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Don’t get me wrong, my wife Alison and I have a great handle on our personal finances – at least I think so. I feel like there aren’t many inefficiencies as far as the technical aspects of personal finance and financial planning. So why in the world would a financial planner hire another financial planner?

Naturally, as a financial planner myself, I advocate that people hire financial planners. But what about me? So far I have been doing it myself. I am my own financial planner. And I feel I have done a good job. But the more experience I have with watching other people plan their financial futures, the more I realize the value in having the advice of an outside third party and the value of the planning experience. This is something I am missing.

It can be tough to make objective decisions about your own stuff. People tend to become emotionally attached to the decisions they have made in the past. Opinions of others, spousal feelings, cultural influences and many other emotions get thrown into the mix – especially with big decisions – and these can cloud your judgement.

My Experience

I, personally, have experienced this many times. For instance, I owned a rental property for 8 years. I always wanted to try out the residential rental property business and was using my first home as a test run. However, I was not at all enjoying it and it wasn’t turning out to be the success I had hoped for. Plus, it was never purchased in the first place as a rental property – it was not a good investment from the get-go. And then for the cherry on top, my wife constantly worried about it.

Most of this was my fault as I would try and get her involved to help with stuff I didn’t want to do. BUT I had an emotional attachment to the dump that was keeping me from selling – it’s hard to explain. It was like my little project that I refused to let fail. And it was so easy to talk myself out of selling it. But finally, I decided to pull the plug on this deal and we sold it last year. Any good planner would have told me never to buy this specific property in the first place (long story for another day).

It’s also tough to get out of the “now” – especially when you are consistently busy. And then when you consider the fact that these discussions should be inclusive with your spouse, it becomes even more difficult. Maybe I am ready to talk planning long-term but she is not – or the reverse. We have regular and planned-ahead money conversations, but 99% of the time these conversations revolve around current happenings and personal finance.

Thinking Forward

On occasion, I have the privilege of seeing couples I work with get out of the “now”. For example, I have three questions (developed by George Kinder – The Kinder Institute) that I like to ask clients to help them start thinking in this direction. These questions often evoke emotional responses between couples. The conversation can go in all sorts of directions and is incredibly productive in the planning process. The more I understand my clients’ deep-rooted values and opinions, the better advice I will give them. My wife and I have never been asked these kinds of questions:

  • Imagine you are financially secure, that you have enough money to take care of your needs, now and in the future. How would you live your life? Would you change anything? Let yourself go. Don’t hold back on your dreams. Describe a life that is complete and richly yours.
  • Now imagine that you visit your doctor, who tells you that you have only 5-10 years to live. You won’t ever feel sick, but you will have no notice of the moment of your death. What will you do in the time you have remaining? Will you change your life and how will you do it? (Note that this question does not assume unlimited funds)
  • Finally, imagine that your doctor shocks you with the news that you only have 24 hours to live. Notice what feelings arise as you confront your very real mortality. Ask yourself: What did you miss? Who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do?
  • Another thing I wish I’d had, and that I’m hopeful I find in a financial planner, is that guy, the financial guy, that I can refer to when the decision is difficult. Or when the decision involves lots of emotion. Sometimes you need a logical, unbiased opinion just to bring you back to earth.

    Not to mention, we have just gotten downright busy. We have two young boys and I am running a business. My goal was always to do our financial plan one time a year but, unfortunately, it’s been a year and a half since we did ours. I don’t want all this to slip through the cracks. I must practice what I preach.

    The other big aspect of financial planning I have always struggled to accomplish is the process of going through the initial fact gathering phase with your spouse. This is something I do with every single client I take on. And it’s probably one of the most important parts. It’s where we get a handle on opinions, feelings, goals – and really what’s most important to someone. We always trying to have this meeting with both spouses. This allows for an interesting dynamic and, often, the conversation is one that’s never occurred before.

    It has been difficult, if not impossible, to replicate this experience doing my own financial planning. I am looking to find someone else that can walk us through this important step.

    So, in reality, I’m not going into this expecting easily quantifiable hard dollar value – I feel that we are pretty efficient (that’s probably what all my new clients think too – ha). I’m not really going to scrutinize the numbers hard core and expect this to pay for itself overnight. What I’m looking for is the less quantifiable, more long-range value-add associated with hiring a financial planner.

    Like the value of being confident in your plan. And the value of having someone you can run things by. And the value of being on the same page with your spouse about planning & the peace of mind that comes along with that. Some things are more valuable than money.

    Now What?

    As I would encourage you to do, I sat down and thought about what I wanted in a Financial Planner. And I will be looking for the following characteristics.. I will be looking for someone that focuses on small business owners, that charges a flat rate. Those are the two highest items on my priority list. That’s where my search begins.

    This is a good place for you to start, as well. What kind of advisor do you want to work with? What matters to you? Someone who is familiar with your field? Shares your values and beliefs? Charges a flat fee? Take the time to sit down and come up with your own list and, if applicable, have your spouse do the same. Then start your search!

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