A friend told me last week that she and her husband had just completed their annual "State of the Union" meeting. 

Around the first of each year — while enjoying a leisurely dinner at a quiet restaurant — they review the year gone by and discuss the year ahead.

"I saw a blog post about this 'State of the Union' idea a few years ago, and we decided to start doing it," she told me.

They begin each annual session with a look back. "We talk about our goals from last year — what worked and what needs improvement. Then we pray for the new year. And we talk specifically about our marriage and about how we can pray for each other."

Next, they turn to finances — first reviewing their spending and saving over the past 12 months and then discussing adjustments for the new year. They take careful notes to ensure that talk leads to actions. "If you don't write down your goals, you're going to forget them," she said.

One item they discussed this year, I was told, was how to use the husband's recent pay raise. They agreed the increase should go toward their savings. (Within a few days of their meeting, they implemented that decision by setting up a repeating transfer of a specific dollar amount to a savings account.)

Next, their annual State of the Union talk turns to home improvement projects for the new year (most of them small, but occasionally a larger project, such as renovating a bathroom).

Finally, they discuss one-year and five-year goals for them as a couple and for their family, such as taking a vacation to a particular destination. (Those one-year and five-year goals are written out and hung on the refrigerator as regular reminders.)

Talking it through

I find the idea of having a "State of the Union" meeting once a year intriguing. My wife and I will have to try it (she'll certainly like the "leisurely dinner out" part)!

What about you? Do you and your spouse have an annual "look back/look ahead" session? Or do you use some other approach to planning? Tell us about it in the comments section.