I’m just a normal guy, in a usual (albeit exceptional) marriage with normal (albeit wonderful) children. I went to a quality Christian school (Harding University), graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and have a normal career in public accounting. We live in suburbia, drive an inexpensive domestic car, the kids go to public school and I drink my coffee black. None of this is out of the ordinary.
My wife and I are in the top one percent of the people in the world. We did something that very few people have ever or will ever do.
What did we do that is so unusual? You’ll find out in just a minute. First, I’ll give you a little back-story.
Right before my wife and I got married, we started thinking of basic estate planning needs. Basic is an understatement though. We knew we needed wills and other such basic documents but we just bought life insurance coverage for me. In the short-term that is all we had the money to do. We’d do everything else sooner rather than later.
The day this is published will be our wedding anniversary. Nine years and three children later, we still haven’t finalized our estate plan. We did finally meet with an attorney a few weeks ago and got all our estate planning documents in order. We’ll call the attorney today and tell her the changes we’d like to have made. Then, our estate plan will finally be complete.
You might think estate planning wouldn’t be very important for a married couple with a minimal net worth. What’s the point right? There are two very important things to consider besides just minimizing death taxes. The first major consideration is the continued care of our children. The second is having our durable healthcare powers of attorney complete.
Just the fact we have gone this far with our estate planning puts us in the minority of Americans. That’s great. But this isn’t what put us in the top one percent of the world’s population. So what did?
A Family Strategic Plan
After we had met with the attorney to discuss our estate plan and get our documents drafted, we took a Friday night and all day on a Saturday to have a family strategic planning meeting. Businesses go through strategic planning processes all the time. It’s a common practice. Why isn’t it common with families?
Our family strategic plan is not as detailed or as formal as a business strategic plan would be. Instead, it is informal but it is documented. Documenting the plan and reviewing it often are keys to its success. Here is the informal process we went through in our family strategic plan.
1. Brainstorm – Denise and I sat across the table from each other and blurted out ideas of what we wanted to accomplish in the short and long-term. Nothing was out-of-bounds. Brainstorming is about coming up with ideas, not deciding the merit or achievability of each idea.
We wrote items related to material goals (such as a new house or car), spiritual goals (such as our daughters obeying the gospel and marrying Christian men) and career-related goals (such as promotions and salaries). We included everything we could think of and then some.
2. Timelines – We went through our list of brainstorming ideas and put each into a timeline. We simply used a word processing software so the items could be easily moved or copied. As we went through, we discussed whether each item was viable enough to put on the list.
We discovered several of our strategic planning goals were really short-term and could be achieved quickly. All we had to do was do them. These items would have remained on the “back of our minds” to-do list if we didn’t go through this strategic planning process. Other goals were action items that will re-occur at normal frequencies.
3. Action Plans – Once we figured out when we wanted to achieve these goals, we created a detailed action plan for accomplishing each goal. The action plans have to be detailed. If we didn’t explicitly state how we were going to achieve a goal, that goal would never be achieved.
It also required that we set shorter term goals to build toward the shorter term goals. For example, paying off our mortgage loan in three years required that we achieve certain milestones as far as a balance in savings.
4. Periodically Review – As addressed earlier, it is imperative for your family strategic plan to be documented. Within the timeline, we set six-month review dates. These dates are on our calendar and we will review and revise our family strategic plan at each of these dates.
There is our four-step process for our family strategic plan. We may be a normal family with normal lives but we’ve done something extraordinary (in my mind at least). The value we gained from the planning process was tremendous. It gave us not only peace-of-mind as to our futures but it ensured we were aligned in our thoughts.
Marriages and raising children are difficult enough. I can’t imagine not being in alignment with my wife regarding material, spiritual and career desires. We are one. We think as one. We rarely differ in our opinions on how to deal with what life throws at us. The family strategic planning process just reinforced how perfect we are for each other.
Do you see the benefit of a family strategic plan? What else would you include? If you appreciate this type of content, enter your email address in the subscription box above so you can receive other free articles related to this topic.