As the temperature heats up and people plan their vacations, it’s easy to fantasize about owning your dream beach house or spending a luxurious month in Europe. However, those don’t have to be just dreams. They can be a reality. The key to obtaining them: a good financial plan. A solid financial plan allows a person to achieve their end result alongthe path they want, which means they won’t have to skimp on the lives they’re leading now to reach their end goal. A well-crafted financial plan finds the best way to reach your destination, without undue risk or sacrifice. If a person can do that, it greatly decreases the stress and anxiety he or she may experience along the way. Plus, when life throws unexpected curveballs at you, you’ll be better able to handle them.

It’s best to think of your financial plan as a map that will get you from Point A to Point B.  But even with a map there can be some unexpected detours that pop up: road closures, traffic jams, pit stops, etc.  However, if you have a good map, you can quickly find an alternate route. That’s what a financial plan provides. Sometimes people make seemingly random choices or quick decisions because they’re busy and want to get it out of the way, but they’ll put the time into planning a vacation, for instance, because that’s more immediately enjoyable. That’s the difference between someone making good financial choices and someone that sets himself up for potentially making bad financial choices.

A good roadmap to financial success is useless if someone doesn’t make proper financial choices. Consider one of my clients, a retired CEO of a Fortune 500 company in his late seventies. He had been living the life he wanted for quite some time: yearly trips to Europe, penthouses, large donations to charities, etc. But when his portfolio took a hit in the stock market, he went into what I call “survival budget” mode. This was the first time he and his wife had to worry about money in quite some time. They made some drastic changes to their lives: they could not participate in the charities that they’d founded; they scrapped the trip to Europe; their penthouse had deferred maintenance on it because they couldn’t afford to fix it up. As with a lot of people who don’t have a solid financial plan in place or who make poor financial choices, cash flow can seem to be all right in the early retirement years but can suddenly become very tight when they’re in their seventies and eighties—and it was becoming very tight for this couple.

I looked at his cash flow calculation very carefully and confirmed that though he was a little short on cash flow, I saw how he could get back to living the life he had before. We looked at how he was structured around his taxes, his investment portfolio, and his debt, and we brought some better financial choices to what he was doing. With these better choices, his cash flow increased and he was able live the lifestyle he wanted but also assured that his wife could continue to live in that same fashion, even if she lived to be age one hundred. Don’t ever think it’s too late to correct poor choices and improve one’s cash flow and overall financial condition.

For more information about creating your financial road map and making better financial decisions, visit