The big little things: How financial decision-making is like camping
On a hectic work day, it’s easy to dream of escape. You want to get away, go where no one can bother you. You imagine a tent with a cozy campfire burning, surrounded by peaceful forest.
Sound familiar? You’re not alone. In 2018, 1.4 million households set out on their very first camping trip. Falling asleep under the trees is now more popular than ever, especially among millennials.
But like so much in life, in order for your getaway to happen, you’re going to need a plan. Otherwise you risk getting lost, going in circles and going hungry. This is as true in preparing for a wilderness trip as it is for building your financial and emotional confidence. As the author Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Start with a map
When you get serious about exploring the great outdoors, you’ll need a map. Where do you want to go? What’s the terrain? What kind of experience do you want to have? Do you want to swim in a cool, clear lake or would you rather climb a mountain? Your answers to these questions will set the parameters for your excursion.
Financial decision-making has the same initial step. In working with a financial representative, the first question is, what are your goals? Do you want to raise a family? Get a graduate degree? Once you have outlined your long-term plan, your personal map, an experienced professional can help you map the landscape.
Stay the course
As any camper who has hiked on a cold, rainy day knows, every journey has its ups and downs. But when you have a plan and stick to it, you will make it to your camp rather than get stuck in the mud.
Same thing with investing. Markets can crash and rally, only to crash again. The mistake is to try and time the market. When investors react to short-term market changes, they sometimes make the wrong decision. On the contrary, investors who stick to their long-term plan have historically reaped the benefits., 
Plan within your ability and means
On your first adventure, you wouldn’t tackle a 10-day trek across Mount Kilimanjaro. It would be too much, and you could injure yourself. Instead, if you camp within your ability, you’ll gain experience in the process and enjoy it along the way.
The same holds true in our financial lives. One of the key characteristics of people who feel financially and emotionally confident is that they live within their means. They keep the long-view in mind, whether they’re on the hiking path or their financial course.
Know your gear (and your financial products)
Every smart camper packs the essential tools to guard against disaster. You’ll need that handy map, along with a compass, and of course, a first aid kit. The tools you pack for your trip could save you.
It’s best to take a protection-first approach in your financial strategy as well. Tools like disability income insurance can provide a source of income in the event you get sick or suffer an injury. Whole life insurance can financially support your loved ones.
Further, once you have protection in place, you can create deeper safeguards through savings. Start by putting away 10 percent of your income and build gradually to 20 percent.
Plan your journey with an experienced professional
If you’ve strolled through the woods a few times, you might think that you’re ready to camp. Likewise, we use money every day, so it’s tempting to think that we can “wing it” with financial decision-making. But planning for retirement, working towards long-term financial stability, and other major financial goals are the trips of a lifetime.
Thinking back to Mount Kilimanjaro, no experienced hiker would attempt to climb its peak without an experienced guide. You, too, can work with a guide to build your financial strength. A financial professional, like a wilderness guide, has the skill and experience to help you set and navigate the path for achieving your goals, guiding you on the right tools, and how to use them, along the way.
Brought to you by The Guardian Network © 2019, 2021. The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America®, New York, NY
2021-124087 (Exp. 7/23)