20 Nov 2015 The Joy of Exploration
“But language is a treacherous thing, a most unsure vehicle.”
Mark Twain said that, and I can’t disagree with him. Mastering the technical, dictionary definitions of words is good, but will only get you part way to communicating fully. That’s because words don’t always stick to their technical, dictionary definitions. They reshape themselves, sometimes drastically, based on the countless different contexts in which they find themselves written or read, spoken or heard.
The reason I bring this up is because I’m thinking of two words which have, for a host of reasons, taken on a meaning and flavor that I don’t think is altogether accurate or particularly winsome. And those two words are: Financial Planning.
For many people, the idea of Financial Planning seems to fall somewhere between the prospect of watching paint dry and reading the Internal Revenue Code. Some mix of boring and overwhelming. And unfortunately, one of the reasons for this lies in the way Financial Planning is often presented by, well, Financial Planners.
Here is what I see the problem is: the common thread through the most widely known tenets of financial planning tends to be the idea of Delayed Gratification. “You can’t have this now, you need to save this many dollars more, you need to focus on not touching this money for at least 20 years.” Or something like that. And of course these things–saving and investing for long periods of time and showing some amount of consumer restraint–these are necessary agents. Don’t get me wrong.
But when the entire point of Financial Planning seems to revolve around the word, “WAIT,” there is a disconnect. The two words, Financial Planning, have become a pretty uninviting product of the treacherous, unsure vehicle of language.
However, since language is fluid and not static, all is not lost. And if anything can rescue Financial Planning from the doldrums, maybe it’s this:
Financial Planning is the process of Exploration, of discovering what’s possible. It’s digging into what matters, what you value, and figuring out how to confidently maximize whatever those things are.
So instead of thinking of Financial Planning as the process of wringing every spare dime into your savings, of obsessing over an Excel spreadsheet budget, of continually putting off the family trip until next year, what if we try something different? What if we started asking questions like: What would it take to cut back at work so I can pursue my dream of writing? How can I spend twice as much time with my grandkids? Can we figure out a way to increase our giving by 50%? What would it look like to reduce the risk in our portfolio so we can sleep better at night?
What if we stop putting off that family trip and take the kids this year? Could we take the money we usually save for the year and instead make some memories now?
The joy of exploration is real. Don’t miss out on it. Because there is real gratification NOW in dreaming of what is possible, and there is nothing that gets us more excited as professionals than seeing individuals and families grasp what Financial Planning really is.