Consider the following scenario. You are perusing the menu at a restaurant, deciding what to order. The fresh, local salmon in a piquant sauce with sun gold tomatoes and basil has your mouth watering. It is $32. You definitely want fish, but immediately conclude that the salmon is simply “too expensive.” No, can’t do that. So you order cod, perfectly respectable, broiled – but plain – at $22. It arrives. It’s OK – but it isn’t what you really wanted. We’ve all experienced this type of automatic compromise that seems so sensible we accept it as the “right” decision. Such thinking may become an unconscious principle behind our money decisions. This is the smart thing to do. But is it? Why do we so often deny ourselves what we really want? One obvious answer is that it is about the money. Ten dollars is . . . well, ten dollars.
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.
I’m beginning to wonder if how much money we have is less important than how we feel about it. I suspect that if I spent as much time exploring how I felt about my money as I have trying to earn it, I’d be a much happier person today. Is the person who is wealthy yet miserable just a cliché? What about people living in poverty who seem joyful and display incredible generosity? Before we dismiss these extremes as stereotypes, perhaps there is more to be learned by looking below the surface. As a financial planner, I have heard people express the gamut of emotions when it comes to finances. Often, just talking about our money issues can be very liberating.
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.
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?
How do the services of a financial planner compare with those of an adviser, investment manager or other financial person? What does a financial planner do, exactly?
A seemingly straightforward question, yet the answer may not be simple. I like to refer to my favorite metaphor — food preparation. A financial planner helps you create the […]