What Does a One-Page Plan Look Like?

Carl Richards One Page Financial Plan

“If it’s a one-page financial plan, then why isn’t the book only one page?”

I’ve heard this joke a few times since the publication of The One-Page Financial Plan.

While it does make me laugh, the joke actually highlights something I think is really important. I could have written a book with a single page and said this financial plan is for everyone, except for one simple reason.

I can’t predict or tell you what matters most to you. Without that knowledge, I certainly can’t tell you what your goals should be 10, 20, or even 30 years from now.

You have to figure out those answers for yourself. But people can have a hard time knowing what questions to ask, let alone the answers to those questions. So even though it required more than one page, I wanted to make sure you understood how to build your own one-page plan.

All of this leads up to a second question I’ve heard a lot: What does your plan look like?

The exact plan that sits on my desk is the sketch for this week. Anytime I face a big decision, I look at the list my wife and I created. We weigh our options and make decisions that fit our goals. But getting to this point didn’t come easy.

I had to let go of the idea that I needed “details.” It turns out, however, that the one-page plan isn’t really about details. Instead, it reminds me of what I value most, and helps me make decisions that keep me focused on those values.

Of course, the details matter, but at a much later point in the decision-making process. We only muddy the waters if we focus on details, or tactics, first instead of our overall plan.

For instance, the first question I need to ask about any decision involves the potential impact on items one, two, and three. If I can’t say that the choice I’m considering aligns with those three things, then does it really matter if I have my exact portfolio allocation at my fingertips? It’s only after the potential choice makes the first cut that I need to look at the details.

For me, I think of my one-page plan as the gatekeeper for my financial life. Nothing gets through unless it fits with what I value most. The same thing applies to you and your plan.

Plus, you don’t have to live with it for life. I know that my wife and I will revisit our plan after our kids finish school. Something else we value will take the place of that goal eventually.

The most important thing to remember about this process is that it’s about you. It’s about what’s important to you. It’s about what’s important to your family. The things that end up on your one-page plan should reflect what matters most to you. If you feel like sharing, I’d love to see your plans. Just send an email with an image attached to hello@behaviorgap.com.

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Will you try something for me real quick?

Make a mental list of the things you REALLY want to be spending your money on. You know, things you value deeply. My list includes security, time with my family, and service in my community.

Now, gently compare that list to the way you ACTUALLY spend your money.

If you’re human, that exercise probably hurt a little bit because there is almost always a gap between what we value and how we spend our money.

I’ve been exploring that gap for 20 years, and closing it is the focus of my work.

“Carl gets the relationship between money and feelings better
than anyone on the planet.”
– Ron Lieber, New York Times

If that sounds interesting to you… you’ve come to the right place.

I've spent years looking for the best way to share my work. I’ve tried Twitter, Facebook Groups, blogging with comments, courier pigeons… everything. I've come to realize that nothing beats a well-crafted letter delivered to your inbox once a week and your ability to hit reply and start a conversation.

So each week I send a short email discussing topics like money, creativity, and happiness along with a simple sketch. And if I get it right, it will take you less than two minutes to read, but you'll be thinking about it all day.

"I love Carl's hand-drawn sketches. They feel so personal and immediate… like he couldn't wait to scrawl down whatever insight had just popped into that lightning-fast brain of his…"

– Kara Cutruzzula, Brass Ring Daily

So join the thousands of readers of my Weekly Letter. There’s no spam, I never share your information, and it’s free.