The Fundamentals

I play a lot of Magic: The Gathering. If you know me, this is not a surprising fact at all. I bring this up because the game is something I think a lot about and it colors my thinking toward the rest of my life. One of the areas I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is the fundamentals. Stick with me, there’s a lesson in this.

The fundamentals of Magic EDH deck construction go something like this – 35% lands, 10-20% mana acceleration, 10-20% card draw, 10% ways to disrupt what your opponent does, and 25% your threats to beat your opponent with. Now there are variations on that formula, but the first three categories I listed appear in almost every deck on some level. They aren’t fun, they aren’t the sexiest part of the game, but they do enable your deck to run smoothly. If you don’t have resources to spend (mana generated from lands) then you never get to cast your cards. And moreover, you can’t cast your cards if you never drew them in the first place!

So why do I bring this up today? Well, for my first blog post in 2021, I thought it was important to re-center the narrative around financial life planning back to the fundamentals. There’s a lot of “might change” in the near future. Biden’s new tax plans, stimulus package, and litany of other changes may be promising for some reasons, but we won’t know what they are until the legislation is passed by congress. The pandemic is going to slowly fade as more and more people are vaccinated, allowing us to hopefully return to some degree of normal life, but the timeline for that is also unclear. So what do we focus on? The things we can control.

1: Are you setting goals that bring you closer to your ideal life? If you could design your ideal life, what would be most important to you?

2: Once you establish that ideal vision, are you sitting down to look at your cash flow and position it to move you closer? Or are your monthly habits moving your further away from that vision?

3: Are you taking care of your basics? Things like setting aside an emergency fund, staying free from consumer debt when possible, and investing for the long-term?

4: Do you have time set aside each month or every few weeks to check in on your progress? Tracking progress toward a goal has been shown to dramatically increase the likelihood of achievement.

I would call these the fundamentals of good financial life planning. You want to create the vision of your personal ideal life, make sure your monthly habits are moving you closer to it, have a good financial foundation set up, and then set aside a specific time where you periodically check in on your progress. Then you can adapt, revise, and strengthen the vision.

Make sure to focus on the things you can control in 2021. Hopefully it’s a better year for our nation than 2020 was, but either way there will be a lot of changes this year. The fundamentals will apply no matter what those changes are. You’ll have a hard time achieving your ideal life if you never identify what that is and you’ll need resources to create it.

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