We can't yet step into a booth and whisk ourselves away into the distant past or future -- but thanks to Forbes magazine, we can now communicate with ourselves at a later date. In other words, we can help our future selves time-travel back to today!
Here's the deal. The magazine is offering to process what it calls an "Email Time Capsule." You enter your email address, type yourself a message, and decide whether you want it delivered in 1, 3, 5, 10 or 20 years. It's not guaranteed that it will work (after all, will email even exist in 20 years?), but the magazine is taking some steps to maximize the chances of success. You'd better choose an email address you expect to have for a long time, though.
(Brief tangent: Did you know that you may be able to set up a "permanent" email address via an organization such as your alma mater? For example, if you attended Wartburg College, it may offer to create an address something like firstname.lastname@example.org. Many schools now offer this service for free. When you set this up, you include your preferred email address that you use right now, and any mail sent to the alumni address is forwarded to it. The benefit is that if you change your email address later, you can just change the address to which your alumni address forwards your email. You won't need to alert everyone to your new address -- just your school.)
But back to your time capsule. What might you write to your future self? Here are some ideas:
- Recap what you did yesterday. Include what you ate and where, where you went, who you saw, what you did, and perhaps how you felt about events of the day. In fact, you might even mention what's been in the news and on your mind lately.
- Describe your state of mind today. Have you been happy? Depressed? Are you looking for a new job? In love? Trying to start a family or plan a trip? What are your worries, your delights, things that make you laugh?
- List your current favorite things -- books, movies, TV shows, music albums, websites, magazines, etc. that you've greatly enjoyed.
- List your goals. This is a way to be accountable to yourself. Include financial goals, too. Twenty years from now, you may have begun your retired life -- or may be very close to it. Tell yourself what steps you're taking now to better position yourself for retirement. Tell yourself what else you plan to do. Spell out how much you aim to have saved. Then, in 20 years, see how well you did.
- Report on your stock and fund portfolio. List what you own and why you bought into each investment. Include its current value, though you may want to just include a value per share, not the value of all your shares. For each holding, explain what you expect to do with it and what you expect to get out of it. For example, you might say that you bought shares of the Washington Post
(NYSE:WPO)for around $750 each recently, impressed by the company's diversification away from traditional newsprint. You might add that you think the company will continue to expand into more profitable arenas, such as education and online communications, and that you plan to hold the shares indefinitely. Alternatively, maybe you'll write that you bought shares of Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT)for around $50 per share because they seemed undervalued, and that you planned only to hold them until they hit $60, figuring that such a big company just won't be able to grow as rapidly as smaller firms.
- You might even detail your dream portfolio. If, for example, you've long wanted to own shares of Starbucks
(NASDAQ:SBUX), but it always seems like it's priced too high, just include it in your ideal portfolio. List all the stocks you hope you'll find in your portfolio in 10 or 20 years. Then see how it compares with your actual portfolio at that time. Who knows? You might find a buying opportunity for Starbucks in five years.
- Consider telling yourself how you're investing, too. If you subscribe to and get ideas from newsletters such as ours (which you can try for free and which have rather impressive track records), say so. If you've been experimenting with stock screening, seeking out low-P/E large-cap stocks, say so. This may help you in the future, if you ever wonder what you were thinking in the past, and how you found the stocks you did.
Once you fire off your message to yourself, take action -- at least if you've promised yourself that you'll be making smart financial decisions now, to help yourself in the future. We can help with this. You'll find many helpful tips in our Rule Your Retirement newsletter, which is delivered monthly, full of inspiring stories and practical advice. Try it for free.
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Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of the Washington Post Co. The Fool has a disclosure policy.