Why Making a Plan is Powerful for Young Adults

Planning is a frequent topic at Steps For Today. Helping others plan for life is the reason it came into being. It is our belief the creating a written plan for life (finances, health & medical needs, career advancement, aging and retirement, etc.) will make a key difference in anyone’s life, and especially in the lives of young adults. They are just getting started on life’s journey. Wouldn’t it be better to have a course plotted to a destination of one’s own choosing? After all, luck is not a strategy.

Here are some good reasons to have such a plan:

Clarity and Direction: A written plan provides a roadmap for young adults, helping them clarify their goals and aspirations for the future. It allows them to set clear objectives and identify the steps needed to achieve them.

Financial Security: Planning for adulthood, aging, medical needs, and retirement involves considering financial aspects. By having a written plan, young adults can outline their financial goals, create budgets, save money, and make informed decisions about investments and insurance. This helps build a solid financial foundation and ensures long-term financial security.

Preparedness for Emergencies: Life is unpredictable, and unexpected events can occur. A written plan helps young adults anticipate potential emergencies or health issues, allowing them to establish emergency funds, arrange appropriate insurance coverage, and designate powers of attorney or healthcare proxies. Being prepared for unforeseen circumstances can minimize stress and provide peace of mind.

Health and Wellness: Planning for medical needs encourages young adults to prioritize their physical and mental well-being. They can include regular health check-ups, preventive measures, and exercise routines in their plan. Additionally, addressing health concerns early on can help prevent or manage potential illnesses in the future.

Long-Term Care Considerations: As people age, the need for long-term care may arise. A written plan allows young adults to consider options such as long-term care insurance, retirement communities, or setting aside funds for future care needs. By planning ahead, they can make informed decisions about the type of care they desire and avoid potential burdens on themselves or their loved ones.

Reduced Stress and Increased Confidence: Having a written plan provides a sense of control and reduces anxiety about the future. The process of creating a plan helps build confidence in the ability to handle challenges and make informed decisions.

Remember, while having a written plan is valuable, it’s also essential to remain flexible and adapt as circumstances change. Regularly reviewing and updating the plan ensures it remains relevant and aligned with your evolving needs and goals.

Sure, plans will get upended. But that is when the true value of planning is revealed. In creating a plan, one has to learn about and consider the many variables of life. And in the process, learns to step more confidently into their future.

 Steps For Today® is dedicated to helping everyone create a plan for their life. Please like and share our page to help spread the word about our resources.

For more articles and information, visit www.StepsForToday.com. And take your next steps.

Thanks for reading.

The 4 R Document Rule

Does the following short conversation sound familiar to you?
     “So do you have those documents?”
          “Of course… I think… Somewhere.”

Let’s be honest. We’ve all had this experience. And it can leave us hesitant to deal with paperwork (or electronic files) of any kind. No one likes feeling that they’re just going to fail at something. But learning to be comfortable with documents is a necessary life skill. It’s this skill, perhaps more than any other, that creates successful businesses. So why aren’t we using it to create and manage successful plans for adulthood, aging, medical needs, and retirement. I know it can seem overwhelming, but it just takes a process and little practice.

In my book Steps For Today: First Steps For Success (First Steps For Success – Steps For Today®), I discuss the creation of a “Master Index” for managing important information and items. I also provide an example list of life events that may cause changes to our plans and to our documents. Using these two documents, you can easily pick up and use the 4 R Rule: Recognize, Retrieve, Review and Revise. With a little practice you’ll learn to recognize when a life-event will cause a document to change. Using the Master Index, you’ll have the steps to find and retrieve the impacted document(s). You’ll also have a record of who may be needed to help review and revise the documents. All of that with a lot less stress and anxiety than either not having plans, or not knowing where they’re located.

In my next article, I’ll discuss the types of documents we can create to help plan our life. This will be a great article for those who are ‘just starting out’ on the journey, as well as those who know it’s time to get something done, but are struggling on where to start.

