It’s the sort of thing people ask friends and acquaintances. Recently at the gym I happened to overhear a conversation that began with this question. Unfortunately, I was on my way into the shower and didn’t get to hear the answer. It’s an intriguing question. What is a “good investment guy” anyway? At some point, you may want to find some investment guidance, too. What should you be looking for?
In Part 1 of this series, women shared stories from learning when to ask for more money to never assuming that someone else will take care of you financially. Here, a few women share more lessons learned. Hopefully these stories will help you plan your own finances, rather than realize your errors in hindsight. Taking Time Out to Raise Children For those planning on taking time away from the workforce to raise kids, Lori had this to say. “I was astounded how difficult it was to find work (that paid well and utilized my skills) after having been away just a few short years.” Her advice was to do something — anything — part-time rather than leave the workforce altogether. Keep up your contacts and your skills. “Getting back to where you were earnings-wise can be a real challenge.” Being Emotionally Tied to a Home She Couldn’t Afford Madeleine’s wake-up call came in 2008. Her husband told her that he had decided to move out and seek divorce. Even though half the household income just walked out the door, she continued to spend like she and her husband were still together.
Many of the women I see in my financial planning practice have been through divorce. Many are experiencing for the first time what it is like to live independently. I hear familiar themes with respect to money —phrases like, “I should have paid more attention,” and “I shouldn’t have assumed my ex-husband knew what he was doing.” Finally, it dawned on me to start asking these women what lessons they would want to pass along to younger women, including their own daughters, about money. What follows are their stories and mistakes. Every one of these women has a valuable lesson to share!
Last month I posted a piece encouraging people to pay attention to their money. This, I argued, was “the one thing” that could make a meaningful difference in peoples’ financial lives. It may strike my readers this month, therefore, as counter-intuitive when I suggest that over-vigilance of one’s investments might backfire. Let me explain.
According to the old saying, where the eyes go, the body goes. It turns out the basis for this truth is not only physical, but psychological as well. I remember a recent motorcycle trip over the Sonora Pass. I had the road to myself and was enjoying the thrill of driving fast through the turns. Coming down the mountain looking out toward Nevada, I glimpsed a long stretch of road ahead. Accelerating out of a turn, I anticipated a clear sweep. Suddenly I saw a scrap of two by four on the road, directly in my path. My attention fixated on the piece of wood. Panicking, I hit it. Luckily, I didn’t wipe out, but instantly began berating myself for the collision with this obstacle. Perhaps if I had directed my eyes elsewhere, I could have avoided it. I’ve recently encountered a couple of people with financial challenges that reminded me of this event.
When facing life’s struggles, it is natural to look for a quick solution — the “one simple thing” that will solve the problem. The financial equivalent of the magic bullet tends to be the thought, “If I just make more money, my problems will be solved.” It is a fanciful notion; life is seldom that easy. And yet, on that skeptical note, I’m setting out to tell you there really is one thing you can do that will have a profound impact on your financial life. Are you ready? It’s not magic. The one simple thing is to pay attention to your money. What the heck does that mean? And, how will that possibly make an impact? Paying attention to your money is a three-step process.
The stock market has gotten off to a wobbly start in 2016. If this “correction” feels familiar to the one in August of last year, it is because the same reasons are still in play: the economic slowdown in China, fear of Fed rate increases, and the rapid decline in oil prices. World Economic Growth While economic growth in the U.S. remains fair to good, economies in other parts of the world are not doing so well. China, the world’s second largest economy, had been a strong engine of growth. It is now slowing dramatically. Europe is still struggling in the aftermath of the economic meltdown of 2008. Japan is also lagging. Emerging markets have suffered as the threat of Fed interest rate increases spurred investors to look for less risky places to put their money. The U.S. economy does not exist in a vacuum. Weakness in the rest of the world threatens to lead us toward recession.
This week I’ve been reading Thinking Fast and Slow by psychologist Daniel Kahneman. The author received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work on cognitive biases in decision-making. Where finances are concerned, we all like to think we make rational decisions, based upon well-considered reasoning. The studies examined in this book suggest otherwise. What is really behind our financial decisions? Here’s a personal example – my “lettuce story.” I am standing in front of the produce section at the grocery store, eyeing a beautiful head of organic romaine. But I’m frozen.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Out of sight, out of mind.” I am reminded of a woman who came to see me a few years ago for help with financial planning. She had rescheduled the initial meeting several times. When she finally came in, I could tell that she was upset. After she had talked for awhile I asked her, “How was this process for you, gathering your information for our meeting?” She admitted that she felt embarrassed about being disorganized and not having saved as much as she “should” have at her age.
A couple, I’ll call them Tom and Sally, get together for a second date, wine, and appetizers. They had gone out for coffee a few days earlier and shared an immediate sense of having met someone special. Sally had mentioned she’d be traveling for work; they would not be able to see one another again for more than a week. Tom decided to find out if his initial feelings about Sally were true. So he asked her out three days later. Glad that he’d taken the initiative, she happily accepted. Now, on that second date, they are savoring each other’s company when the check arrives. Neither one makes a move. There is an unspoken moment of uncertainty. What to do?
People these days seem to spend considerable time and money taking care of their health, paying particular attention to choices about diet, organic food, exercise, different kinds of alternative medical care, and spiritual self-care. But what about the notion of financial self-care? Recently, I facilitated a discussion with a group of women on the topic of financial self-care and some interesting points came out of the discussion. Generally, people seemed to have a good idea of what they need to do to take care of themselves financially, and the statements about the feelings resulting from successful financial self-care were powerful. Consider these comments: “I feel better about myself,” “I feel empowered to make choices,”
It has been 14 years, and yet I feel my emotional scar, healed, yet still tender to the touch. Tears still well up. Unfortunately 9/11 was just the first in a series of events that led to my life-changing discovery about money. This is what 9/11 taught me. I was in Manhattan that week for the Merrill Lynch Financial Services Conference (an ironic coincidence…maybe.) It was held at the Pierre Hotel where we listened to bank management talk about their strategies for gaining a “greater share of consumers’ wallets.” I walked out of a morning session to see footage of the second plane hitting the tower.