What’s the Problem You’re Trying To Fix?
The presenting problems that prospective clients bring here mostly center around quantity and quality. That is, in many cases, long-term financial priorities outstrip the available financial resources (quantity); or the financial assets aren’t aligned with what matters most to them (quality).
Oftentimes, prospective clients know on the inside that they have these financial maladies, but their external behavior masks the problem. They might use phrases like “I should have enough” when asked if their finances can sustain their lifestyle for decades. They know this is likely untrue but don’t know how to change the inevitable outcome.
Additionally, when reviewing the quality of their investment assets they often say things like “we bought this from our former next-door neighbor who was a broker” or “they told us we could cash out when we needed to, but now we find out we can’t.” From poor diversification, to high costs, to lack of liquidity…we’ve seen it all!
A House Divided?
It’s common for one spouse to be more interested in the financial planning process than the other. With some exceptions, the more interested spouse is usually the wife. This makes sense since women tend to outlive men and therefore need the money to last longer. Women also conceptualize risk and security issues differently than men which motivates them to seek help (as we know, men don’t even like to ask for directions). At the end of the day, it’s critically important that couples agree on the action steps needed to solve problems or the process will be doomed.
In broad terms, financial planning is a battle between today and tomorrow. That is, to clear up a future problem, you have to break through the inertia that is keeping your current financial life squarely stuck in the status quo. You have to make changes and changes are always hard.
Roadblocks on Your Course
Of course, there are always roadblocks along the way that can challenge your resolve and distract your focus. These challenges are why we see many clients with good intentions to “right their financial ship” drift off course if everything doesn’t line up exactly as planned. Willingness to make adjustments along the way is an underrated component of solving long-term financial problems.
Don’t Skip Steps
In our short attention span challenged world, it’s easy to want problems of all types to be solved immediately; it’s easy to think you can just skip a few steps. You need to accumulate more resources for the future, but you want to skip over the “save/invest more” step and focus on finding higher returns. It won’t work. Don’t skip steps.
One of my favorite Peloton instructors, Hannah Frankson, often says “this may not be what you want, but it’s what you need.” You may not want to forgo some current consumption in favor of saving/investing more, but if you have a retirement funding gap, it’s what you need.
The financial problems of tomorrow are solved by actions that you take today. My advice is to make these steps small at first, perhaps very small in order to start changing the dynamic. Then, realize that your financial plan can’t be a “set it and forget it” type situation. You need to assess current reality from time to time and make changes accordingly.
The ultimate solution to most long-term financial problems isn’t found in an investment or insurance product. Instead, it’s found in a reality-based financial planning process focused on what matters most to you. Start there.