Long Range Strategic Thinking

Gerwig 2014-11-03

Do you have enough money saved for retirement? Some of you may be fortunate enough to work for an organization that still offers a pension. Most do not. Yes, government employees at the city, state, and federal level (including military personnel) are eligible for a pension if they work a given number of years (e.g. 20) and retire in good standing. For most of you (myself including) our retirement comes from our personal savings, whether in the form of a 401k, stocks, RSUs or regular mutual funds.

If you do the calculations, it can be a bit scary. Adjusting for inflation, long-term returns and the like, you will quickly recognize that you need a substantial nest-egg if you are going to make it through your retirement years successfully. According to several “experts,” including Fidelity, by the time one reaches 55 years of age they should have 5x their annual income saved. So if you earn $100,000, you should have $500,000 saved by the age of 55 in tax-sheltered financial accounts and so on.

For some of you, this is no problem. For others, it may seem like an unachievable dream. Many whom I know say that in today’s era, they simply plan to work until they die. In other words, they don’t plan to retire. They did not plan ahead so they can’t afford to retire.

Until recent years, only the rich could retire. The countless masses simply did their best until they died or were physically unable to work. Some of you may say that though you plan to retire from the corporate world, you don’t want to sit around and become a “couch potato.” You want to make a difference in your community until you take your last breath. I understand. Me too. However, I would like to have financial freedom to choose my activities be they volunteer work, play or serious work endeavors. Don’t you?

So how do you save 5x your annual income? In a couple words, planning and savings. You start early. You make a plan. You execute the plan. This requires long-term strategic thinking and discipline. You don’t wake up one day with 5x your annual income. You need to think ahead. When you get your first paycheck at age 18 or 22, you put some money away. You invest.

As a follower of Jesus, I give a portion of my income to the church and I save a portion. What’s left is what I live on week to week. And I began that discipline nearly 30 years ago. Discipline, compounding interest and wise decisions took care of the rest. By no means would I be considered wealthy or make the Forbes list of richest people, but I developed a plan years ago and stuck to it. I demonstrated long-range strategic thinking (& discipline).

Regardless of your age, you need to do the same, not only in your financial life but in all areas of your life. World-class leaders engage in long-range strategic thinking. They not only take care of today, they think about the future. They determine where they want to go and they create a plan. Then they execute, day by day and year by year. The results may seem slow at first, but they’ll come.

I remember when I first started taking classes at night while working full-time and it seemed like I’d never finish. The rate of progress seemed slow. And a wise man (my dad) said, “You know, the next 4 years are going to go by one way or the other. You can either look back and say, “I’m done. I have my master’s degree.” Or you can look back and say, “If I’d been taking classes part-time at night, I would have my master’s degree by now.” Either way the choice is yours. You can’t stop time.

How about you? Are you a long-range strategic thinker? Do you have goals for the future that are backed by an action plan? Do you demonstrate the discipline to execute that plan and stick with it when times are tough? If so, you’ll be successful in the long-run. Congratulations.

As always, the floor is open to your comments, suggestions, thoughts, and feedback.

Dr. is an agent of change and is able to balance the needs of the business and the needs of people. Dr. Gerwig believes and practices the values of performance and delivery of business metrics while simultaneously developing and growing people into leaders. You can contact him at RobertGerwig[at]LeadStrategic.com.

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