In 1993, AT&T had a series of ads called “You Will.” In the ads AT&T posed the question, “Have you ever?” and followed up that question with a number of scenarios we thought were crazy in 1993. Here are a couple of examples, “Have you ever driven across the country without stopping for directions?” Meanwhile, the ad showed a screen on the center console of the car with a voiced navigation screen. “Have you ever paid a toll without slowing down?” the voiceover says as a car passes through the toll moving fast. “Have you ever sent a fax from the beach?” the voiceover says while the commercial views a man on a beach writing words on a digital tablet and pressing send. AT&T was uncannily accurate in their prediction of the future 20 years later. Getting people to prepare for the future was a great business strategy.
How about a 20-year plan for your family? Your kids will be grown and gone. You may be a grandparent at that point. You’ll probably be looking back over your life wondering how time flew so fast. You can put yourself in a great position then by implementing the 10 ways to plan for your family 20 years from now and achieve your family goals.
1. Live like we mean it today.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s not. Jesus told a great story about a man who spent every waking hour accumulating things for the future and building increasingly bigger sheds to put it all in. Unfortunately, he never got to see ’20 years into the future.’ If we’re careful to live like we mean it today, then we’re building a solid foundation for years.
2. Practice balance.
Wisdom is not having to go to the store for milk right before breakfast. Living like we mean it today includes appropriate planning for tomorrow. Today balanced with tomorrow, family relationships balanced against making a living. Find that balance because it won’t find you.
3. Spend less than you earn—every month.
This is a simple guideline with complex repercussions. Digging out of debt is like building a wall with dry sand—more than half of each shovel load comes right back down. First, stabilize your spending. Second, pay off the debt. Remember that you will pay more interest on your debt than you can earn from your savings. Now you can build for the future.
4. Invest yourself in your children.
Here’s the math (don’t worry, it’s fairly painless!). Parental neglect to your five-year-old + a couple of years = 40% of the child’s life. But if you turn things around now, by the time he’s ten you’ll have been the world’s best dad forever. The more years we let slip away, the deeper in the hole relationships become. It is like negative interest compounded daily. Simply put, today is the right time to be a great dad. You’ll have that investment 20 years down the road and in spades.
5. Make the tough choices today.
– Don’t say, “I’ll spend time with my kids next year…,” invest in family time today.
– Don’t deal with your distant relationship with your wife “once we’ve got the kids settled in school…,” face the music before the damage solidifies.
– Don’t say, “we’ll take care of us, the budget or our priorities after the kids go to college…,” bite the bullet now.
6. Love your wife eloquently.
Too many parents neglect one another in favor of the kids. Big mistake. Your best gift to your children today is to love their mother. If you’re divorced, handle that one by offering respect and support. No matter how old the kids are today they’ll be young adults in 20 years. Two decades of love and respect are the best preparation for whatever’s in store around 2033.
7. Build memories that will make you smile.
This is a direct offshoot of 1-5 above. We may or may not live in this neighborhood, at this income level, or in this physical health in twenty years, but our family will have these memories to last a lifetime.
8. Never give up (No Ordinary Family).
Ordinary families struggle. Struggle is part of the definition of life, but you can be no ordinary family too. It’s how we respond to challenges that determines what the family looks like twenty years from now. For family, faithfulness is more than just a physical discipline—it’s a modus operandi. This is teaching our children well.In families, time accelerates as it moves forward. Tomorrow is never a substitute for today.
9. Always believe.
Family is first conceived in the context of promise. Belief in the power (and the value) of promise is a critical element of living in the light. However, belief is seldom written in indelible ink, it needs to be re-etched—deliberately, repeatedly, and together.
10. Re-learn how to tell time.
Analog? Digital? 24-hour? Greenwich-Mean-Time? None of the above? Chronological time is not what it appears to be. Family time is not that simple, either. In families, time accelerates as it moves forward. Tomorrow is never a substitute for today.
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “If you were to make a bucket list of things you’d want to do, what would be on it?”