I recently read a blog that clearly shows a good example of living intentionally.
“If I have good intentions, I make a decision to spend time with my 6 year old and I follow through with my good intentions by letting him play in the yard while I browse Facebook and watch him smiling and nodding and every few minutes throwing a glance his way so it seems like I’m paying attention.
If I am intentional, I make a decision to spend time with my 6 year old and I follow through with being intentional by playing with him, engaging him, and putting my own selfish desires and wants aside while I make him a priority. I make him my sole focus for the period of time I intentionally set aside.”
We can all resonate with this example whether at home or at work. So how does this concept of living intentionally play out in our lives?
There are 3 phases in each of our lives:
Phase 1 – The years where you are working and have personal debt such as your mortgage, major home upgrades, cottage purchases.
Phase 2 – The years where you are working and have no personal debt, your mortgage is behind you. You still have upcoming expenses like cars, weddings and post-secondary to come.
Phase 3 – You have the “Choice of Working” in these years. You have set aside enough resources that you could choose to “retire” and live on your pensions, company and government and any required draws on your asset base. Any cars or other defined expenses would come from your asset base.
We can move between the first two phases depending on our situation of where we are at any time in our life. Ultimately we want to be
in Phase 3 at some point in our lives where we will have the choices in our retirement years.
There are 3 keys in being able to move through these 3 phases intentionally. Let’s call them the 3 C’s. The first is to be ‘Committed’ to your Life Flow and Contribution Flow. Life Flow is simply your yearly living expenses. Yes, it means setting a budget and knowing that you can live within that budget. It also means that you can define the Contribution Flow (net income minus life flow) that you will use throughout Phases 1 and 2 towards your debt payments and savings. This contribution flow will cover your mortgage debt, car purchases and other major commitments that you have identified. Committing to these amounts over the course of your life without letting your life flow ‘creep’ to a higher amount that becomes unachievable in Phase 3 is critical.
This is where our second C, Clarity in choices, comes into play. Our lives are wrought with choices. Are we making those choices intentionally or only with good intentions? When we get that pay raise, are we spending it directly, thereby really increasing our living expenses and as a result increasing the net asset we need in phase 3 to cover our living expenses? Everything has a ‘ripple’ effect. Or, are we really stepping back and looking at our choices with clarity? We do have other options, we could take that pay raise and allocate a portion to our life flow (let’s face it inflationary increases in expenses do happen) and then allocate a portion to our Contribution flow for our future or to pay off our personal debt faster. This plays out with our major commitments too. We might have budgeted for a $30,000 car but fell ‘in love’ with a $65,000 car. What impact does that have on when we can really move into Phase 3, Choice of Working? Do you have to work 3 or 4 years longer? Does it mean your future cars would also be at that higher level? Can your income level really handle that extra amount? Is this something you need or just want? We need to be really clear that we understand the impact of our choices.
Thirdly, we want to be Confident that the planning we have in place and the continuous monitoring of those plans will give us the peace of mind to move from one phase of life to the next. None of us wants to get to an age where we thought we are going to have a ‘choice of working’ only to find out that it’s not going to happen for the next 5-10 years.
Living with confidence as you go through each phase, making sure you are committed to your contribution flow and life flow, and looking at clarity in your choices with help you live intentionally.
Move from a life of good intentions to living an intentional life!
Written by: Shirley Alexander