The Futility of Planning

It is considered a prudent, sensible and an admirable thing to have a plan. Aesop’s fable: The practical ant slogging out in summer planning for the winter while the grasshopper just sits around singing in the sun. Once winter sets in, the poor grasshopper coming around hat in hand begging for food, the ant having the satisfaction of saying “I told you so”. 

HOGWASH! Long-range plans engender a dangerous belief that the future is under control. I can sit here today and make a fairly reliable prediction of next week’s value of my wealth. Even this could go ridiculously wrong. The markets could collapse or I could meet with an accident and wipe out my bank balance. Still, I feel fairly comfortable planning a week ahead. Visibility may not be great, but tolerable.

A month ahead, the visibility dims markedly. A year ahead, it is fogged, almost opaque. Ten years….Twenty years….there is NO visibility at all. What is waiting for us out there is entirely unknowable. If you can’t know what you’re planning for, how can you construct a sensible plan?

To plan for a future one cannot see, seems ludicrous. Yet insurance salesmen, investment counsellors and other experts urge us to go on planning. A plan is a lifelong illusion of order. “Experts” who sell you twenty-year plans talk as though the money world is an orderly place that changes very slowly and predictably. They see the financial world basically as an extension of the present one, arriving at these reassuring conclusions by observing current trends and extending them in the future. All very tidy, allowing concoction of long-range plans.

It is ridiculous to think that you can see the world’s future simply by extrapolating today’s trends. Some of these trends will peter out or reverse themselves. New unforeseen trends will spring into existence. Booms and busts, upheavals, wars, crashes and collapses, who knows what we have in store for us.

people discuss about graphs and rates

That being so, why make long-term plans? They will only get in your way. Instead of attempting to organize your affairs to accommodate unknowable events in the future, react to events as they unfold in the present. When you see opportunities, go for them. When you see danger, jump out of the way.

As regards money, the only long-range plan you need is an intention to get rich. Exactly how you will achieve this is something you cannot know. I’m fond of the stock markets and am usually invested in it, so I assume my personal how will have something to do with this speculative world. But, that is all I know of my financial future and all I will ever attempt to know about it. The only preparation I can make therefore is to continue studying the market. That’s my plan. What’s yours?

Milan Sangani

Milan is a veteran stock market investor and educator on equity investing. Connect with him on