What’s Your Number?

How much time do you spend on planning a vacation versus planning your financial future?

This was a question asked to me years ago, and it hit home. Now, when I ask it of others, it hits them the same way it hit me.

We spend months planning a vacation, but few people really know what they want in terms of their financial future. Nor do they know how to get there. Even those who have a plan often forget to check for changes. Any plan that hasn’t been reviewed in more than six months is out of date, because life changes course on a regular basis.

Make a Date With Your Numbers

That is why I recommend writing down your goals. The more you practice identifying goals, and the more consistent you are in writing them down, the better you will get at the process, and the more likely you are to achieve them.

My wife started writing down our goals in 2008, and now we revise, update and revamp them every 90 days. We started with our long-term goals, which have remained rather steady over the years. However, we also include our short-term goals, which change as constantly as our life changes.

I suggest that you do what we have done and create a quarterly “date night” to go over goals. We go on our “date” to a nice restaurant, eat dinner and go over our numbers. We look at what we have accomplished, what income we have picked up and what debt we have picked up.

As a quick side note, an increase in debt has never been a goal, but sometimes it happens. This is especially true if we have picked up a piece of real estate or if we have a rehab project going on. These investments can have an impact on our cash flow as we take on additional debt. Although it may not look good on paper at the moment, we realize that once we’ve rented or flipped the property, everything will look much better.

Getting Started

Where should you start? If you haven’t identified your long-term goals, start here. No matter how crazy the goal sounds, write it down. Then write down a number that it will take for you to do the thing on the list. This number is a cash flow number. All of our goals are written from the standpoint of cash flow because that is our main focus. Let’s face it; it is everyone’s main focus because cash flow is how we all live.

The number that goes next to your goal is the cash flow that will allow you to stop doing something you want to stop doing. Or start doing something you want to start doing. Or add to something you are already doing.

Once you have that number identified, you break it down into short-term goals using real estate. What do you need to do with your real estate investments in the short-term to get to your long-term goal number?

Say No to Tunnel Vision

I was inspired to write this blog post because of a call from one of my first mentors in the business. He was watching a video we did on exit strategies, and he realized he had been so focused on flipping homes that he had stopped focusing on the cash flow. He is certainly not the first great investor I’ve chatted with about this. It is easy to get tunnel vision by focusing on the flip and completely forget the cash flow.

But forgetting the cash flow can get you into trouble. What happens if the market turns? What happens when you simply want to take a long vacation? What happens when 5, 10, 20 years go by, and you haven’t created properties for your own cash flow in retirement?

If you don’t know what you want, or it’s not identified, you are never going to know if you have arrived. So, make a date today to talk goals and cash flow. Be one of the successful ones who knows his or her number and plans for the financial future.