I learned to swim when I was eleven. This was later than all my other friends and family but for some reason I was always afraid to get into the water. The issue, I think, was that my first memories of being in the water were of the pond that my family owned. I was probably five or six when I first entered that pond. Murky and choked with weeds it was never that appealing to swim in. Of course not being able to see what lurked just below that dark water made it even worse. Armed with these memories, I remember the first time I stared into the clear water of the pool in my elementary school. All of that fear of water came flooding back and made it very hard for me to dip my toe into the water that I would soon be swimming in.
I was having a conversation last week about personal budgets and the memory of my eleven year old self standing at the lip of pool looking down with fear came to me. The reason was that the conversation turned to why people did not seek out help with their finances. She stated it was fear that caused people to continue along the path that they were on even though they knew they were over their heads. This goes for all of our financial plans. Not having a plan, having a plan but not knowing how to get there, or having all the components in place but for the wrong plan will all create problems when we least want them.
We all start off not knowing how to swim and eventually we have that first moment when we look over the side at the water that lay below us knowing that we will have to get in. We do not learn in the deep end, we learn in the shallow end. In time we start to understand how to swim and will make our way to the deep end feeling very comfortable that we will not sink. The problem that I see is that most people approach their financial lives at the deep end. Not knowing how to swim they jump in anyway, flounder for a little while and unless someone comes to save them end up sinking below the surface. This is no way to go through life constantly treading water waiting to see if we sink or swim.
I ask only one thing of you. When you are looking over your financial plan imagine yourself standing at the deep end of the pool looking at the water and ask yourself if you know how to swim or not. Know this answer before you jump in, it can make all the difference on how successful you are.