This is a question I get fairly often and for a lot of people, the common-sense answer would be “as fast as possible.” However, sometimes it is necessary to walk rather than run, especially when you’re in uncertain waters.
When to Slow Down
Let’s say you’re expecting a child. There are a lot of uncertainties with that, primarily medical costs. The cost of my wife’s first pregnancy was about 3x more than her second. With the pregnancy, we had more ultrasounds and we were also in the hospital six days instead of two. This would clearly be a good place to slow down, maybe not completely press pause, but slow down and maybe boost your savings a little more until you’re out of the woods. When a loved one is passing away and the expense is unknown, that would be another good reason to slow down, too.
This may involve paying less on your debt and getting closer to the minimums. It may also involve reducing the money your putting towards investing, your kids’ college, or your big emergency fund. The good news is, when your wife and child get home, you can put all of that money back into your plan when you get the all clear.
Everything in finance is about circumstance. That is why I wrote my financial plan the way I did. Not everything is fixed and that’s because life is not fixed.
Coming Back from a Slowdown
This is critical. Bouncing back after you’ve pressed pause is key. It can be hard to gain that momentum again but that is why I always ask people “What are your goals with this financial plan?” That way they have a motivating factor to look at and it isn’t some random goal of just wanting to “do better”.
The best way to come back from a slowdown is to take the money you saved and drop it right into the Move that you are on. It may feel strange at first, but you’ll pick up the rhythm and before you know, you’ll be back on track.
Unfortunately, people use slowdowns as an excuse to jump off the train and give up. A death in the family, a life event, or any change, really, can trigger someone and before you know it, they are back racking up debt and in the old lifestyle. This is why it is important to make sure you’re plugged into some accountability. Whether it is a friend, a person at church, or even RTM.
Accountability is what gets people across the finish line. That is what helps to motivate you when you’re down.
I’m not much for general statements. I want people to get through their financial plan quickly but also wisely and sometimes that means doing things that are counterintuitive, like slowing down. But in those slowdowns, you may find a better grip and even more power to explode and knock out all your goals once you pick up the pace again. Don’t underestimate the power of practicality and taking a breather. I even recommend people taking one month every now and then and revaluating their budget, thoroughly, to make sure things haven’t changed and everyone’s interests and goals are still the same. A lot can happen in a year.
Sometimes the answer is walk; sometimes the answer is run, and if you’re paying attention, you’ll know when to go fast and when to slow down.