Some People Go to the State Fair and See Their Financial Life in Front of Them

It’s time for the State Fair! I bet you didn’t realize that the Great Minnesota Get-Together is not only a referendum on gastric extravaganzas, but on financial planning as well.

Think of the entrance fee to the fair as the price we pay for anything worthwhile — education, stock market gains, experiences. Everything has its price, so the fundamental financial planning question is whether the expected payoff is worth the cost. We may snipe at the cost to get into the fair, but we generally feel it is worth it.

If you love to eat your way through the fair, think of your vast options as diversification. Unless you sit at the all-you-can-drink milk booth for the day, you are going to experience a multitude of tastes. You may like the roasted corn more than the french fries, but each does different things for you. That’s the premise of diversification.

A variety of investments over long periods of time perform similarly, but over shorter periods they perform differently (except in bear markets where everything causes a stomach ache). Owning these various investments insure that your investments will never do as well as the best category nor as poorly as the worst. This menu helps you have more predictable returns over time.

The animal barns are the best example of everyday living. They are messy. Likewise, no matter how buttoned-up you think you have your financial planning, there is something that will go wrong. You want to have enough confidence in your planning so that when the unexpected arises, you make adjustments. Financial planning does not eliminate uncertainty. It helps you handle it.

On most nights, the grandstand is your retirement community. Look around and there are a bunch of people with some similar interests. When we reach that stage where we slow down from work and our kids and grandkids have developed lives of their own, we want to be in a place with people who like many of the same things we do. Planning for community is critical for healthy and happy aging.

The games on the midway are meme stocks. Meme stocks are those crazy things some people invest in that have little intrinsic value, provide a lot of excitement and can pay off big if you are lucky. And if you see people walking around carrying giant stuffed animals, you may for a moment have some envy, but you are disregarding all those who are walking around with their pockets emptied. While you may be the one person who can get that stupid bottle to stand up, for most of us, the cost is much higher than the benefit.

When you go to the fair, look around and think about your financial plans … or just pull up a chair at a beer garden and forget about it for a while.

Related: When Talking About Money, Many People Could Use a Do-Over