Why do we invest?

It’s not because we want to own one of the Top 10 mutual funds of the day, or so we can talk with our coworkers about what happened in the market.

Several people recently have asked me whether I should buy this mutual fund or that stock. But that’s getting things out of order or upside down.

If you think of a pyramid, the foundation is the plan. You have to have a plan to know what you really want to accomplish with the money. The middle section of the pyramid is the process — what you need to go through in order to achieve those planning goals. And at the top of the pyramid is the product. It doesn’t mean the products aren’t important. We should only have great merchandise, but that’s not the focus.

You have to know where you’re wanting to get to before you figure out what process do I go through and what products do I use. It’s like if you’re going on a trip. You can’t decide whether you’re going to take a plane, train or automobile if you don’t even know where you’re going.

You have to keep the focus correct. It’s not about do I buy this or do I buy that. It’s where do you want to get to.

If you’re still working, it’s how I get to that retirement age. How do you create a plan to provide increasing income security that you cannot outlive, no matter how long you live? And then hopefully, if things work out well, you can also leave a nice legacy behind for the people that you love.

But the No. 1 goal is to make sure you don’t have life left at the end of the money.

So where is it that you really want to go? You have to start there, and then go through a process that helps you figure out how to get there. The products just fill in the holes. Yes, we use great merchandise, but don’t get upside down and focus on the wrong things.

You have to know where you want to go before you can get there.