Why start with plan Z? Why not start with plan A?
There is no “main” reason. It’s all about how your brain works.
If you want to start at A go ahead. If you’re one of those people who can set a clear and concise goal and focus on it and move towards it then go for it. Some folks work better that way. The thing with me and my brain is that it doesn’t work that way for me. It never has. The best way for me to achieve a goal is by starting at the end and working backwards, setting up small achievable goals. At some point in our lives, my wife and I figured why not start with what we considered our worst best-case scenario and then work backwards in small incremental steps until we reach the best best-case scenario. So ya, we have a plan A, but in reality that plan changes as we get older. Things happen and we massage the plan a little here and there.
Remember that happiness is the love of family and no amount of money can replace that. Money is a tool that we need to respect. It can bring many advantages if we use it right.
Let’s remember that everyone is different. Everybody has their own ideas of what the perfect retirement life is. I know some folks who never want to retire. They want to work until they die. (I don’t understand them.) But I don’t have too. The question is, what is your retirement going to look like?
My good friend Peter and I were having a chat about retirement a few years ago, and he asked me, “What does retirement look like for you?”
I was confused by the question and said, “A million dollars.”
Peter looked confused and responded with, “That’s a number. How do you know it’s enough? How do you know that you don’t need less?”
I was confused again, “What are you talking about Peter?”
He continued… “You wake up in the morning and then what happens? How do you spend your day? What are you doing? Are you playing in your backyard or are you traveling around the world? Playing in your backyard is way cheaper than traveling around the world. There is no way you can retire if you don’t know how much it’s going to cost you.”
Mind blown. I mean we had plans to retire by the time we were 55, but we never really thought about the cost of retiring. We figured we’d save up as much as possible and then make ends meet. We were good at budgeting, we’d make it work. But then we started counting the cost of our retirement. That’s when we realized we were almost there. We could retire next year (at 52). Thank you Peter.
I think it’s important that we look at our plan Z first. We need to know that our worst best-case is still a plan we can live with and that if everything should fall apart we still have plan Z.
But now let’s talk about plan A. This is your dream life. If everything went according to plan, the “A” retirement scenario is where you would end up at a certain age (whatever that is for you). Once you have plan A, go back to plan Z and start working your way backwards to plan A. How close will you get with the time you have?
Again I want to remind you that everyone is different. Don’t compare your ideas of retirement with others. Many people have said to us, “Oh, I wish I was you guys.” Our response is always, if you wanted to be us, you’d be living like us. You’re not us, you’re you. Live like you. Plan “you” from Z to A.
I have millionaire friends of mine who work 18 hour days and travel all over the world doing this and that. Some are CEOs, others are real estate moguls and others are upper management, etc…
They all claim to love what they do and they tell me it’s not work for them, it’s pure pleasure. To me, most of it sounds like work. I wouldn’t want to do that… and that’s why we all have our own lives and goals. So, don’t try to be someone else. Don’t worry about what others want. Think about what you want and what makes you happy.
So, what does a Plan A look like and what does a Plan Z look like? Here’s what ours looked like.
It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway… First and foremost all my plans from Z to A include my children. Spending time and helping them in any way we can with their issues and life’s challenges. Then there is family and friends. Life is nothing if I don’t have these things first.
Everything is pointless without love and family.
As my buddy Five to Ten would say, “Let’s proceed.”
We live in a nice 1000 to 1200 square foot house with a basement. We have a property that’s big enough to let us plant a garden and flowers. It’s a nice quiet street. We wake up in the morning and have our coffee in the yard and in the winter our morning coffee is had on our covered deck. After coffee, Hunnee works on our Sketches Of Life comic strip, her art, maybe she makes some stuffed animals or maybe she sews a new dress or works on the art for one of my books. She might bake some cookies or make some bread, go play in the garden… these are the things that make her happy.
I write a blog, work on one of my books, write a short film or sitcom script, record a podcast, work on a Youtube video, write a song, go on a hike, go into my shop and build crap, help Hunnee with cookies and other baking… and lots of kisses in between all that stuff.
My plan A consists of doing whatever my ADHD brain wants to do. If it makes me money then it makes me money. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I don’t want my pleasure to have any pressure. I don’t want my love of doing things to become work. I just want to do what I want to do.
Oh yeah, I want a hot tub, a sauna and a swimming pool too. Otherwise the kids may never come visit.
Ok, there it is, our plan A. Now the trick is how to get there. Some of you may be wondering where we are right now. Are we living our plan A? Have we made it? The answer is no. As of this writing I would say we’re at about plan E.
Plan E is where we no longer have a day job, we’re doing pretty much what we want to do on a day to day basis and we’re moving closer to plan D. If we got “stuck” here in plan E we’d be pretty happy. We’re in our early fifties, we have enough money in our investments to keep us trucking along for the next 20 plus years. But that said… we keep making plans and we keep moving towards our plan A.
OK, so what did our plan Z look like?
Remember plan Z was created when we were about 34 and this was our “worst case” scenario.
I continue to work at a minimum wage job and we stay a one income family until both kids are in school. Hunnee gets a part-time job that allows her to send the kids off to school and one of us to be home after school.
We stay in our apartment until the kids are out of the house and then find a smaller place for the two of us. We work on paying down our debt and continue to put as much money into our RRSP as we can. We work until we’re 65 and then retire. Once we’re retired we can do all the things that bring us joy.
In the meantime, we do as much art and writing as we can. We enjoy the life we have and make the best of our time here. We continue to work on our finances and make plans on moving toward plan Y then X then W and so on and so on…
And that’s what we did. Plan Z was exactly where we were and where we were headed. So we didn’t have to make any changes to our plan Z. And it only took incremental steps along the way to move to the next plan. 19 years into it we’re in the middle of living plan E.
Some of you will get there faster and some a little slower. But that’s ok. We’re all different.
Take the next few days and make some plans and see what comes of it.
So what about the money? How do we do it without money? Well, you don’t. We’ll talk about that next.