How a Planning Mindset Can Impact Your Finances

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on NewRetirement.

So much of life is determined by your mindset. How you think about things can result in how things are and will be.

Research has found that a “planning mindset” is actually everything when it comes to financial success — no matter how you define doing well.

What Is a Planning Mindset? Do You Have It?

Senior couple making financial plans
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A planning mindset is a way of thinking.

When you have a planning mindset, you are more focused on processes instead of results. You are happy making incremental changes and are less worried about having an immediate solution to all of your problems.

When you have a planning mindset, you approach thinking and decision-making to emphasize the importance of goals, creating strategies, and organizing resources to achieve those goals effectively.

People with a planning mindset are proactive, forward-thinking, and tend to be more successful in reaching their objectives compared to those who do not prioritize planning.

Key Characteristics of a Planning Mindset

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  • Strategic thinking: Planning-minded individuals consider the big picture and develop strategies to reach their objectives efficiently. You anticipate potential obstacles and plan contingencies.
  • Time management: It is important to recognize the value of time and allocate it wisely to tasks and activities that contribute to your goals. Always remember that time is a valuable resource that must be utilized effectively.
  • Organization: People with a planning mindset create systems and structures to keep themselves organized. You prioritize tasks and ensure that you have the necessary resources available when needed.
  • Flexibility: While planning is important, those with a planning mindset also understand that unexpected events and challenges can occur. They remain adaptable and can adjust their plans accordingly.
  • Analysis and evaluation: They regularly assess their progress, identify areas of improvement, and learn from past experiences to refine their future plans.
  • Long-term perspective: A planning mindset involves thinking beyond short-term gains and focusing on sustainable, long-term success.

Research suggests that only 35% of workers have a planning mindset. But, you don’t have to be born with it. You can become a planner. Set a goal and develop a strategy for achieving the goal. Boom you have a planning mindset!

How Does a Planning Mindset Impact Your Finances?

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Wells Fargo defines four components of a planning mindset with regards to personal finance. How many of these apply to you and your approach to money?

  1. You are able to work diligently toward a long-term goal.
  2. In the last six months you have set and achieved a goal or set of goals to support your life in retirement.
  3. You prefer saving for retirement now to ensure you have a better life in retirement.
  4. You feel better to have your finances planned out in the next one to two years.

Planning Mindset: The Key to Secure Finances and a Happy Retirement

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Wells Fargo found that workers with a planning mindset felt significantly better than others about life, retirement, and their future.

Additionally, a planning mindset is a powerful predictor of positive financial outcomes and personal wellness — regardless of income level. It benefits those with significant resources and those without.

Just look at how much better people with a planning mindset feel about their finances. They are:

  • Two times more satisfied with their overall financial life
  • Two times more confident that they have saved enough for retirement
  • Two and a half times more likely to have a strong sense of control over their debt situation
  • Five times better prepared for handling the unexpected
  • Five times more likely to have a long-term plan with overarching goals

You Don’t Have To Have It All Figured Out Right Now

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Don’t worry if you don’t feel in control of your finances now. People with the planning mindset feel like they can positively impact their outcomes and that is the key: You just need to understand your problems, set goals and make progress!

While it might be easy, the reality is that only 30% of workers feel personal control over:

  • Personal debt
  • Financial life
  • Investment performance
  • Career

On the other hand, people with a planning mindset know that they can do things to make a difference in each of these areas. Small changes can mean a lot.

So, if you don’t feel in control, what can you do? See the following for ideas on how to apply a planning mindset to your debt, financial life, investments and career.

Personal Debt

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One of the greatest threats to retirement today may not be saving too little, but owing too much.

However, if you have debt, don’t despair. Instead, adopt a planning mindset and create a plan for dealing with it.

If you need some motivation, use the NewRetirement Retirement Planner to see your future finances with and without debt. See what happens if you accelerate your debt payments, consolidate loans, work longer, reduce interest rates or try any of the other options.

Find a plan that works for you.

Here are more tips for eliminating debt.

Financial Life

Smiling woman making a budget and planning to save money with good financial strategy represented by a smart piggy bank
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Life can be hard. Managing your money monthly while juggling all of your everyday priorities and also plan for the next 30 or 40 years can feel overwhelming.

But, it doesn’t need to be that way. The research suggests that you can start with smaller and more achievable steps that reinforce the right behaviors that will help you build confidence to move to the next level.

  • Use a goal-based approach with visual tools including dashboards and personal finance apps.
  • Adopt financial planning as a daily, monthly, or quarterly habit.
  • Encourage family discussions about money, boosting confidence and positively impacting relationships. (Explore topics to tackle if you want to survive retirement with your spouse.)

Investment Performance

Couple smiling while planning for financial future
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I know someone who is extremely successful. He seems to have it all together with a great career and family life.

You want to know his dark secret? While he has amassed significant savings, he doesn’t have those assets invested — at all! And, worst of all, he doesn’t have a plan for putting that money to work.

You need to be invested. You need your money to grow. (It actually loses value if it is not at least keeping pace with inflation.)

It is really important that you focus on developing and executing a comprehensive investment plan.

This is not something that everyone can competently do on their own. It is very reasonable to get help.

Tips for Improving Your Investment Performance

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Here are some ideas for adopting a planning mindset and improving your investment performance:

Read just one article. Make one phone call to talk with an adviser. Do one thing, and you are adopting a planning mindset and will be on your way to a happier future.


Older woman sitting at her desk comparing the best cell phone plans to save money
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Long gone are the days when everyone worked for one company, collected a steady paycheck and retired with a pension.

Today’s work environment really requires a planning mindset. Work is more fluid and flexible and this can be a great thing.

More and more retirees are finding retirement jobs, working part time and/or doing things they actually love doing.

Adopt a Planning Mindset

Woman thinks about her plans
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We talk so much at NewRetirement about creating a plan. And, the reality is that maybe a lot of people think that means a one-time event. Maybe we need to starting saying: adopt a planning mindset.

Creating a plan is indeed a process. You start by getting organized. And then you tweak and tune and find ways to improve your finances. Finally, you keep everything updated and continue to make adjustments.

Adopt a planning mindset. Happy Planning! Happy Retirement!

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