2024: A Year of Transitions, Timelines, and Resolve

Lewis Walker |

The month of January is named for Janus, the ancient Roman god of beginnings, transitions, gates, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings. He was depicted as having two faces, one looking backwards at the past, and one looking forward into the future. And so it goes. We look back at 2023 and taking stock as to where we are, ponder what took place in our lives and that of loved ones and others, contemplations prelude to resolutions and goal setting for 2024 and beyond.

New Year’s resolutions are a tradition, but researchers indicate that only 9% of Americans follow through and complete them. According to the Fisher College of Business at Ohio State University, 23% of people quit their resolutions by the end of the first week and 43% quit by the end of January. If the gym is overly crowded, wait until February. It’ll be back to normal.

A financial plan is a resolution of a sort but it takes a commitment to move forward and a guided process for plan formulation and actualization. Effective planning requires a monitoring process to track progress, along with periodic course corrections and changes to deal with the vagaries of life. Janus dealt with transitions and life transitions are a fact of being from the moment we came into the world at birth.

Put a dot on a piece of paper and under the dot write your name and date of birth. Extend the dot slightly upward on the paper to another point, a dot with 2034 written underneath. Mark your age in 2034, ten short years from now. Extend the line further up to another dot, with 2044 underneath it, marking your age in 20 short years. You have created your personal “life transitions timeline.” In ten short years a 24 year old will be 34, and ten short years after that, 44. A 51 year old will be 61 in ten years, 71 in 20 years. The 75 year old will be 85 and then 95, God willing.

Create life transitions timelines for everyone in your family, all of those who depend on you or may do so in the future, everyone you care about. Closely-held business owners should draw timelines for partners, key people in your business, potential successors. “Life transitions timelines” are a wakeup call. The older you are, the more you realize how fast time gets past us. Just like yesterday, it was 2014, and “partying like its 1999” even further back. Prince died in April, 2016, at age 57.

Once you have your timelines, for yourself and those you love and care about, think about the next ten years and potentially ten years beyond that. What challenges do you see, both positive or negative?  What challenges do you face currently, or those potentially emerging in the short- or long-run? What must you do to attain a certain goal or to solve a problem? How do life events for those who depend on you play into challenge scenarios? Getting married, buying a first home, paying for educations for children, career development, skill enhancement, dealing with aging issues for you or loved ones such as parents or grandparents? Janus dealt with endings as well as beginnings. Divorce, separations, death of a loved one, disability, or caregiving needs may be a challenge.

The initial phases of a guided financial planning scenario involve getting your story, understanding how you got to where you are, your current situation, and where you wish to go in the future. For every challenge, the next step is to determine what alternatives exist to meet a given challenge. Next, what resources are needed to power the best alternative, perhaps financial capital, or human capital, or some other specialized resource? Lastly, given the challenges, alternatives, and resources brought to the fore, what are your expectations? What would like to experience? What outcome is desired?

The CARE Model comes from the 2006 book written by a friend of mine, The Parent Care Conversation: 6 Strategies for Dealing With the Emotional and Financial Challenges of Aging Parents, by Daniel Taylor. The first inkling Dan had relative to his elderly dad needing care is when the police found his father out of gas, dazed and confused, wandering around off of  a highway in West Virginia. Dan lived in Charlotte, NC, as did his dad. Dan quickly found out that you don’t drive up and check a loved one into a care home as one might a Holiday Inn. Dan died too young of brain cancer but his book is still available from Amazon and other book sellers. I told Dan that the CARE Model is excellent in framing a conversation about the rigors of aging, but the conversational construct−Challenges, Alternatives, Resources, Expectations−is appropriate to any life transitions conversation, indeed, the overall planning model! Dan was a good friend, a creative thinker, and I miss him.

Another factor that can derail a resolution is a “fuzzy goal.” If you say things like, “Maybe I’d like to lose weight, or go to Paris, or buy a second home,” you really haven’t decided to do it. Only when you say “I will do such-in-such” and follow it up with a plan for execution, such as saving the money required to meet the goal, a financial plan, or a health plan, or other plan of action, do you have a solid goal.

It’s January, 2024. Did you make the same resolutions in 2023, but failed to follow through? The year 2034 isn’t that far away. What is your “Next Ten” plan?