There is an old adage to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Since neither usually happens, why not take a more pragmatic approach: plan and hope for what is most likely. And what is most likely? Change is almost assured. Change is more likely the further off the planned-for event is set to occur. This is not to say that being organized and ready is a poor practice, but it needs to be flexible. Plan for change and you will be right every time.
Our hypothetical story begins between two close friends’ shortly after graduation and in their early career stages.
Planner: How’s going? Is the job taking you where you want to go?
Procrastinator: It’s going fine so far. We’ll see what happens. You?
Planner: It’s pretty good for me too. We have 6 other recently hired engineers. It appears advancement is predicated on developing new and implementable ideas. The Department head is big on new thinking. If I do what is required and come up with some new stuff, I should be promoted in the next 3 years.
Procrastinator: Cool. I hope so for me too.
Three years later
Procrastinator: I can’t believe we both had these jobs for three years. It’s amazing to me how I was moved from engineering into project work without even asking. I like it though because of the interaction. How’s that promotion coming along?
Planner: Things were great for a while; I went above and beyond my regular duties, learned from more senior employees and worked closely with the Department Head on some new projects.
Procrastinator: That’s great! Just as you had planned!
Planner: Not really. About a year ago, the union went on strike and strapped the company for cash. It was a long and ugly contract battle and the company focus was on a resolution for the workers. A moratorium on promotions and salary increases was put in place so some of my co-workers left and some were let go. I’ll l be fine, I just need to adjust my plan by extending it another two years.
Two years later
Planner. My crappy company has decided to move most operations down south and manufacturing to Mexico. They say it’s too expensive to keep the operation going in the Northeast. So, I’ve been looking around for a new job as the engineering department is being slashed and only longer tenured employees will be kept on board. Probably blessings in disguise, as I now have five years experience and a proven track record of motivation and creativity. My supervisor has offered to give me high marks as a reference. That place sucked anyway. I’m glad I’m leaving. I’ll be rolling in dough and woman five years from now.
Procrastinator: That’s a bummer, but I guess everything happens for a reason. Speaking of change, I’ve been asked to move to Texas to manage the company and was promoted to regional sales engineer in the area. It is our best geographic location for our business, so it should be exciting. Who’d a thunk? Oh. Did I tell you I’m getting married? Next February. Be there as you are going to be my Best Man! Oh, I finally took your advice to squirrel some money away for the future. I picked up some shares in a company called Google. I figured liking the name was as good as any reason to invest in a new company.
Planner: That’s awesome! I’ll check my calendar for next year and be sure to block the time out. I’m honored you asked! Good job with the stock. You never know…
Five years later
Procrastinator: Can you believe I got offered a job in Singapore? I didn’t even know where it was until they asked. I’ll be opening an office and trying to open new doors. I’m stoked. It is a three year commitment with an overseas pay and benefits package giving me a real good bump I have no idea what I’m doing, but it should be fun.
Planner. Wow! Sounds cool. I’ve been out in San Diego for the last five years and finally have a great job with great pay. The bennies are solid. With even routine career advancements along with my investments in Greece I have been working on, I think I can retire by the time I’m 55. I evened factored in buying that new Harley I want.
Two years later
Planner: How is Singapore treating you? In my new position I’ll be heading to that part of the world from time to time. It will be fun to hook-up.
Procrastinator: That sure will be great. I have more time now that I’m separated. The intense travel schedule was too hard on a relationship. It really sucks, but it’s time to move on. They make more you know.
Planner: Sorry to hear that. As a good friend of yours, I can’t say I’m surprised. I thought your career and rapid advancement would be a stumbling block to any relationship, but you can’t plan for that stuff I guess.
Speaking of bummers, I have to move my Dad out to Cali now that Mom died. He really needs an assisted living place and someone nearby. Since I won’t go back east, I’ll move him out to me. It’s more expensive out here. Also, I hadn’t planned on this occurring a number of years before I knew it would, but I have been setting aside some rainy day money for when I retire that I can tap into. Not what I want, but you gotta what you gotta do.
Three years later
Procrastinator: I can’t believe I’m going back to the US. This will be our last hoorah in Asia. It’s been fun. I know I spent two years more than the original commitment, but I’m glad it worked out that way. The past two years of being single have allowed me to take more time to explore places and not just go there for business.
Planner: It sure has been an experience. Interesting what life throws at you. Now I have to move to Texas for the company. It’s a good job and good pay. I don’t want to sell the house in San Diego as I refinanced to a 15 year loan and should have it paid off in another ten. The value has soared, so that will help down the road. I will have to find a place in Houston and move my dad. I’m not sure how this is going to impact my nest egg, and it’s driving me crazy, but I’ll figure it out.
Five years later
Procrastinator: I really like this new job. I was bummed for a while when the company went downhill after 13 eventful years for me, the layoff, let me get my handicap down to a 6 and land this job with far less stress.
Planner: So when can you retire? Didn’t you take a pay cut?
Procrastinator: I figure I will know when the time is right. I’ve only been married again for a couple of years and my wife has a good job. Kids are uncertain at this point, but we’ll roll with the punches. How’s your gig?
Planner: It looks like the company wants to move me to Salt Lake or Denver. I scoped living arrangements for both during business trips. The taxes and real estate are more expensive in Denver, but the lifestyle is more laid back in Utah. The airport is way better in Denver. I can try to push for one or the other, but I’ll see what I can budget for living once I figure out if it is better to sell or rent the place in Houston. I’ll also move my dad back to the Northeast to be closer to his surviving brothers and I won’t have to spend as much time worrying about his needs, but it will be more expensive out-of-pocket I don’t want to think about it, but his death benefits from the Army will take care of that eventuality. All-in-all, I’ll adjust the spreadsheet again and see if I can still target my retirement date. Looking like it may be 58 now.
Five years later
Procrastinator: Can you believe on that good fortune I just had? I can’t believe that small chunk of stock I bought twenty years ago for $5000 turned into $900,000? It tipped me over the edge to be comfortable for the rest of my life. It’s very cool to retire at 54 when I when I thought it would be another ten years! Thanks to your advice from a long time ago, Google bought us a place in Key West to hang out and also do some more traveling. Come down whenever you want. You should be retiring soon right?
Planner: I certainly had set-up my entire life to be able to join you now. Unfortunately, the San Diego house was wiped out by the wild fires and the insurance company stiffed me. My tenant in Houston is suing for damages from an injury sustained while living in my condo and the legal fees are a necessary sinkhole. All of my sure-fired investments in Greek Companies imploded and my company is being bought by a Japanese firm. The future is totally up-in-the air, but I’ll make it down to the Keys one of these days.
Oh, thank God I never married. It would have messed up my retirement plans.
“Procrastination is the Key to Flexibility”