Get your backpack, plan for retirement and enjoy the journey

By Ron Stokes

I am a backpacker (noun).  That is, I regularly hike or travel carrying everything I may need in a backpack. I backpack (verb) because I love being outside and exploring areas best seen on foot.  I am also a CPA (nerd) and I am forced to spend extended periods of time indoors in an office.  I love backpacking.  I also love (love-hate) my profession – especially when I get to help others improve their financial quality of life.  It feeds my soul to be able to turn off the spreadsheets, throw on my backpack and head into the wilderness.

Interestingly, I draw many parallels between backpacking and business and personal financial planning.  I started thinking about this in detail during a recent multi-day trip on the Appalachian Trail (the A.T.).  I was feeling a bit guilty about being on the trail on a weekday (to beat the crowds, as I was in a popular area of the A.T.), instead of being in the office.

I quickly pushed that thought out of my mind and started thinking about how my favorite hobby may be preparing me to be a better CPA and perhaps a more well-rounded person.  It certainly has provided new and more interesting conversations with others, rather than leading with something like, “how about that new tax plan?”

Backpacking and financial planning – The following elements are required in both (or proceed at your own risk/peril):

  1. Set goals
  2. Location/location/location
  3. Simplify
  4. Make a plan and follow it
  5. Secure permits
  6. Be prepared
  7. Have a budget
  8. Secure resources
  9. Gather the right people
  10. Plan for emergencies/risks
  11. Know your limits
  12. Have fun/enjoy the journey
  13. Be respectful of your environment
  14. Be accountable
  15. Have a mentor/become an expert
  16. Have a backup plan
  17. Have an exit strategy
  18. One step at a time
  19. Keep your objective in view
  20. Learn from your mistakes and celebrate your successes

Get out of the office every now and then – think and be self-sufficient, test your limits, have an experience or two you can talk about with others.  Whether you are a fellow CPA, a teacher, a stay-at-home mom or dad, or an executive– you will learn more about yourself and the world around you.  Just make sure you have a plan!

Ronald W. Stokes is a certified public accountant and personal financial specialist in Decatur.