Viewing entries tagged
life planning

How Does Your Door Fit?

Is by "design" or by "default?"

As I was reading Simon Sinek's recent offering, "Start With Why," a story he told early on in the book resonated with me, not only from the standpoint of entrepreneur/business owner but also from the perspective of wealth manager/advisor. 

It seems that a ways back,  some U.S. car manufacturers had visited a Japanese auto manufacturer and were watching the various tasks that were performed along the Japanese assembly line.  While much of the work was the same as "back home,"  the one thing the U.S.  delegation noticed that was missing,  was that in the U.S. there was a last person at the very end of the line who was tasked with whacking each car door with a rubber mallet to get the door to sit properly and line up with the overall body contour. 

When questioned about why step didn't exist in Japan,  the American's Japanese counterpart noted that "we design the doors to fit from the beginning, that's the difference." 

Many people treat their efforts at achieving financial success and as a result the life that they truly desire, in the same way as the American auto assembly line; they treat each and every financial transaction, be it, picking a money market account or deciding on an investment allocation for their 401k plan, about like a U.S. car door; whack it till it ultimately fits, even if it doesn't.

The "piecemeal"  approach is seldom ever going to be efficient and like the U.S. auto builders who had to pay a union worker to swing the mallet and purchase lots of rubber mallets for them to swing, generally, in the long run to be sure, it's going to be more much more expensive. 

Because we fail to choose a path to take, cobbling together financial assets and financial decisions seems the norm.  Without a well thought out plan, we have little context to balance our decisions against. Absent a well defined standard, almost everything is going to fit more-or-less, even if we have to hit it with a mallet to make it so. But the reality remains that it didn't really fit at all did it?

To be sure, it's one more thing checked off the list. But that doesn't make it either effective or right, does it?

The fact is, that on its surface, you'd have a hard time telling the folks with a well thought out plan and path from the ones without one. But, over time, as calamity and change have their influence, it wouldn't be hard to tell at all.  If you never had a plan, it'd be awful hard to stick to it. 

Set a course for your financial future and stick to it. Decide what you'll need to live the life you truly believe that you're entitled to based on a lifetime of work, then figure out how to get there.  There are steps, pragmatic and calculable ones, that put you on the right course. 

Find them. 

All You Really Need To Know.

Confusion is a good thing if you're fearful about moving forward. Confusion is one of the most reliable methods of ensuring you stay right where you are, without any requirement for change. 

When we're feeling especially fearful we focus on the uncertainties around us largely because those uncertainties fuel the confusion. And, keeping "confusion" active assures that we're likely to not take any direction action.

No matter how hard we try or how much analysis we look at, big decisions will never feel safe. 

One of the benefits of my work is the amount of data that there is that can be used in trying to help Clients resolve their personal financial issues. There are also an abundance of tools to use through which you can incorporate that data and fashion a reasoned and well thought out game plan.

Does that mean we should use all the data that there is?

We should if our goal is to create more confusion. 

Part of the "art" of Wealth Management planning lies in knowing how much data is the right amount of data.  As a rule, that would be the amount of data that allows for me to quantify why the "unacceptable today" has to be moved out of the way so that we can glimpse the "desired tomorrow." 

These concepts don't apply to only Wealth Management planning. They apply to all decisions of whatever kind. 

Taking action, beginning the steps toward resolution of a matter isn't going to begin with a focus on yesterday and tomorrow. You can talk about how you got here and where you'd like to be without ever once having to write down an action step. It all has to start from the realization that "today is an unacceptable tomorrow." 

All you really need to know is what's important now. 

If you can state that, you're on our way out of confusion and toward resolution and action.  

The Natural

In a recent blog post on The Financial Underground David Allen, world renowned productivity expert and founder of Getting Things Done (GTD) talks about a "natural" decision making process in personal finance. Unfortunately, he also talks about how we use this natural model in our day-to-day lives but fail to use it when it comes to big decisions. This weeks info-graphic lays out the natural method of solving for financial progress. 

It's Always Shark Week

I was reading through some of the blog posts from other authors that I’ve saved over the last few years. 

Seth Godin is one of my favorite writers. The title of one of his posts got me thinking about a corollary between his post and the realm of personal finance. 


