Several years ago, my client Melissa (names and some details have been changed to protect confidentiality) called me with a question:

Can I afford to buy a sailboat?

Melissa had done all the research.  She went to a boat show and identified the specific model she’d like.  She knows what a slip costs, and where she would launch it.  She’s planned out where she will store it, and has an idea of how much she’d use it (during the summer, one night a week plus every weekend!)  She’s even been taking sailing lessons to brush up on piloting skills learned in her youth.

Fortunately, Melissa had been following the initial financial plan we created a couple years earlier: living within her means, cutting back on unnecessary expenses, and investing the money she had available for potential compound interest growth.  She had a stable, well-paying job and in fact was only a few years from her planned retirement.

I did a lot of research to help Melissa figure out if a sailboat was something she could afford.  Finally, I was happy to be able to say, yes – spend the money on the sailboat! She was so excited to let me know when the boat was purchased, and has since spent many happy hours enjoying the boat with her friends and family.

When I think of what financial planning can do, I think of Melissa’s sailboat.

I imagine Melissa piloting the boat with confidence on a beautiful breezy summer afternoon, surrounded by good friends. The financial planning work she and I did together gave her the clarity to feel confident about some big decisions she made in her life, including her dream of owning a sailboat. She understood the trade offs she might experience due to possible lower income in retirement or potentially working an extra year or two. But she was able to make the decision that was best for her, with all the knowledge that a good financial plan can offer.

In the best case scenario, spending the time to work on a financial plan can deliver clarity around your finances in a way you never had before. And that clarity can lead to making more informed choices about what you do now with your money.

What’s your sailboat – or your dreams for your future? What actions are you taking now to help you get there?

Content provided by Women Belong member Jacki Liautaud