One of my favorite parts of financial workshops is the Q&A. A few years ago, I decided that I would avoid using powerpoint when giving a money talk or presentation. The lack of technology forced me to know my material inside and out, and it would essentially eliminate the potential for any tech problems on game day (a big deal for public speaking).
With every talk, I usually allow anyone and everyone to pose a question or topic that they’d like me to cover during the given time. The topics can range from retirement to cryptoassets, but doing this allows me to get a sense for what the group is wanting to hear—versus what I have predetermined to say. People stay engaged, and I stay sharp.
Lately, I’ve been having planning discussions with people from all walks of life. Everything from financial goals and taxes to bitcoin and inflation. A well rounded financial advisor should be used to guiding discussions around all of the ways that money touches our lives. Yet, I keep coming back to one thought in my head over and over–
We all need to talk about money more, not less.
There are countless reasons why we don’t discuss money. Some of us are taught from an early age that money is taboo, and we shouldn’t discuss our beliefs about money or personal finances with other people. We have an economy that is built on free market capitalism, yet we barely attempt to teach capitalism in our schools. In short, personal finance tends to remain deeply personal and not up for discussion.
We need to do better. Too many financial planners are being called after major mistakes have been made. Too many investment advisors are being called after the investing strategy has produced disastrous outcomes. Too many families are finding out about mom and dad’s financial situation when mom and dad can no longer take care of themselves.
I believe that much of the strife that people experience in their financial lives can be mitigated by planning and preparation. This isn’t to say that financial planning or working with a financial advisor is a panacea. It’s not. But, what a difference it can make over the long run.
Where Am I With My Financial Journey?
When it comes to discussions about retirement income, the stock market, wealth, or any other financial topic; I have found that a good portion of us need to take a step back and have some personal reflection time. Do you know where you are on your journey? Proverbs 27:23 says, “Know well the condition of your flocks and give attention to your herds…”
During biblical times, much of the wealth of that age was in land, agriculture, and livestock. This verse is saying we should know the condition of our flocks well. Do you have blind spots when it comes to your finances? Are there certain areas that you avoid because it will create stress?
Many investors across the country will happily automate their 401(k) savings each year. How many of them have taken the time to research the fund choices given by their plan? For instance, one of the most popular investing options today is a target date retirement fund. Do you know how that fund operates? What is the asset mix and how does it change over time?
What about financial goals? In short, do you have any? I’ve sat through countless goal setting workshops, so I won’t bore you with a breakdown of strategies or systems. Here’s what I can tell you for sure–there is a system out there that will work for you. Have you tried to find it?
It’s important for each of us to be properly oriented when it comes to our financial journey. This doesn’t mean that you need to be a financial expert–but you do need to be an expert on YOU and your current state of affairs. Diligence can be its own reward.
What Do I Believe About Money?
While we are doing some soul searching, have you stopped to think about what you believe when it comes to the topic of money? Over the last 2 years, I’ve spent countless hours studying, reading, and doing exercises to try and figure out my money mind. Yes, I’ve made progress; but I’m far, far from a finished project.
That’s the secret that few will tell you– we are all still very much a work in progress. Our beliefs, values, and attitudes shift over time because we are not static beings. I’ll prove it to you:
Have you ever attended a networking or social event where you didn’t know anyone? You walk in and scan the crowd, hoping for a familiar face. You find one and walk over to say “Hi” even if you barely know this person.
Why do we do this? It’s because we gravitate toward what is familiar. We are wired this way (most of us). Now imagine that same scenario, only you’ve been attending more regularly. Now you’ve made some connections, and you’re much more comfortable working the room. The odds are that you’ve found a few folks that are truly part of your tribe, which may or may not include the original familiar face.
As we grow comfortable, we tend to become more at ease with expressing our true thoughts, feelings, wants, and desires. This is a normal part of life. The same goes for money.
What old beliefs or thoughts do you still cling to? Here’s a starter list for some areas where you can evaluate your beliefs:
- Debt – US households now hold 15 trillion in debt, largely driven by mortgages. What is your philosophy when it comes to debt?
- Wealth – We know that the debt and assets are not distributed equally. The top 10% in our country owns roughly 90% of the stocks. Naturally, this means that the bottom 90% owns roughly 10% of the stock market. What do you feel is creating this shift? How might this impact your future?
- Generosity – What is your personal philosophy when it comes to being generous? Do you volunteer time? Do you give money? What causes are you passionate about?
- College – Is college a must for your family? How will you pay for it? Student loan debt now eclipses 1.5 Trillion. What is the cost / benefit for a college degree? Do you view college as a business decision? Or just a season of life that needs to happen? An experience?
- Retirement – There is no historical precedent for retirement as we understand it today. Our wealth as a nation has allowed “retirement” to evolve from a possibility to an expectation. Social Security income, which was created as social insurance to prevent people from becoming destitute, is now a permanent consideration in retirement income planning. What do you want your retirement years to look like? What will you do when every day is a Saturday? Does your retirement income plan reflect your values and beliefs about the future?
- Money is meant to _______________________________________________.
There are countless areas where money intersects our daily lives. These are just a handful of the major ones. Hopefully, you can use these as some ideas to begin some meaningful discussions with yourself and your loved ones.
Money doesn’t have to be off limits. I have no idea how we came to that belief as a society. Perhaps our beliefs about money make us feel vulnerable. Maybe some of the money mistakes we’ve made in the past make us feel ashamed.
All I know for sure– is none of us are batting 1000 when it comes to finances. Mistakes are part of the process. Our past can shape who we are, but it doesn’t have to dictate our future. No matter where you are in your journey, you have the ability to plan a new course for yourself. Get started today!