Earlier this week, my post on applying SWOT analysis to your personal finances got a lot of attention. Some of you got flashbacks to business school, and the rest of you were intrigued to discover a unique way to look at your money.
Before we move on to another very focused section of a business plan–the profit and loss table–let’s take a much broader approach today. I’m talking about the Executive Summary–the business plan’s most general look at the intended operations of a company.
The intent of the executive summary is to live up to its namesake by providing a short, broad overview of the entire plan. It’s a quick reference to its contents, and many parts of it may be completed even after the rest of the plan is written.
Personal Finance Application
Applying the concept of the executive summary to personal finance is not a big stretch. It’s a natural culmination of your goals, established priorities, benchmarks and timetables. As such, you need to do a little leg work before you get to take advantage of going through this exercise.
If you’re well established with your financial goals and have done a great deal of introspection about your money, getting started with a draft of your executive summary should be a piece of cake.
If you’re a newcomer to the world of financial priorities, consider some of the following concepts I’ve written about previously:
- The Basics of Setting Financial Priorities
- 7 Ways to Find Your Financial Heart
- Optimizing Your Contact With Money
- What’s Your Reason for Working?
- Forget Business! Do You Need a Business Plan?
- How to Set Joint Financial Goals With Your Partner
- Using Life Roles to Organize Your Budget
- Hurricanes and Planning for Financial Disaster
- X Marks the Spot: Navigating Financial Treasure Maps
Once you’re ready to get started, let’s take a look at some of the components of a good executive summary:
The objectives list is one of the first things defined in any business plan, and amounts to what is essentially a major goals list. In my personal experience, I’ve found that a bullet-list approach works best, itemizing what you hope to accomplish in your financial life.
If you’re looking for a little help getting started, here are a few ideas:
- Considering your entire lifespan, what are the major financial goals you hope to accomplish?
- What income levels do you want to reach and by when?
- What are some other benchmarks you’d like to set for yourself?
- Do these benchmarks or other goals have a specific time line?
- Are some of your major goals multi-step? If so, what are the major components?
- What relationships would you like to establish?
Writing a financial mission statement is not only very personal, but very difficult. A complicated analysis of the various methods you can employ to draft a mission statement deserves its own future post.
Let me briefly talk about some of the basics of a financial mission. A well-written mission is usually short, dense, and meaningful. Most importantly, it should be highly motivating every time you read it. Other than that, almost anything goes. It usually takes a few tries to get the format and content “almost there.”
Here are a few starting considerations when writing your first mission draft:
- Looking at life as a whole, what do you consider to be your primary financial objective?
- What are your major career and family goals in life?
- What do you hope to accomplish in your lifetime and how will money play a role?
- What do you believe are your major skills and ways you can contribute to the world?
- What exists at the intersection of all of your financial goals, objectives, and skills?
- How do you view money and the place and function it holds in your life?
Check out my full-length post for more on writing mission statements.
Your Keys to Success
These are things that will make or break your efforts to fulfill your mission and objectives. Many of them deal with both personal characteristics and external forces.
Think back to last post’s Strengths and Opportunities sections. They defined what you were good at and what doors were open for you. At the same time, the Weaknesses and Threats sections defined what you should look out for. Both are great places to start as you begin to think about your keys to success.
Here are a few things to consider:
- What are the most important characteristics of your primary income streams?
- What are the important skills you have to offer to the world?
- What are the largest pitfalls you must avoid to succeed?
- What are your worst (and best) financial habits that need to go (or stay)?
- Who are your most important relationships? In what ways can future relationships help you further your goals? With whom?
- How are you different from everyone else?
The Executive Summary
One of the last tasks in any good business plan is writing the introduction to the summary section, or what can be thought of as “the” executive summary–a short overview that is even more concise than the other three sections described above.
What makes up a good introduction? Hit the very key points of every other section and you’ve done it right. Get to the core of what will make your plan tick and help you accomplish your end goal. If you’re verbose, give yourself an arbitrary limit – perhaps 5 sentences.
A good executive summary introduction will read like an abbreviated mission statement.
Remember the ultimate goal in writing the executive summary – to provide a quick-reference and concise summary of your most important financial priorities. If it’s too long or too meandering, it will lose its effectiveness and waste your time. Maintain your focus and keep the end goal in mind.
Have you tried working on some of the sections of the executive summary? Would you like to share your experience? Check out the comments section and post your thoughts.
Don’t miss my last post of the series next week, when I discuss applying the profit and loss table to your home finances.