Resource Center


Making a Good Life Happen – Predicting vs. Planning

by Bonnie Bell, MA, MDiv., Principal, and Director of Career/Life Coaching

February 2010

Right on the heals of all the “Happy New Year” greetings in January come the inevitable predictions about the future on just about every topic imaginable. It is an ancient phenomenon, this deep human desire to know what is going to happen before it happens – an attempt to gain power over fear, I suppose.

Mere “predictions” are not really what people want; they want foreknowledge, certainty. They want to know what is going to happen, which is why throughout history there has never been a shortage of psychics, fortune tellers, or other soothsayers. If you want to talk to one today, you can probably find one in your own neighborhood, and if you don’t happen to know where there is one close to you, hundreds of them await your Google search.

Ironically, along side this age-old desire to know what is going to happen before it happens, is an opposite tendency for people to deny or ignore the actual facts that surround them and take tremendous risks instead. While people want certainty about the future, they are willing to gamble on a daily basis with their money, and in one way or another, their health and their lives. 

Life is hard, and we are complex, perplexing creatures. So let’s cut to the chase. Here is a certain prediction you can base your life on: some good things are going to happen, and some bad things are going to happen. Now what?

Planning for the future and predicting the future are two very different things, but most definitely connected. It is precisely because we cannot predict the future with certainty that we need to plan for it. Without a plan, at best we are just holding our breath and crossing our fingers hoping it will all somehow work out; at worst, we are playing a dangerous version of Russian Roulette.

So let’s say you don’t go in for soothsayers and you agree that planning is important. Does that mean that you can sit right down and plan your life? Do you have the knowledge, character, self-discipline and emotional maturity to do what you say you’re going to do? It’s amazing how many people are confident that they can and then are pretty shocked when they can’t. 

It’s so much easier, actually, to admit ahead of time that life is hard, that we are complex and perplexing creatures, that we don’t know everything, that we can’t predict the future, that we need to plan for it, and that it’s not only okay, but wise, to ask for help. Whew… Now, was that so hard?

We recently completed a combination Retirement Outlook and Life Plan (called the Making a Good Life Happen Package) with a woman who asked for our help a few months ago as a result of the economic downturn and upheaval in the marketplace. While she did not lose her job, she was concerned about her finances, whether or not she would be able to retire at 65, and if so, what she would do with her time if she did retire. She is 58.  

As a result of our work, she has clear answers to these questions rather than vague notions and a lot of anxiety. And guess what? Her financial picture is much better than she thought it was. Not only will she still be able to retire, but she will be able to retire at 62 rather than at 65, as she previously thought. The best part is that she is excited, rather than concerned, about her future. She is beginning the first step in her Life Plan this month – a graduate course in the subject she has always dreamed of pursuing.    

Will some good things and some bad things happen in her future? Yes. Will she win the lottery? Who knows? Will she meet someone? Who knows? These are not the kinds of things we can know for certain. But with clear thinking about who she is, what she wants, and a written Life Plan to guide her toward the future she wants, I think we can bet that she will have a pretty good life.

Bonnie Bell, with husband Jim Bell, CFP®, owns and manages Bell Investment Advisors, Inc., 1111 Broadway, Suite 1630, in downtown Oakland. The firm has been providing personalized financial planning, investment management and career and life planning services since 1991. 510-433-1066.

Published in Piedmont Post on February 3, 2010

Piedmont Post

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