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Navigating the now

When you think about the saying; “Life happens while you’re busy making other plans” there’s a nostalgic feeling of days gone by, but when you think of it in the time of Covid-19, it completely loses its rosy shine.

I am a planner. Not just about what to wear tomorrow (although decisions like these have become less agonising as I gravitate towards a capsule wardrobe, and as webcam vantage points are forgiving to pyjama pants over lockdown), but what should I have for dinner and then dinner for the next fortnight, and then what will I want in 5 months, 5 years…? I like to plan; I think it’s built in.

It could be the industry I work in (you can’t hack PR on the fly, at least not all the time), but in my life I’ve always been surrounded by family who plan and think about the future. The specifics of my job centre around financial planning and why it is the only way to reach an affordable retirement.

That picture has changed too though. Retirement.

So many of us dreamed of early retirement coupled with minimalism (maybe even a tiny house), and now we can’t even go drop off our recycling. It’s so difficult to plan ahead and envisage the life you want / wanted when piles of recycling are growing in your garage. It symbolises being stuck, and then when you check your retirement annuity balance, you realise it’s possibly sinking sand you’ve landed in, not just your average murky puddle.

How does one manage this desire / pull to plan when there is no set environment to plan for (“anymore”)? Arguably retirement has always been like this (pre-pandemic); we can’t see what’s ahead, but we can plan for what we hope for. It’s very hard to sit tight on your long-term investments as they shrink during volatile times like these, as it is just as hard to imagine a holiday in Copenhagen (when can we travel again?). These are all impossible tasks to play out in a world where plans are being squashed every second, daily… and globally.

Not in my lifetime (perhaps ever) has there been a collective impact on all citizens of earth like this. We are all in the same boat, but it need not be the sinking ship we feel it could be. It’s important to keep planning, dreaming, and imagining the best outcome. But it’s also okay to take it a little easy.

Being kind to myself, by taking a break from planning (and just letting things ride, by not making any changes to my savings debit orders, etc.) has made me see the value in being present.

Being a planner often puts you in the future (you’re constantly thinking about the press release that needs to go out next week, or that webinar that media must be invited to). The same can be said for that worry about retirement savings not recovering. Time can heal and being present and patient is likely to pay off. Being more present has brought some peace for me. Having the basics in place in the background is the best I can do for now. I’m setting reminders for later and moving forward. I feel more productive this way and able to focus on work, and what I can plan for.

Managing the most pressing tasks while keeping my pantry stocked and ensuring my bank account balance looks healthy, are top priorities alongside the health of my family. Not spending money on going out, or clothes or petrol, or even frequent grocery trips makes for more presence in my budget. I am much more considerate in my purchases and what I think I should be saving for (money is precious, and thank you to online shopping, especially these days).

Actively managing my consumption and what I spend money on makes me feel more in control but also keeps me present by knowing what is happening in my budget right now. Often months can go by without reviewing a bank statement in detail, yet a key ingredient to financial success is to know where every rand is going. Like every rand should count, so should every day. We are in unchartered waters but at least we can choose to let the current take the reins for a bit. To not have to constantly plan can also make room for enjoying the ride.

I plan to take it one day at a time.

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