Personal Finance

If you’re ready to transform, stick to a plan

If you haven’t seen it, you’ve heard about it.

Weight Watchers’ newest spokesperson sits cross-legged,

talking with her hands and speaking directly into the camera.

In that soothing, endearing, Oprah-trademarked tone of hers, she scorns typical weight loss goals like shedding pant sizes or quick-fix gimmicks. Instead, she calls the coming year “The Year of My Best Body.”

It’s tempting to zero in on a specific milestone instead of looking at the big picture. But short-term, physical goals are often rooted in deeper, emotional aspirations. In this case, Oprah Winfrey is giving herself the next year to maximize her overall potential, rather than limit herself to a narrow objective that doesn’t always yield lasting results.

That yearlong commitment requires taking a step back, pacing and constantly evaluating progress.

Personal finance is no different.

Sure, there are net worth numbers we’d all like to reach as quickly as possible. But a true understanding of financial management comes with the realization that a number is just a means to an end. The end is your ultimate vision for life, and what makes it yours is its uniqueness and specificity.

Take Geoff, a client of mine who left behind his executive post at 3M to become a sales manager at a small, private startup. The move came with a considerable pay cut, but it also trimmed down his travel time and allowed him to be closer to his wife. Later, she passed away from cancer.

By aligning his financial assets with his deepest desires, Geoff and his wife were able to spend much more of her final months together than they would have otherwise.

Then there’s Matt, who began his career in the lower tier of the family business but, in just a few years, was able to pay off all his student debt and fund two education plans for his young children. Today, he holds a prominent role in the organization and recently received his first bonus.

Like losing weight, going from scarcity to abundance is a process. You can start it this year, right now. Here’s how;

Establish a vision

First, assess your most important, overarching goals. What do you want your life to look like 10 to 13 years from now? How about three years from now?

Take some time to reflect, converse with your closest confidants, and assess your mission and values. How do they affect your short-term and long-term vision?

Then write them down. If you don’t write it down, it doesn’t exist.

Assess the situation

The first step established the ends. Now tackle the means.

Review your current assets—income, savings, retirement, investments, insurance policies and the like, and expenses—monthly bills, credit card balances, loans, etc. How does where you are now align with where you want to go?

Integrate and execute

Chances are you’ll have to make some changes in order to create the aforementioned alignment. For those with a more advanced portfolio, this means determining the appropriate amount of risk and type of asset management for your specific goals and aspirations.

If you’re in the early stages of your financial journey, it comes down to everyday decisions; the way you spend, save and invest should constantly reflect the vision you’ve outlined for yourself.

If that seems like a lot to digest, it’s because it is. Just as with health and wellness, you’ll achieve your best results with a personal coach guiding you and helping assess what your current state and financial decisions now mean for your ultimate aspirations.

It’s a journey you can start this year. Just look at Oprah, who reportedly lost more than 40 pounds via the Weight Watchers program during 2016. Stick to the plan, keep your highest goals in sight, and you too can make this year a transformational one.


Contact: Brad Johnston is founder of The Johnston Group in Minneapolis and author of More than Money:  612.337.5030; brad@thejohnstongroup.com;

Brad Johnston