What should I do with my stock options?
How much house should I buy?
How much should I be saving?
Is this idea crazy?
Questions like these might motivate you to talk with a financial planner. And these are in fact questions my clients have asked me. (Competition for “craziest client” in full swing!) Getting the answers to those questions is the obvious benefit of working with a financial planner.
I want to talk about some less obvious, but sometimes bigger benefits of working with a planner. Alas, they’re not really quantifiable, and so you can’t put a dollar value on them. But I betcha you find yourself nodding your head and muttering “mmm hmmm, I could use me some of that” as you read on.
You Get a “Thinking Partner.”
We all want to feel like we’re experts at what we do. For you, maybe it’s designing UI, or managing projects, or programming. For me, it’s financial planning.
So, it’s a little unsettling when I don’t have an answer when a client asks “what should I do?”
As it turns out, though, part of what you get when you hire a (good) financial planner is the acknowledgment that often the right answer lies in you, not in my technical expertise. And so my role is to help you come to the right decision.
I went through this recently with a client who has a sizeable amount of money. She’d been asked to invest some of her money in a friend’s business venture. And the question to me was, “What do you think I should do?”
My initial response? Deer in the headlights. I had no idea!
My response, after my rational mind beat that lizard brain into temporary submission, was “You have a lot of stuff going on in your life right now. Do you think you have the time to dedicate to thinking about this proposal? Because I know you’ll want to be thoughtful about a decision of this size.”
And perhaps I was lucky, but that one question started a conversation. She mostly ruminated out loud, and ended up saying, “You know what, I do want to help them. But I just can’t do it now. I have too much else going on. I’ll let them know that we can talk again after I get through [all the things going on].”
It was a reasonable decision from a financial perspective. It felt good to her. And she’s the one who made the decision, not me. What was my role? Not being some financial genius. But helping her think through a sticky situation.
Do you have someone in your life you can go back-and-forth with, about sticky situations in your (financial) life?
You Actually Make the Time to Do the Work.
My husband and I go to marriage counseling. And I say this because, well, I wish every couple under the sun went to marriage counseling. It is awesome and marriage is hard.
But, getting back to the point of this blog post <cough>, I say this in particular because there’s something to be learned about working with a financial planner.
I’m sure we’ve all read and heard plenty about the rituals we’re supposed to have to maintain and support our marriages. I know I have. I know I’m supposed to set aside time every week to talk with my husband about how things are going. What he needs from me, and vice-versa.
You know how often we set aside that 30 minutes a week to “work on us” before we worked with a marriage counselor? Or even after our last counselor moved and before we found our new one? Juuuust about never. And our marriage suffered from it.
But now we have a new counsellor. So, once a month we spend 75 minutes strictly dedicated to talking about us and our marriage. Sometimes it’s not comfortable, but I’m always happy that we’re doing it. Because I know we need to. And it’s frustrating as hell that, left to our own devices, I know we won’t.
Working with a financial planner can mean the difference between spending time on your finances and not.
Are you regularly setting aside time to think about your financial plan?
You Get Meaningful Accountability.
Let me return to the marriage counseling example. (I told you I love it.)
Oftentimes in a counseling session, with the help of our counselor, we decide that we’re going to do something. A recent example: We decided we’d spend 15 minutes every Saturday simply going over the next week’s schedule, so nothing takes us by surprise. This isn’t a big commitment. And I’ve heard of this tactic before. But we’d never done it.
Our counselor suggests it as a possible solution to some of our challenges, and we say, “Yes, we’re going to try that.” And knowing that we’d be seeing her again in two weeks motivated us to just do it, dammit.
And it was great. We spent only 15 minutes the next Saturday, and it was stupid how helpful it was.
Just as in marriage counseling, oftentimes the things you need to do for your financial life aren’t big or hard, but we have resistance to doing them. I won’t try to explain why.
Are you making yourself do the things, even the small and easy things, your financial life requires?
You Are Confident You’re Doing It Right.
A couple weeks ago, my husband and I needed to renew our passports. (We live 30 minutes from the Canadian border, so this is more important for us than for the average bear.)
Because this was a renewal, we didn’t need to make an appointment at the Post Office. We could have gone the DIY route. We could have had our photos taken at CostCo. Then printed the forms off the internet and filled them out at home. Then gone to the post office to mail everything off. Praying that we didn’t make a minor but ultimately damaging mistake along the way.
But we did make an appointment to do it all at the post office. We paid a slight premium for the photos. We scheduled an hour out of our morning to do it all at the same time in the same place, under the supervision of a Post Office employee who does nothing but process passport applications.
In exchange for that not-strictly-necessary time and money, we were sure to get it done. And we were confident that we’d done it right because we had an expert check over our applications to make sure they were filled out correctly.
Walking out of that post office, we were So Relieved because not only was was it done, actually done, but we knew it was done right.
I’m fine with the DIY approach for a lot of things. I’m fine with attempting to fix my own dishwasher or build my own bookcase. The downside of failure is pretty minimal and the process is gratifyingly educational. It’s a “growth experience,” as it were.
But when the issues are big and important, it’s good to know I’m doing it right.
Are you confident that your financial choices are right?
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Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Meg Bartelt, and all rights are reserved. Read the full Disclaimer.