We begin where most friendships begin: a mutual friend or colleague’s introduction, a shared cause or activity… There are some aspects of your personal or business financial life that have needed attention, but you just have not had the time or energy to deal with them. You are exhausted from working what seems like round the clock. You have a family and want to spend the few precious hours you are not working with them. You are worried about your children’s college costs and their job prospects, your aging parents and the care they need. And for a few seconds you wonder what old age would look like for you. Oh… no… Mr. Bill…
So you quickly put those thoughts back in their box and turn your attention to everything that’s in front of you: your employees’ payroll, helping your son with his assignment, taking your mom to her doctor’s appointment. And the uneasiness remains. Part of you knows you would feel better if you had a more complete picture of your financial life, and tied the many loose ends weighing on your soul. And then a year goes by, and then another year, and your savings are still in cash, and you don’t have a will, and you are not sure what retirement would look like, if you ever get there…
In other words, you are a perfectly normal human being.
You see, we are hardwired to seek pleasure, avoid pain and procreate. That’s the function of our limbic brain, which controls over ninety percent of our actions. That’s why we go shopping for stuff: it gives us pleasure. That’s why we don’t save since we equate that to sacrifice and pain we should avoid at all cost. And by the way, saving for whom? Our self in old age? As far as our brain is concerned, that might as well be a complete stranger on the street, with whom we have very little, if any, emotional connection.
So our invitation to you is to start . You will never line up all your numbers and documents perfectly; we know you don’t have tons of time to devote to this “stuff”. So we make it easy for you: we will meet you at your place of business or home so you and your loved ones don’t spend precious time in traffic. We will keep you company and make small talk to keep the part of your brain that hates paperwork occupied while the other part, the one that cares deeply about your future, gather them up in such record time that you end up amazed at why you didn’t start years ago. We will meet you in the evenings or on weekends, when you can clear your mind of your daily tasks and commitments for an hour or two, to go “inside” and ask yourself how you’d like the months and years ahead to unfold. Don’t worry about having all the answers; our journey is to uncover them together. And together, we will develop a plan to help you make it happen.
Beginning with our initial meeting and all the while we work together, we listen to gain a deep understanding of:
In addition to learning about the beliefs and principles that guide you, we inquire about activities and causes that seem to nourish your soul, that you are helplessly drawn to and make time for despite all the other demands on your time. They’re what you would do nearly all the time if you did not need to “work”.
This is the network of family and friends that you have in your life, that you call when you need a helping hand, and that you show up for when it means extra effort, even sacrifice, on your part. To ask it bluntly, it’s “Who is going to wipe your butt at 2 in the morning when you’re 94?” In our mobile society, where family members are often far apart physically, taking an inventory of our social capital can be quite unnerving. Why is knowing this, and not having any illusions about it, important? Because it takes an enormous amount of financial capital, which most of us do not have, to make up for it. It will impact decisions about the type and amount of insurance you will need. It will probably have the greatest impact in your decision about where to retire. The two most usual client replies, going in the backyard and shooting yourself, and retiring in Small Town, USA, two plane changes from the closest relative, are not realistic options.
This is the sum of your innate talents, your education, your experience, and your professional network… everything that allows you to generate your current and future income. For a lot of us, our human capital far outweighs our current investment capital. Your relationship with your superiors. colleagues and employees, your chances of promotion or layoff, the economic factors affecting your company and your industry, all are important factors in your financial plan. To illustrate, consider two finance professionals of the same age and risk tolerance: one is a tenured professor at a major university, the other a trader on Wall Street. Their investment portfolios need to be constructed very differently: the market factors and performance that affect the trader’s human capital and earnings will most likely affect her investment portfolio as well, whereas the professor’s income and investment portfolio are much less correlated.
There is no “Return Fairy”: you get compensated for the investment risk you take. Understanding how much volatility you can tolerate before you panic and take the wrong action at the wrong time is important. Due to our human wiring however, determining that is not a straightforward process. Nor is there is single measure of risk that would make it easy for us. We will work together to get a good sense of it by working through scenarios and reviewing your risk-taking history and actions.
Your risk capacity is how much risk you can afford to take. You have a different risk capacity for each of your goals, based on their importance and immediacy. So we will manage your resources to achieve each of your goals based on its own risk/return characteristic. Your emergency fund, your child’s college starting in five years and your retirement starting in thirty years will be invested differently from one another. Importantly, we will memorialize this information in an Investment Policy Statement that will guide our actions during various market cycles. This way, we will remember the decisions we made during calmer periods and don’t fall prey to our fears or compulsion during more volatile times.
It is only after we thoroughly understand the life you want to live, now and in the future, that we begin to assemble the pieces of your financial plan. They are:
Working together, we will be cognizant of your present resources and prioritize what areas to address first. And you will begin to feel more secure, more in command, more in peace with your financial future. This will allow you to free up the energy you need to devote to your Purpose, however you define it, and know that you are on your way to, or are already living, the life you want to live.