A Lil’ Plot of Planning – 5 Lessons For A Successful (Less Painful) Financial Road Map.

I wonder why financial planners don’t focus the majority of time on planning.

I’ve read the stats: Less than 40% of financial planners actually undertake the task of planning with clients.


Because it’s BORING.

There. I said it.


Even those who seek financial planning and have a passion to document every facet of their lives relent to the mundane nature of the process. They start out excited and ostensibly find financial planning to be as riveting as multiple appointments with the dentist. A couple of clients equated the experience with sitting in the chair for a cleaning (at least it’s not root canal).


Boy, I felt terrific.

That was four years ago. I realized – Rich, you’re approaching this ALL WRONG. 

I needed to analyze: Step outside myself, my career choice. Ask tough, objective questions.

However, before making financial planning a worthwhile emotional experience I needed to face facts.

I asked a large sample what their first impression of financial planning was (is). Here’s the top three thoughts from those I interviewed:

First, financial planning feels overwhelming. Just the sound of it turns people off. It has financial in it. There’s planning in it. Right out of the gate I’m screwed.

Second, you’re just trying to sell me something. Personally, I know this is a valid concern. For many large financial services firms it’s is a “plan and switch.” My former employer was guilty of this and so are many others. It’s one of the main reasons I went independent.

An acquaintance of mine (not a certified financial planner) mentioned at his firm they create and then immediately shred plans for people they don’t talk to just to satisfy middle management’s need to show their office “produces financial plans.” It’s all about the check marks.

Third, the results made me feel more bad than good. So, if you save $3,000 a month for the next 20 years you may have a successful 25 years in retirement. Great. Frankly, it’s best to hope for an early death.

I remember reading a twitter post from a nationally recognized debt management expert regarding how “easy” it was for a middle class household to save $1,000 a month.

Really? On which planet? No wonder planners don’t want to plan and people dislike it!

crazy guy

 What’s with this 1,000 page planning questionnaire???

This is the reality of the planning experience for many. I dare you to deny it.

When I moved to Texas 14 years ago, I soon realized how important it was for Texans to “own land.” A place to call their own. Can’t explain. It’s beyond the American Dream of owning a house. Texans respect their plot of land. Cherish it. Regardless of size. Their plot is their own. It doesn’t need to be expansive. Just theirs.

Got me thinking again as Texans always teach me lessons. How can I use this mindset to help others create a less painful financial road map and perhaps enjoy the process? OK, tolerate the process.

How can you be more successful and empowered by financial planning? It does help to know where you are and the probabilities of where you could wind up. No, really!!!

1). Examine your own foundation first. Before you even think about investigating the services of a certified financial planner (and I would stick to a certified financial planner professional), face the facts about the basic elements of the piers and beams or slabs that support your financial structure.

If you’re a poor saver, rack up debt, borrow money and don’t pay it back, frankly I can’t help you much. Sure, I can give you some constructive principles, ideas to improve, but unless you are willing to make the efforts to get your foundation in order, there’s nothing I can do.

Don’t waste your time with a financial planner like me. Frankly, the entire experience will make us both feel bad. Oh, and no: I don’t know what the next Apple stock is going to be to make you 1,000% on your money. Taking more risk on investments is not a smart way to fix a foundation.

2). How solid is your structure? I observe how Texans leave weathered, dilapidated barns on their property. Not sure why. The weather conditions are unpredictable here. I guess it’s a losing battle. Let nature take its course.

It takes much time and attention to make sure structures remain strong in the face of oppressive heat and brutal, abrupt changes to weather conditions. For you, making sure to have plenty of cash to weather financial emergencies or withdrawals, is crucial.

With the poor current state of employment, I suggest 6-9 months of living expenses in a savings or money market account.

Texas barn

Even retirees can benefit from a cash reserve when taking distributions. That’s what I advise. I’m glad empirical analysis proves my method, correct.

Read on:

The Benefits of a Cash Reserve Strategy in Retirement Distribution Planning.

From the study:

The empirical findings of this study are clear. In a taxable environment with transaction costs and lower investment returns than seen historically, liquidity improves plan survival rates relative to a strategy with no cash reserve. The reduction in taxes, transaction costs, and the detrimental impact of volatility on wealth more than offset the opportunity cost of lower returns due to allocating more wealth at retirement to cash.

3). Inspect your financial planner. Inspections, appraisals are important elements of purchasing, selling real estate in Texas. Thoroughly inspect your planner before the planning process.

For example – Ask the right questions. Like – How do you get paid for this plan? If the plan is free – Run. You want a person who charges a fee per plan or hour. A “free” plan is far from free and most likely, will not be a priority for the planner unless you make a life insurance purchase or go into a managed money product. Investment planning is as important, not MORE important than the other elements of your financial life.

Inspect to make sure your certified financial planner is in good standing – http://www.cfp.net.

4). Get organized first. Build a fence around the paper. Sounds simple enough, yes? How organized are your financial documents? – Tax returns, brokerage statements, deeds, estate plans. And what about all those passwords for financial websites? Are they documented and stored in a place for heirs to access? Organization is control.

It’s a good exercise to touch, read, file your paperwork. A great first step to easier planning. Perhaps your financial planner can help? I provide hefty, heavy-duty binders with tabs so clients may get organized before planning can begin.

5). Think small. In Luling,Texas there’s a place called Tiny Texas Houses. Brad Kittel a master builder, creator of livable art from salvageable materials, has made small sexy and functional.

brad_kittel-4-2011-300x168 Hi Brad!

Why must you complete a financial plan the size of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time at 4,211 pages for it to be taken seriously?

Go modular. Small. One personal financial benchmark at a time. Then move on to the next financial concern/goal. A good financial planner will help you savor the process one element at a time and create a checklist to keep you moving forward.

Planning isn’t entertaining.

It can be rewarding.

As planners we need to face the fact: We’re not popular but we are necessary.

How can we find ways to make it all more enjoyable?

I’m too old to go into dentistry.

How about you?

dentist This looks fun!

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