Thanks for reading.
Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

It’s a One-Way Trip

How not to end up on Possum Hollow Road at midnight, low on fuel, after driving for 13 hours, hoping that your gravel roadway doesn’t just end in the dirt.

I learned to drive in the days before the internet. When any long trip took a little preplanning, with a paper map, to find the best course to take. Unless I had driven there before, I would have some idea of my route before I left home.

Things have changed now. I, like most people, will often get in my car before I look at a map (app) and get any idea of my route. And why wouldn’t you, the apps have access to real-time information about road closures and traffic conditions. But there are still those times, especially for long drives to distant destinations, when I will have an idea of my route before I get in the car. Why, because I look at alternative routes along the way. I want to be prepared with alternative courses of actions just in case things don’t go as planned, and I have to make a quick decision.

More information is a tool for planning and decision making. Not be substitute. Both for car trips and the journey of life. There are a great deal of financial planning apps out there. They can be a great tool for real-time analysis, and some have a few “planning” modules. But they are no substitute for having a real plan. One that considers the many potential roadblocks and misdirection’s to your intended financial destination.

Life is a one-way trip. There are no do-overs. You don’t want to be trying to figure out your best course when things look dark, you are exhausted, and time is critical. Not doing the proper planning resulted in my drive down Possum Hollow Road. Yes, I got to my destination. But not without a lot of unnecessary anxiety and frustration. Not sure where to begin? The Steps For Today website and materials can get you started and point you in the right direction. Your journey has already begun. Get yourself a ‘map’ and start navigating.

For more information, go to www.StepsForToday.com, and have a safe trip.

Thanks for reading.
Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

A (Very) Real Fear

During my career, I’ve attended a lot of meetings with co-workers. Often, there was a well-crafted presentation with a lot of information. And every-so-often, after the meeting my fellow attendee would say that they “really didn’t understand” a lot of what the speaker was talking. When I’d asked them why they didn’t ask questions during the meeting, they’d often say that they “didn’t want to look stupid.”  What could I say? We’ve all been there.

Unfortunately, I have found that this common fear is a central reason we avoid important discussions. One simple tool for getting over this mindset is to say “I don’t know much about that. Can you please tell me more?” I think the vast majority of people like helping others and sharing their knowledge. And, if their honest, could come up with a list of example topics for which they knew very little. I have found that it’s even better when you have a pen and paper in hand when you ask the question. Most people kick into schoolteacher mode and give slow, purposeful, responses.

The simple truth is that none of us, not even the smartest of us, knows everything.  But that shouldn’t stop us from finding answers for life’s problems. But where to begin? You can find a professional. But even then, it can be difficult to keep up. And if you’re paying them by the hour, you’d like to keep the process moving along. This is why I included the definitions and explanations for a lot of legal, financial, and medical terms into First Steps For Success and Embraced Living. After reading the books and completing the suggested documents, you will understand key terms and concepts for financial, legal, and medical conversations. Furthermore, the completed documents will contain a lot of the information you may be asked to provide for trusts, wills, beneficiary documents, and powers of attorney. It’s one big step towards a more secure and organized life.

For more information, visit my website www.StepsForToday.com and take a look at my books First Steps For Success (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RQZJ2VD) and Embraced Living (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B093RZGJ81)

Thanks for reading.
Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

On the Record

As every parent knows, the start of every school year is filled with a list of tasks which must be completed before classes begin. Of these tasks, the one that gave me the most anxiety, was coming up with the immunization records. We had moved quite a few times, so no individual doctor had a complete set of records. I always managed to find those little immunization record books. But not without an undue amount of stress. Now, imagine if you had to provide a complete set of medical records, and time was critical.

This same scenario can also apply to financial or legal paperwork in an emergency situation, medical or otherwise. It’s easy to forget a documents location. Whether it’s paper or electronic, once it’s placed in a “safe” location, our brains automatically quit tracking it, and move on to whatever concerns are most pressing.

