Building Castles in the Air

by | August 21, 2020 | General | 0 comments

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

— Henry David Thoreau

“Push your pencil.”

— Shirley Kaplinger, (Brian’s high school math teacher)

This is such a difficult time for all of us, and we’re traveling without a roadmap. Our world has been permanently altered. We confront new realities on an almost daily basis. But sometimes, the jolt of upheaval allows us to see the world anew. With a certain focus and perspective, silver linings appear. We see this in our own daily lives. We also see this in our work, and in the lives of those in our community. People are looking through a new lens.  The initial shock has given way to creative thinking about life — about how we want to live, now. We are questioning what is possible. And what is important.

For a financial planner, empowering others with the knowledge of what is possible — and with the tools to get there from here — is one of the most rewarding experiences we can have. It’s why we always Help First. We measure our success in personal breakthroughs for the people we work with, and no time has been more primed for personal breakthroughs than right now.

So — if you’ve got a creative idea about how you want to pivot…a vision for how you might spend the next year, or recreate the direction of your life entirely…if you and your spouse or partner can’t seem to find the framework to talk about it…if you’re stressed — or worse — just giving up on your ideas because they don’t seem possible, PLEASE get a financial plan.  As my high school math teacher always said, “push your pencil”, dig in, and see what’s possible.  We have found that the reality is usually far less daunting than what we imagine. And the process is often just as rewarding as the result. Financial stress weighs heavily on all of us and its favorite tactics are fear and doubt.  But a great plan isn’t built on hope and butterflies. Clarity and facts, as you assess a truly creative life change, can produce an almost surreal sense of empowerment.

Here are a few recent examples of plans that brought us joy and empowered a few people to move toward their best life now.  We hope they also inspire you to take the opportunity in this crisis, and to put the foundations under your castles in the air!

Moving out of the city

A solid financial plan that included working in NYC, a beach house, and two kids shifted to a move out of the city sooner and recalibration of the path ahead.  Could they afford to move out now, potentially earn a little less, and go ahead and purchase the beach house as their primary residence?  What we discovered by going through the process was that the lower cost of living outside of the city, and the elimination of a second house by making the beach house their primary home, actually ended up being better for them financially than their initial “dream” plan.  Having done the work to have a plan in place, when they walked into their dream house on a whim one day, they had the confidence to move forward — even in the midst of a chaotic real estate market.

Taking a sabbatical

Our 24/7 world makes burnout a very real possibility.  We worked with a couple experiencing that reality, who were wondering how a year off to travel and homeschool their kids would look.  We ran scenarios for how long it might take to get back to work, while perhaps even earning less. We looked at other possibilities too.  Even with a conservative lens (longer to return to work, earning less) we helped them realize that they could afford to take the time, in their early 40s while the kids were still young.  They came back recharged and re-engaged, with a lifetime of memories and a completely different perspective.  It has meant more success, less wasted expenses, and they’ve exceeded their plan at every turn — not by restricting themselves, but by living more fully.

Stepping up to help others

Many of us these days feel the pull to do more — to speak up for those who need help, and to give to organizations that are making an impact.  We recently worked with a couple to shift their financial plan so that they could be more charitable now instead of later in life or through their estate.  We helped them navigate the appropriate charitable vehicles and introduced resources for how to give effectively and in-line with their personal values. This kind of empowerment helps more than just the people we do the planning with — it lifts a whole community.

Starting a new business

So many people these days are waking up and re-examining what they do for a living. This is a time when straight work — absent a deeper meaning — can feel incredibly disorienting for some. When we were approached by clients who wondered if they could afford to make a dramatic change in career and move across the country, we dove in.  He was planning to join a start-up company and defer compensation until it got off the ground. While they figured they could go without earning money for a year, maybe two, the plan showed significantly more flexibility.  The result was buying down to a lower cost of living, lower taxes, and the opportunity to engage in a “dream job”. Our work also gave them a much better sense of their housing and travel budget – which empowered them to look for their “forever home,” instead of just a stop-gap solution.

Getting positioned to invest in the recovery

A slightly different twist on this chaotic time is those that are eager to invest in opportunities created as we emerge.  But how much can be set aside and how do we think about the interplay between opportunistic investment in real estate or a distressed business, versus the need for a core portfolio built to ensure that basic living needs are provided for in the interim?  We built the plan with them and created a strategic framework to think through opportunities and to provide more clarity around what an attractive investment opportunity looks like.  We found that adding a structure of discipline and patience to an entrepreneurial mindset can create a very powerful combination.


Helping people to not only imagine new realities, but to achieve them — this is the stuff that gets us up in the morning. So what’s your pivot? We’d love to hear about it. If you’re ready to take the next step and build the foundation for your own castles in the air, we’d love to assist. That’s what our Help First process was built for. We’ll dive in, help you build the plan, and revise it until you’ve got a clear view of the path forward — no cost to you, and no sales. Just help.

If you’re interested, you can learn more here:



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