“Be Prepared” is the Scout motto. It is the foundation that guides these boys in almost all their scouting activities. Thinking ahead and considering potential contingencies that may likely occur is the key to safety and enjoying themselves, even if camping and hiking conditions are less than perfect. Successful campouts begin with planning—what to do, what to eat, what to wear, what to pack and what to do in case of emergency.
I have been an Assistant Scoutmaster for a local Scout Troop for more than 14 years. In that time, I’ve watched dozens of young teens build confidence in the process of planning for a camping experience. The skills they develop in preparing for a weekend in the wilderness carry with them for their adult lives. There are similarities between planning for a campout and planning for a secure financial future.
What to do. Hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming, rock climbing snow-shoeing, or fishing? What are the activities that the patrol wants to do in their trip?
As you consider what you want to achieve in your work life, your family life, and your retirement, what are the “must haves”? Start a business, pass down family values, retire at age 60, or give of your time and talents as a volunteer for causes that you’re passionate about? The clearer you can be in what your vision for a well-lived life would be, the more likely you can align your plans to achieve your vision. Consider what’s possible and what you can be doing to make the vision a reality.
What to eat. Before camping, patrols gather together and plan out a menu. Every meal to be prepared is broken down to ensure they are well balanced and a shopping list and budget per Scout is developed for all ingredients and meal items. Scouts learn that it’s better to spend budgeted dollars on a better cut of meat and buy generic sandwich cookies for dessert. Scouts take turns doing the shopping for each campout, so everyone has a chance to develop these skill sets.
In your current financial life, do you know what your spending looks like? Are you disciplined enough to spend money on your needs before spending on wants? Do your investment and retirement accounts have a healthy balance of different sectors and asset classes? Have you analyzed how much you can safely spend in retirement to avoid running out of money?
What to wear. Prior to heading out for a weekend in the wild, Scouts are encouraged to search for the weather forecast for their destination location for the period they will be in the elements. They then can pack accordingly—raingear, boots, extra socks, long underwear, or sunblock and swimsuit. The climate dictates what goes into the backpack. On a winter campout, forgetting warm gloves, a hat, or boots can make the weekend uncomfortable. Likewise, only bringing long pants and sweatshirts for a camping trip in mid-summer may cause the Scout to get heat stroke.
Your financial wardrobe includes items like where to live, how much college support to provide children, where you choose to work, how often to vacation and what kind of automobiles meet your needs. Be considerate when you “pack” your financial bag. Pack too much and you’ll likely be dragged down by a pack that becomes a burden. Don’t pack enough and you may find yourself with regrets and missed opportunities.
What to pack. Scouts keep a “daypack” that keeps the items that they need throughout the day. In the daypack, they keep a mess kit, water bottle, first aid kit, their Scout handbook, a headlamp, a whistle, compass, pocket knife, bug spray and sunscreen. These are the basics they need wherever they go. They also need to pack items for their trip for their safety and comfort—a tent, a lantern, sleeping bag and bed roll. Cook boxes are packed with camp stoves, pots, pans and cooking utensils. Forgetting any of these items, and the campout will surely be memorable, but not in a good way.
Your financial life should have necessities packed as well. Some of the key items needed for your financial life trip are proper life and disability insurance coverage, a well though out estate plan, and emergency savings fund and a financial plan to guide your key life decisions regarding money matters.
What to do in case of emergency. Well in advance of the outings, Scouts work on different rank advancements and merit badges that will be important to their safety and that can be crucial to know if there’s an emergency. They learn about weather conditions, first aid, lifesaving, knot tying, water safety, and practice scenarios they may encounter. They don’t want bad things to happen, but when presented with a difficult situation, they will be prepared.
Similarly, our lives are constantly changing and events out of our control sometimes occur. Walk through potential scenarios like the need for long term care or chronic health condition, the premature death of a spouse, or job loss, a care crisis for family members or yourself and decide with a clear head how you would get through that challenge. If you can plan for the worst and hope for the best, enjoying the day to day may be easier. If your scenario doesn’t align with what you would want to happen, making changes before reality strikes will help you be better prepared.
Scouts understand that situations they find themselves in may not be optimal. They learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable for the time-being. They also know that proper preparation can make a huge difference between being comfortable and miserable.