Why Make a Plan?
It's a truth universally acknowledged that no one can predict the future. You cannot make a concrete plan for the next year, let alone the next five years. Five years is such a long time, and even if life doesn't throw you any major curveballs, you have no idea what you will want and feel or even who you will be in five years time.
However, I find having a five year plan to be useful for helping to make decisions and put in place the foundations for where I'd like to be in the future.This isn't a concrete plan; for the reasons cited above, it has to be a flexible one but if you want to make things happen then you need to start today, and it's a whole lot easier to start when you know what you want the end goal to be. Five years is a long enough time that you can make some serious progress, but also not so long that you don't need to start looking at working on those dreams right now.
Our First Five Year Plan
Paul and I are just coming to the end of the first five year plan that we made together; the basic tenets of which were to get married, buy a house and have a baby, all of which we've managed to achieve. This isn't a humble brag, it's just an acknowledgement that it was only by setting those goals and then working towards them that we got to where we are today. We've also been lucky, don't get me wrong, but having some concrete aims definitely contributed massively.
I don't believe that things happen by accident; you need to make them happen. If you want to buy a house, you need to start saving. If you want to have a baby, well, you know what you need to do. It helped to have those goals in mind when we were faced with decisions; for example, it wouldn't have been a good idea for me to switch jobs last year when I was contacted by a recruiter, mostly because I love my current job but also because I knew that it would be easier to take maternity leave when I've been working somewhere for years than it would at a new position.
So now we're ready to make a new five year plan, and this one is a little trickier. Getting married, buying a house and having a baby are all obvious milestones for your twenties and thirties; they're hardly out of the ordinary. But what's next? Well, that's what we're working on now.
How We Make a Five Year Plan
To make our plan, we mostly just do a lot of talking. It's not one big, regimented sit down discussion, but a series of chats about various areas of our life and where we'd like to be. We start with the things we *know* are going to happen (as far as you can ever know anything). That's going to be different for everyone, and some people might have nothing concrete. For us, that looks like my going back to work after maternity leave and Ben starting nursery, some landmark birthdays (30 for me, 40 for Paul) and Ben eventually starting school. All being well, those things will definitely happen within the next five years, and in various ways they impact the kind of plans we want to make.
Then we go through all of the areas of our life where we want to make goals. Some of the areas are individual (career, in particular) and some are joint or family goals. Some are goals for right now and some are for in a few years time. But after all of our discussion, we usually come to an agreement on what we want to work towards in each area, from travel and other fun plans to financial and career goals. That's when the fun starts. Once we have our goals down on paper (or just in our heads), we start thinking about what steps we can take today / this week / this month / this year in order to make them happen.
This isn't a one-time process; it's constantly being revised over the course of those five years as circumstances change and *we* change. We're not working on all the goals all the time, but we bear them in mind in the course of our life and let them guide us.
What's On Our Next Five Year Plan (So Far)
A lot of our goals are financial ones right now; we've had an expensive few years due to weddings / house buying / baby so now we're looking to channel our efforts into savings and, potentially, investments instead. We're not fully set on exactly what this looks like, as it's so dependent on other factors, but to start with we need to build back up that three-month-salary buffer that everyone in the know says you need. This is going to be a lot easier when I'm no longer on maternity leave, so it's on the back burner for now.
We're also looking at improving our house and getting it fit for the next ten years of family life. Depending on finances, we're hoping to extend into the roof to make a master suite, so we can convert one of the bigger bedrooms into a bedroom-slash-playroom for Ben, leaving the downstairs as a bit more of an adult-friendly space (basically, I just want somewhere to shove all the inevitable plastic tat each evening!). We also need to get the back garden sorted, and renovate the rather sad family bathroom at the very least. We have some bigger plans for if we get all of that done, too, but I think that's enough to be getting on with in the next five years!
It's not all serious, though. We're also planning a big first birthday party for Ben; as we're not religious we aren't going to be having any sort of christening or baptism but we'd like to celebrate him properly with our family and friends at some point. We're also thinking ahead to our big birthdays in 2020; chances are that's going to be a big party and a trip to Las Vegas. We'd also like to visit a few more European cities with Benjamin, and get back to New York at least once over the next five years.
Do you have a five year plan? If so, what's on it? (Tell me, I'm nosy!)