Future, it’s a big scary word, isn’t it? When we think about the future, for many it is something that is far removed. The problem is that, as we’ve seen with our children growing up so quickly, the future creeps up incredibly quickly. Being prepared for whatever comes at you as a family encompasses so many aspects. There’s the emotional side of the equation, but of course, there are the financial aspects and making sure that your children can go into the future feeling confident that whatever is ahead of them poses more opportunities than it does threats. It is a massive question to ask, but how can we prepare for the future as a family?
Start From the Endpoint
When we try to progress in something we’ve got to recognize what the overarching goal is. Starting at the end of life may seem a bit too far-fetched but when you start to think about what the goals are in each stage of your and your family’s lives, you can make better preparations. As something like retirement can be a signpost of the end of life we want to start asking ourselves what it looks like.
How do we picture it? Does it involve living in senior apartments and living a more relaxed lifestyle or is it about making sure we stave off boredom by having a part-time job? When you start to picture the potential possibilities, whether you have grandchildren or your children are living somewhere else and you want to be closer to them, it starts to form a structure. Of course, we don’t have a crystal ball, but thinking about it from the endpoint and what you want to achieve in your life, as well as the things that are important to you (like picking up your grandchildren without getting a bad back) are all real questions that should be asked.
We all make the mistake of thinking that we don’t need to think about these things because it’s so far in the future. Start from the end, and you will have a clearer picture.
Fixing Your Financial Hygiene
You don’t want to be bound by money but you also don’t want to think that you have to penny-pinch in order to prepare for the future. The balance is hard to get right because so many of us think that we could do with more money. But ensuring that you fix your financial hygiene now to have a better future involves some tried and tested tactics:
- Paying off your debts using a number of debt reduction tactics.
- Spend less than you earn, which is something that can prove complex for many people because of the numerous credit cards and opportunities to get into debt out there.
- Putting some money aside, for example, creating an emergency fund, and should cover approximately 3 to 6 months of your expenses.
- Set your financial goals. Real tangible goals are critical to helping you stay focused, so think about what you want to achieve, whether it’s going on an amazing family vacation in a few years’ time, or making sure your kids have enough to get started on the property ladder.
Recognize the Importance of “The Now”
Counterintuitive as it may seem, it is about making sure that we live like we mean it today. It’s about having a balance in life. Preparing for the future is also about making sure that we make the most of what we have now. You may have the best intentions for your family, for example, you may be working really long hours to make sure that you can move into an amazing home further down the line, or you may think that getting more money now means you can relax later.
The problem many families have is that we can end up working way too much that it’s to the detriment of our familial relationships. If you have to keep leaving the dining table at the only time of day you all gather together to answer emails or calls, you’ve got to ask yourself if it is really worth your while.
Building a solid bond with your family is far more important than finances. We need money to live but we’ve got to understand how much that really is. The problem we’ve all got in life is that we are trying to keep up with the Joneses when we should really be trying to keep up with our expectations. While you may think you want a bigger house, what will this achieve? A bigger house comes with bigger problems, a higher mortgage, it takes longer to clean, you may want to make changes to it, etc. Make sure that you focus on the now and actually enjoy what you’ve got, no matter how disappointed you think you really are with it.
When we’re continually looking to the next challenge, we’re looking forward to something when we’re never making the most of what we’ve got right now. The future will always be there, so make sure that you are doing what you can now.
We all spend more time on our careers than ever. The biggest mistake we can all make is thinking we have to live to work when it’s the other way around. Setting aside quality time for your spouse and your children may seem harder to come by, but if you have a 5-year-old now, that means in 10 years they will be 15, by which point they will have made so many decisions in terms of their relationship with you and what they want to achieve for themselves.
You’ve got to emotionally invest in your children because the more years slip away, the harder it can be to fix these relationships. When we think that we’ve got to invest a certain amount of time in our children, we can start to become overwhelmed by the prospect of what parenting actually is, but it’s about making sure you have that quality time more than anything else.
You may see other parents that give their children everything and anything they want. They go on vacations four times a year and get all the toys they want, but you’ve got to remember what the family dynamic is here. It is very likely that both parents are working 40+ hour weeks in order to have a roof over their heads and they have to find ways to overcompensate.
If you can scale your life back in certain ways so you don’t end up working like a dog and missing the first 25 years of your child’s life, you will not regret it. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that family is more important than our career. Of course, you need your career to provide for your family which is why understanding the balance between the two is so essential.
The Healthy Habits
As we look to the future and we start from the end and work back, we must understand what it takes to get there. When we work too much, this is to the detriment of our health in so many ways. For example, you end up not making nutritious and processed meals but you also avoid the gym because there is no time. As a family, you can prepare for the future by remembering the very simple motto: health is wealth.
It will fall on deaf ears when your children prefer to stay in and play video games or watch television but this is why it’s far more important for you to be a good role model. This is not just in terms of eating well or exercising, but about giving them the inspiration to be better people. Health is about mental health and emotional health. Recognizing where you are falling down ensures you can show your children how to behave in positive ways. It’s easier said than done but there are so many things that we need to understand about ourselves in order to be an effective role model:
- Look at who you admire. Are there other parents that you can get inspiration from? People in literature or politics, and the list goes on.
- Getting to the core of your weaknesses. While we have to remember that weaknesses are not necessarily “weaknesses,” but if there are things that we feel we’re falling down on, for example, a short temper or we get overly stressed, we have to put in place the things that can help us deal with these challenges better.
- Understanding you can change who you are. Just because your parents didn’t give you financial security doesn’t mean you need to pass it on to your child. While psychologists argue that we are doomed to repeat the parenting mistakes of our parents, having an understanding of the mistakes your parents made and changing these things will make you a far more resilient and strong human being.
Preparing for the future as a family is a big task. There is so much information out there on how to prepare in a financial sense or emotional sense. Understanding what you want to achieve is the goal. Picture it as clearly as possible, and you will get started on the right track.
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