Financial Planning Is About Decision Making And Awareness

It dawned on my this morning that over the past several posts I have spent a lot of time discussing issues and problems in the financial advisory world. I do strongly believe what I have written to date, but I also strongly believe that financial planners who do their work well and who have proper training can have tremendous positive impact in people's lives. I strongly believe in financial planning as a catalyst to help people reach their deepest goals. Therefore, I thought I would share a story today to help you understand the importance financial planning can have in your life.

I would like you to picture the following scenario and really try to visualize as you read this.  This it likely something which has happened to you and something you would rather not experience again.  Picture yourself at the end of a business trip, driving to the airport in a city you are not familiar with.  You purchased a map to get to the airport, but forgot it at the hotel.  When you arrived into town, it was late at night .  Everything looks so different in the daylight and you do not know how to get to the airport.  As you are trying to find your way, deciding whether you are headed in the right direction on the highway, you hit a detour which sends you off the highway into what appears to be a shady looking part of town.  As you exit the highway, you must immediately make a decision.  You can turn right, which heads into this part of town but also feels like the correct way to go.  Or you can turn left, which heads into the country, but is almost certainly away from the airport.  If only you had remembered that map, you would know where each road led and which should get you to the airport more quickly.  Now you are left to make a decision based on only the small amount of information you have; visually you can see some landmarks and the gut feeling that one way is the right way and the other the wrong way.  You have to make a decision on which direction to drive based on short-term information and emotion (you don't really want to head into that scary-looking part of town).  You have no way of knowing the long-term implications of your driving decision...and you are going to be late for your plane if you go the wrong way!  That map would have helped you make this decision, you should have looked at it prior to leaving and made a plan.  Your decision would have been based on better information and you could feel far more comfortable moving forward.  Now you are stuck, fearful to go one direction although it seems right, and hesitant to go the safe direction.  This indecision is going to make you miss your plane home, but you really want to see your family.

This is a harrowing experience whenever it happens.  It has happened to me on more than one occasion, and each time I remind myself never to forget the map again.  I do not want to miss the plane again, and I do not want to have to make that decision with little information.  This is a potential scenario many people can relate to and try not to relive.  Yet every day, people live the same scenario as they drive down the road of their financial lives.  People constantly make decision with only the information immediately in front of them, only considering the short-term impact with some small idea that the decision could have a long-term consequence.  They often have not considered where they want to end up financial and, if they have, even more frequently have not looked at a map to guide them there.  In fact, many people have no idea that this kind of map even exists.  Providing this type of financial road map is one of the greatest benefits of using a financial planner.

You can benefit both in the short- and long-term by having a financial planner at your side. In the short-term, a financial planner can  help lay out the pros and cons of a decision and how the decision will impact you over the next several days, weeks and months. A planner can offer alternatives to the choices you see.   A financial planner can also act as a guide to help you  make these decision while reducing some of the impact of emotion on your decision-making.

In the long-term, a financial planner can help you figure out where you really want to go by guiding you through a deep goal-setting process. Your financial planner can help you see the long-term impact of a short-term decision and help you recognize the worst case scenario and ways to reduce the likelihood of that scenario.  Finally, a financial planner can help you understand the milestones which indicate you are on the right path and assist you in develop the benchmarks to help you recognize that you have reached your goals.          

I do strongly believe in financial planning. I have experienced both good and bad in the financial services industry. One of my goals with this blog is to help you know what to watch for as you look to hire a financial planner and I hope to have provided some guidance in the past few post.  I also hope to encourage you to seek out a financial planner regardless of your financial situation. While it's true that many financial planning practices only cater to high-net worth individuals, there are practices that want to work with individuals of lower and mid-level incomes and net worth.  You can find a financial planner who's beliefs and focus fit you well, and the impact their service can have on your life can be positive and dramatic.


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