In my book, First Steps For Success, I discuss the creation of a Master Index. This document is a single location to list and track the critical documents for your household. The Index can also be used to capture metadata related to a document such as persons, companies, or related documents. The book also discusses different types of documents and how they may be applicable to your home. Of course, it takes a few steps to do the initial setup for your existing documents, but you’ll find that knowing where your important information is kept and having a quick place to record the location of future documents, will save both time and anxiety in the future. First Steps For Success is available at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RQZJ2VD.

Thanks for reading. Please like and share with those who may benefit from this information!
And remember to take the next step.

PS. It seems as though Facebook has possibly changed its algorithms which determine who sees these posts. Please help me reach as many people as possible by liking and sharing this content. This will also let me know if the posts are reaching my readers. Thanks again!

Financial Power of Attorney

I read a recent article in which the author had taken the steps of getting a legal, notarized, power of attorney for their parents’ financial affairs, but was unable to use it like they intended to take care of their parents’ financial matters. Their problem arose when their parent became incapacitated, and they approached the bank about gaining access to accounts on which their name did not appear. Due to the increasing amount of fraud, banks are subject to some very stringent regulations. In addition, because a large amount of financial fraud is perpetrated by family members, banks are duly concerned with granting them access to accounts. Although I have been assured that, in Missouri at least, a notarized financial power of attorney provides the grantee immediate rights to access the funds, why not take an extra step to avoid confusion or delay.

One way to preclude such stress is to have the grantor appear at the bank with the grantee when the POA is first created so that they can personally attest to the validity of the document. If you do this, be sure to ask the bank employee to note the date of your visit in their records and remember to write it in your own log as well.

You may ask “why not just get joint ownership on the accounts?” The best reason is that the funds may then be accessible in a lawsuit on either owner. The POA prevents this from happening. Just be sure that there is a Payable on Death (POD) beneficiary named on all of the accounts so that they immediately transfer to the beneficiary without having to pass through the probate process.

My previous article was about having difficult conversations.  Asking somebody for POA for either healthcare or financial decisions is not easy, but it does not have to be confrontational. The better you understand and convey the pros and cons, the easer the conversation will go.

For more information regarding POA’s, POD’s, and difficult conversations, visit my website www.StepsForToday.com and take a look at my books First Steps For Success (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RQZJ2VD) and Embraced Living (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B093RZGJ81)

Thanks for reading. Please like and share with those who are struggling with these issues.
And remember to take the next step.

You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

In the spring of 1993, my life was chaotic to say the least. In the last 5 months, I had lost my wife, moved to another state, and started a new job. I was working hard to try to figure out what life would now be like for my three children and me. Most days it felt like trying to run with a full glass of water; you know somethings going spill.

One afternoon, I was going through some of the moving boxes that still resided in my garage, and what did I find? A stack of mail. Mail from this week, and maybe that week, and so on. I didn’t remember putting it there. But I didn’t remember a lot about what was going on at the time either. So, there was a mystery.

There was no mystery, however, that some of the mail contained overdue notices. I had no idea there were overdue bills because I relied on the mail to prompt me that something was due. Trying desperately to maintain some resemblance of control on any one part of my life, I decided this was something I could easily do better. Grabbing a pencil and paper, I went through the mail, my checkbook (remember those), and anything else I could find which would help me list out my financial obligations, and their due dates. Having this one simple sheet of paper greatly reduced the amount of anxiety I had about bill payments. I still use a ‘more modern’ version of it. No more mystery about what is due when!

The other mystery, about how the mail was misplaced, was soon solved too. As it turned out, my sweet 4-year-old daughter was “…just trying to help me.” And I guess, in a round-a-bout way, she did!

I’ve made a free, downloadable, bill payment spreadsheet is available at https://www.stepsfortoday.com/shop/. While you’re there, take a look around for other items and ideas to help organize your home and life. What tricks or tools do you use to help keep life on track?

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step.