“There’s More Than One Shark”

In your quest to build a life based on purpose you need to handle all the sharks. True, some sharks you will slay, some will be avoided and some will be tamed.  Honestly, some sharks may even be ignored, albeit those will be few. This is why “financial life planning” is what we do, because we want to raise client awareness of as many sharks as we can so that we can devise strategies and allocate resources to deal with them too. 

Is your career path and the income that it provides important? Certainly it is. Is controlling spending important? For sure. Is reducing taxes necessary. It beats the alternative. Will a sound risk management strategy payoff? It should, if structured correctly. 

But so is rest, renewal and time with family and friends. So is taking time to learn, read, spiritually connect and grow.  Exercise, diet and contributing to family and society are important too. 

So, I’d like to circle back to close this blog. 

The value of a team of committed people working together to accomplish a goal lies in no small part in greatly increasing the odds that you're handling all the sharks. 

The All Too Tentative First Step

We know what it is that needs to be done. And, we know what needs to be done far more often than we give ourselves credit for. 

We stumble over roll-outs,  and we leave meetings having not said what we knew needed to be said.  Cautiously, we avoid topics, skate across conversations and drive-by decisions that should have been made. Our projects linger, our deadlines come and go and the opportunities we once had, we may have no more. 

What are we waiting for?  We're waiting for the rescue. We frequently wait for reinforcements, or “the right time” or someone else to open the door to the next step. 

My sense is that if we own the issue we own the answer. 

Read more about taking the first step no matter what options “waiting” might offer. 

The Illusion of More Time

Over the course of the last few years, as investment balances have shrunk, savings rates have reached all time lows and the conversation began in earnest about changes to social programs, the financial media and even some advisors have lead you down a path that is fraught with lack of any “think-through.” 


While it’s been empirically easy to avoid action when it comes to retirement planning, although that will not save you, the innate ability to hide the issues has now been buttressed.  And, perhaps the new “normal” is the greatest cloaking device since the Klingon’s wanted to hide from Kirk and Spock in a Star Trek deep-space showdown: 

“I’ll just have to work longer.....”

That’s powerful. I say that because it involves the voluntary initiative to continue to do something known resoundingly as unpleasant; work.  It is, I suppose, the ultimate “fall on our own sword.” Talk about taking one for the team. This very comment is the stuff of legends. 

There’s only one problem.  Other than another avoidance mechanism and admittedly one steeped in plaudits and accolades for the effort, it’s highly likely not to work.   

First, it pre-supposes that you’ll be healthy enough to work. Fact is, there’s more than enough evidence that shows that this may not be the thing you want to count on and if you do count on it, do so knowing that the data shows that your likely to be in the vast minority of retirees who are not healthy enough to work in any meaningful way. 

Secondarily, it pre-supposes that your spouse or partner is going to be healthy enough. Once again this is the lesser likely statistical outcome by today’s math. Reality is that when your spouse or partner is gravely ill, your ability to get or keep meaningful employment is a less than optimistic slant to take. 

Third, it pre-supposes that you’ll find work. And again, not a real good bet based on the current math since the rate of unemployment is higher among older age groups than almost any other. You could start your own business and perhaps you should but counting on that as a means to provide your sustenance isn’t likely wise given that like marriages, about half of all small businesses fail within the first few years. Marriages may take longer, but the end result is about the same. 

Truth is that work after retirement may be able to provide you with some bonus dollars to help but ascribing the effort the gold medal for saving retirement is, at best, premature. 

Better, I’d suggest, that you give working "post retirement" it’s rightful place; it may provide you with some extras.

So where is the answer to a better retirement? It’s where it’s always been, it’s here and it’s now. Now is the time to start doing something about your future.

I watched the Little League World Series this weekend, Japan against the U.S. The young man pitching for the Japanese team threw the his fastball nearly 80 miles and hour which in the distances of Little League was the equivalent of a 100 mile-an-hour plus fastball in the major leagues. The U.S. coach told his players, “you’ve got to make you mind up to swing before he’s even let the ball go; if you wait to size it up, it’ll be too late.”

Evidently, preparing early and often works on a whole host of levels and for many of the same reasons and in many of the same ways. 

As a noted motivational speaker once said, “everything you do counts, what you do counts and what you don’t do counts, it’s all adding up, either helping or hurting.”

Doing nothing doesn’t mean nothing happens.