By Robert O. Graves, CFP® CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™
Colin Powell, the former Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chief of Staff and the Secretary of State, said, “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”
The task of creating a financial plan that will sustain us until the end of our lives can feel overwhelming. Once we take on this enormous responsibility, we have to decide where to invest our money and what to do when our investments under perform.
We must also consider the consequences of making mistakes; the risks associated with bad financial decision could have long-term effects. Add to that a financial plan’s objective to project your life 10, 20, 30, and more years ahead, and I understand why so many prefer the bliss of ignorance versus plunging into a scary, uncertain endeavor.
Here’s where Life Planners play a vital role.
Their job is to guide you into action. Although advisors should never make promises to their clients regarding the rate of return on their investments, Life Planners use their track records and experience to provide you with a wide range of options.
As with any new endeavor, a Life Plan involves risk. Life Planners encourage you to look into aspects of your life that may be uncomfortable to examine. They’ll ask questions about your current finances, your future plans, and the experiences of your past – which can sometimes be painful—that have influenced your ideas about money. Although the process may be uncomfortable at first, if you do nothing, you won’t make any progress.
As the saying goes, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Many of us prefer the comfort of no action to the possible hardships associated with risk. Even if the likelihood of improved results existed, many would rather settle where they are, as unpleasant as it may be, instead of diving into the unfamiliar. Stepping out of our comfort zones requires taking a different course of action and trusting that the outcome will result in an improved situation.
I’ve witnessed this countless times. Often clients arrive at my office full of fear of the unknown. This is especially true at the onset of the Life Planning process. Their body language says it all: they sit in my conference room, fingers tightly clutched, eyes cast down at the table, clearly wishing they were somewhere else. I hold no license in counseling, and I am no substitute for a therapist, but it’s my responsibility to put these nervous clients at ease. I’ll proceed in asking them questions and listening to their worries.
Here is another saying: “Sometimes a situation has to get worse before it gets better.” Your finances directly connect to your experiences. As a result, they relate to your hopes, dreams, and fears. Excavating anxieties both known and unknown require courage. Once they surface, you may at first feel more doubt than you did before. This is normal.
“But once I’ve uncovered my fears, what do I do next?” clients ask. You may not have a clue as to how to invest your money and improve your situation. That’s where an expert comes in. A Life Planner provides the support to address your worries and increase your sense of security and control.
There’s a story about a man who takes an evening walk in the forest. Darkness surrounds him, and a snake suddenly appears at his feet. His heart pounds, his limbs tremble, and he’s short of breath. A barrage of thoughts floods his mind: “What should I do? How should I escape safely? What if I am bitten?”
In an effort to scare the serpent away, he flashes his torch at it. The light casts its glow on the ground, which reveals that what he thought was a snake was nothing more than a tired, old rope left behind by someone else. Although scary at first, the process of addressing your fears about money and following financial advice has long-range benefits that far outweigh any discomfort.
Excerpt from Robert O. Graves book, Your Life Plan: A Guide to Financial Freedom.
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