As any shopper knows, stores offer different brands that serve similar purposes but in different ways. Which item we choose depends, ultimately, upon which one makes us feel it will be a “good fit.” While financial advisors do not come in different geometric shapes and brilliant colors, they do offer similar services but in different ways… The search for making a good choice starts with a few basic questions, such as “What can an advisor do for me that I cannot already do for myself?” And, “Will the advisor be paid by his or her company’s commissions on insurance or investments I will be asked to buy, or by an agreed-upon periodic professional fee?” And, “Am I looking for financial planning advice to enhance the fullness of my life, or do I just want guidance with my investments… or both?” Based on your answers, your search for a “good fit” advisor can focus quickly on comparisons of age, experience and suitability among the candidates. If you attend Yoga class or take voice lessons or hire a fishing guide, you know such encounters can turn into lasting, satisfying relationships. Keep that in mind when the time comes to seek advice from a financial planner.
The industrial revolution has stamped our brains with a mechanical metaphor for the arc of our lives: work until we wear out or become obsolete, then retire, and then die. On the bright side, my electric hair clippers with the self-sharpening blades are still going strong after fifty years. With a little cleaning and a drop of oil now and then they still hum along nicely. What an efficient design! We too are constructed with elegant engineering. Our brains are designed for self-sharpening, which opens the door to much happier thoughts than the “work, retire, die” scheme we absorbed in our youth. Where daily chores and events deflect many of us from following a path that will keep our brains sharp, remember: who we are and who we will become are energized by our hearts and brains, helping us define who we think we are and who we want to become. We really can strive to stay sharp for life. Once you believe this is a goal worth pursuing, you may find that switching onto such a path can require a mentor… so think about it, search out a mentor, and cut to the chase.
Our internal metronomes resonate within the higher frequencies of global communications, technological innovation, faster sales “turnover,” daily commuting, and a never-ending series of chores we must finish before sundown. The pace robs us of our chance to reflect upon the choices we must make and limits us to a range of two: “yes or no,” “right or wrong,” “good or bad,” “win or lose.” The rapid pace polarizes us as we slide into one or another of two camps that spring up instantly on every issue, public and private. There’s not enough time for “maybe,” “I’ll decide later,” or “do you have a better idea?” The pace of our daily lives has led a few of us to require a mechanical pacemaker in order to maintain an acceptable heartbeat. Others recognize the accelerating shrinkage of time in their daily lives, and consciously make time to consider some third, acceptable option when making their decisions. Making time to choose among at least three options can even out our rhythm and make room for wisdom to work in our lives. The beat goes on, but at a human frequency. It’s worth a try, don’t you think (circle “yes,” “no,” or “I’ll give you my answer before noon tomorrow”)?
The only two items in clear focus on the photo above are the conductor and the score. With those in place there can be harmony among the nine performers. In this particular scene the original music was written 330 years ago; a good composition lasts across generations of singers and listeners. With training and a little rehearsal, all nine performers can sing with confidence… and joy. The process applies equally well to the way we choose to live the rest of our lives. With an evolving financial plan, an experienced financial advisor, and maybe a coordinated team of trained financial professionals, you and your family for generations to come can follow with confidence the harmony you arrange, rehearse, and enjoy as your own financial composition. This is a learning experience. And it is a living experience. Try it… you’ll like it.
One of England’s grand houses that served as a hospice for wounded troops in the Great War has an oak-paneled library where one of the panels is speckled with small holes drilled by stray darts hurled wide of a dartboard. The statistical chance of hitting the bullseye on that wall was greatly reduced by whatever caused so many stray throws… like the distance, the light, and the condition of the players. A statistical bell curve can be built that represents variance from the averaged throws. Within the central one-third of the bell curve, where most of the “hits” are concentrated, the formula quantifies the deviation from the performance mean for 67% of total hits below the curve… the Standard Deviation. It is common practice to base our judgements upon the central third of all the scores, and treat the rest (in this case, the holes in the wall) as less-informative, or even insignificant, outliers. The formula for determining Standard Deviation can also be applied to describe the range of performance volatility arising from your particular mix of stocks, bonds, and cash; it can provide insight concerning the extent of your market risk. From another perspective, if you can pinpoint your tolerance for market risk, you can use Standard Deviation as a guide for assembling assets in your portfolio. An experienced advisor can help you do that without leaving any tiny holes in your wall.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” sounds like an excuse not to make a plan, especially when we can now obtain a FasTrak toll tag before setting out on a trip. Before bridges we had to go with the flow of a river or a canal to connect events in our lives. Our roads and railroads need bridges. Bridges can make an island part of a city. Bridges are both connections and hindrances. Bridges are indispensable to travel and a challenge at rush hours. There are other “bridges” in our lives: getting through college, marriage, making a home, changing careers, reaching retirement, and leaving this world for whatever comes next. There are no FasTrak toll tags for these bridges, other than inviting someone who knows a lot about bridges to help us with our plans to get through them… and to pay the tolls along the way. An experienced financial planner can brighten prospects and smooth the journey.