The Unexpected Journey

I went for a drive in my car.
My navigator took a nap.
And I took no map.
Now I don’t know where we are.

It’s a silly little rhyme about ending up lost due to lack of planning and taking responsibility. But how many times have we heard this same story, only it’s about life itself? It’s deceptively easy to just start driving ahead in life without making a plan, preparing for the trip, and working together to reach your goals. And, all-to-often, we can find ourself in a place we never intended to be; unprepared, emotional, and lost.

Steps For Today® was created to help minimize the unexpected detours of living. First Steps For Success was written as an inexpensive tool to help everyone design a map to navigate their journey through life. It’s loaded with ideas, detailed explanations, and examples for:

  • Getting your home and life organized
  • Starting a financial plan
  • Building and protecting an estate

If you’re wondering where to start, somewhere in the journey, or just want to make sure you’ve got your I’s dotted and your T’s crossed, this book is for you!

Thanks for reading. Please like and share!
And remember to take the next step…

Turn Down Your Thermostat and Your Heating Costs

The price to stay warm this winter is going up. In an October 12th article by Reuters, the author notes that “U.S. consumers can expect to pay up to 28% more to heat their homes this winter than last year due to surging fuel costs and slightly colder weather, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projected in its winter fuels outlook on Wednesday.” Whether you heat with gas, oil, or electric, it’ll cost more to stay warm this year.

In upcoming posts we’ll discuss several ways reduce home heating costs. One major way, recommended at https://www.energy.gov/energysaver/programmable-thermostats, is to use a programmable thermostat to reduce the furnace setting while you are away or in bed. In the article they state that “You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting.” Other sources estimate that setting back just 5 degrees for 8 hours can save up to 10%. Likewise, two setback periods of 5 degrees for a total of 16 hours can reduce costs up to 20%.

Programmable thermostats cost anywhere from $20 for a basic model, to $250 for a smart, wi-fi model. I use a Honeywell 7-day programmable unit that is well on the low side of that range. If you can’t afford new thermostat, or to have one installed, create a routine to change the thermostat manually. Programmable thermostats don’t always work well with heat pumps or radiant heat systems, so the first step is to do your research before purchasing any new hardware.

Thanks for reading.
And remember to take the next step…

PS: I’d love to hear any cost-saving tips you may have as well.

When Life Gets Upended

I’d bet most of us had a similar childhood experience; learning not to play board games while sitting on a bed. It’s inevitable. Sooner or later, someone, or perhaps a pet, will come along and upend the entire game. The unplanned upheaval creates such chaos and confusion that the only thing you can do is start over.  Readers of this blog know where I am going with this…..

Many of us have experienced a life-event which so completely wrecked our plans and dreams, that all we could do is pick up the pieces and start again. Even in such difficulty, we learn from our experiences. We learn that we can’t really control the risks that accompany life.

        But we can have a plan for when life throws us a curve.

After all, we buy auto insurance because we know the risks of driving a car. That’s an obvious example of how to mitigate a risk to our financial, physical, and even mental health. But what about the risks associated with not having a plan for household finances, health emergencies, aging, retirement, and even death itself? There can be significant financial, physical, and mental health risks associated with not planning for a crisis, or even for everyday life.

        Often, we just don’t know where to begin.

That’s why I wrote First Steps For Success. It’s a great resource for:

  • Creating Emergency Medical Information sheets for your family
  • Understanding the need for, and how to create, a budget
  • Getting started with long-term financial planning with risk management solutions
  • Learning about the different types of assets and how to protect them
  • Describing types of property deeds and how to pass them down
  • Risk management techniques for everyday living
  • Information about commonly available health care plans
  • Knowledge regarding wills, trusts, and estate planning
  • Building a long-term plan for managing life, health, and finance
  • Getting enough knowledge to comfortably get started with financial, tax, legal, and healthcare professionals

Whether you’re just getting started in life, or finally getting around to making real plans for the future, First Steps For Success can get you started in the right direction. Available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08RQZJ2VD.