Financial Planning and the Tyranny of “I Should”

Recently when the subject of financial planning came up, a woman said to me, “I really should do that.”

I was staring at my computer one afternoon, thinking about the pervasive effect of the phrase “I should . . .” on our daily lives. It almost doesn’t matter what follows those words, “I should . . .” – lose weight, do my taxes, get the car fixed – whatever it is, the phrase which masquerades as motivation so often has the opposite effect – of inducing procrastination. It can make us feel as though someone else is trying to impose his or her will on us.

Though my eyelids were drooping, I began to wonder what does it take to change “I should” to “I want to” or “I will?” What stands in the way when people face the choice to engage in financial planning? As I continued to ponder, I realized that emotions are a prime culprit. Fear, embarrassment and shame are the most common. Perhaps we are afraid there won’t be enough for us to do what we’d like, so we avoid planning because we’d rather not face this. We have so little, what is there to plan? Maybe we are embarrassed to admit to anyone that our finances are disorganized. Or, we have so much, but are ashamed that we didn’t earn it. Subconsciously, we’ll do almost anything to avoid these painful feelings.

A fellow financial planner offered his pitch: “I tell people that the view of their finances is much less painful from inside my office than it is from outside of my office.” I could relate to this perspective, as I have seen my own clients’ relief at working through financial issues about which they were fearful. However, this model approaches the subject of financial planning as a means to alleviate pain. Some would try to sell a service such as financial planning in terms of peoples’ pain – identify the pain, and then offer a way to solve it. This strikes me as a rather negative approach – “For a price I can make you feel better.”

I’d rather invite people in to engage in financial planning by providing reasons to help them view it positively as something they really want to do, not because they are hearing that “I should” voice. Consider the following positive aspects of financial planning.

When doing financial planning people often discover that their money isn’t going toward the things they care about most. They get in touch with their values. They find they’ve been unconsciously squandering money. They begin to see options. They make more conscious choices. They set out on the path to get more of what they really want from life. This can lead to greater fulfillment from money.

Financial planning can be a liberating and empowering experience. Those with a strong personal desire to live life to the fullest by taking charge of their personal financial affairs are the ones coming into my office saying, “I want to make sure my money is going toward things that really matter in my life. I want to be sure I am making steady progress toward my goals. I want to do this!”

Money may not buy happiness, but the satisfaction gained from sound financial planning might be about as close as it gets.

Suddenly my reverie was interrupted by another voice, “Jeff…wake up…you fell asleep in front of the computer again.” Were all my thoughts on transforming “I should” to “I want” just a dream? I don’t think so.

2017-11-25T07:26:52+00:00