Financial Life Focus

How to clearly navigate your financial life

Fear Factor: It's All In Your Head

Thinking is NOT the same as doing!

Recently, a prospective client called and wanted me to review his financial picture, as he and his wife discussed their impending life transition into retirement. He told his wife that he had "done the numbers in his head" and that they were in good shape to retire. His wife's reaction was, "IN YOUR HEAD?"  While it evoked a chuckle or two, the reality hit him, motivating his call, that the step into retirement was simply too important to rely on a down and dirty 'I think so', calculation. My reaction was, "How can you know if you have enough for you to retire on, if you don't know what your life in retirement looks like?" The silence on the other end of the phone was told me that my words resonated appropriately. They had work to do and it all begins with an exploration into one's values system and hierarchy of importance. 

During another recent conversation with a new client, he admitted that he was afraid to know how much he and his wife spent and whether they could retire. While this was a huge statement and the first step to understanding, at sixty-five years of age and doesn't have a great deal of time to make course corrections or dramatically impact the future. "I've been thinking about really looking at this stuff for a long time." His admission, while brave, was long overdue and they knew that they only had themselves to blame. The prospect of retirement in the near term was dim.

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These two examples beg the question whether it is fear, laziness or some fundamental disconnect in peoples beliefs that the fact that they 'think' that everything is alright is not the same as everything BEING alright. Aligning your desires with your actions requires consideration and action; in other words, a plan. I have heard the scoffers who say that plans are just assumption with very little chance of the plan coming to reality and that the variables are too vast for it to be of value.  Yes, there are variables galore-Yes, there are tons of assumptions. But does that mean that the better alternative is to do nothing?

Creating a proper plan begins with your values. 

For example, a common value statement is, "I want to be able to put my head on the pillow at night and not worry that we will outlive our resources." That's a pretty powerful statement and one on which a plan can be created. 

When I ask a client if there's anything more important, the answer is a resounding "NO!" 

My next question is, "What are you willing to do to assure that you will not outlive your resources?" 

The answer is "ANYTHING and EVERYTING!"

"So, if I told you that you had to change your spending habits today, would you be willing to do that?"

"Of course!"

You get the picture.  The substance of the plan revolves around what someone cares most about, and if that is truly the case-there is very little they won't do to assure that outcome.  In order for you to live your values-you need to get beyond the fear, beyond the laziness. beyond the skepticism and out of your head, into action.  The price of waiting is onerous. 

Michael F. Kay, a Certified Financial Planner, practitioner and a CPA, is president of the firm Financial Life Focus.

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