Stan's World - Yes or No?
March 31, 2021
We’re coming up to 25 years since I started our financial planning practice. Over those years I’ve offered advice to clients about their finances, as well as counsel on a multitude of finance-related (and often some very un-related) subjects. As I think back to many of those conversations, I realize how often I used the word “NO.”
Some of my NO’s were easy, and they’ll continue to be NO’s in the future. If a client wants to buy a very speculative investment. (NO!) If a client thinks he/she knows how to time the stock market. (NO!) If a client wants to buy a vacation home because he/she vacations in (fill in the blank) once a year. (NO!) If a client wants to loan money to a relative who’s out on parole (NO! Actually, that one gets a Hell NO!).
Conversely, and somewhat surprisingly, there have been times I supported spending that I knew would ordinarily be difficult to justify, as life has taught me that the road to and through retirement is not always a straight line. I will, for example, enthusiastically support someone who wants to make a career move or even start a new business, especially if they’ve reached a point whereby getting up every morning is a struggle. While the money they’re earning may be good, what if their health deteriorates due to their job and they’re never able to spend the riches they were paid? So long as we have a plan in place, I’ll be one of their biggest cheerleaders.
And then there are circumstances that unexpectedly arise in life, typically involving health issues, when we have to look beyond the numbers: Should you take a vacation that you probably can’t afford? (YES!) Retire a year earlier than projected? (YES!) Buy a new car knowing it might be the last one you’ll ever purchase? (YES!)
I suspect post-COVID, we may have to find creative ways to get to YES with more frequency. While we can’t assume a pandemic will sweep through our society again during our lifetime, neither can we assume that our attitudes will revert to their pre-COVID state after life gets back to its (new) normal. While just my hunch, I think more of us will see life as being a tad more fragile than the way we previously viewed it.
Are we all willing to work an additional X years until we get to enjoy extended travel? Are we all willing to defer gifting to family members until portfolios have risen Y percent? Are we all ready to remain in our current homes if working remotely means the ability to work from anywhere?
I think it’s just as risky a bet to assume nothing will change as it is to assume everything will change. As financial planners, we can project future cash flows on beautiful, multi-colored charts, but that doesn’t mean reality will plot them as drawn. When I sit with clients for a planning meeting, I often joke the data we present will change before they get up from my desk. Little did I realize how quickly everything could change.
Regardless of your age or work status, if you’ve spent the past year rethinking the life trajectory that you’re on, and you’re looking to get to YES a tad sooner than otherwise planned, why don’t you give us a call? While the numbers we graph don’t always work as hoped, sometimes we really do find ways to fit square pegs into round holes.