because of this there is less stress as bills are expected as opposed to surprising. This feeling of control has been a major step forward for us and due to this progress, we are able to plan much more effectively towards our other goals.
Suddenly 40 – I wonder where I’ll be ten years from now and what goals I’ll be setting then. Until that time, I’m focussing on achieving things and making sure I celebrate the milestones along the way. I aim to live life to the fullest whilst knowing that I have taken the steps to provide for my family, both now and into the future. I want to look back as an old man with few regrets and realize, for this to be the case, the next decade is one in which progress must be made. It really is that simple.
Gareth Colgan is a financial planner at Eqeus Financial Advisers, a member of Fortnum Private Wealth.