80 Years Old Lying in a Ditch

When was the last time you looked under the hood of your car?

If you haven't recently, you should.  It will give you a tremendous appreciation for the triumphs of human engineering. 

The most amazing part about your car is that something so complicated can be used without knowing how it actually works.   Just hit the accelerator and off you go. 

And even though you don't know how it works, you can tell when something is wrong.  The "check engine" light goes on.  Or you hear a weird clunking noise.  Or there's a puddle of oil on your garage floor. 

And when something is wrong you don’t' try to fix it yourself.   You know you don't know.   Just look under the hood. 

So you take it to a mechanic.

I'm jealous of mechanics.  I am so, so jealous of mechanics.

My job would be much easier if financial planning was more like your car.  

1. You can't look under the hood.  When you look under the hood of your car, you know you don't know.  But the hood of your financial automobile is welded shut. 

The only way to open it and see how complicated it is is to actually be a financial planning professional.  Unless you’re a financial planner, it's difficult (impossible?) to appreciate how complicated and nuanced your financial automobile actually is. 

And the penalty for people who don’t know they don't know is a life of paying too much in taxes, throwing money away on bad investments and never knowing if something is truly, worryingly wrong….until it's too late…

…which is the most critical difference between your car and your finances.

2. There are no warning signs.   There is no check engine light.  There is no clunk.  There is no puddle of oil.  For most people, you only know something is wrong when the wheels fall off, the engine explodes and you're lying in a ditch. 

That's only partial hyperbole.  The end result of a lifetime of uneducated and misguided financial decisions is running out of money at 80.  Imagine celebrating your 80th birthday with only your Social Security benefits to live off of.  Social Security benefits are just slightly above the poverty line.

If you're a new college graduate, you probably don't need a financial planner.  If you're 80 and living solely off of Social Security, you also probably don't need a financial planner.  At those stages, you're not driving a car.  You're riding a bike.  You can fix a bike yourself.

But once you get your driver's license then at least talk to a financial planner to find out if you need one.  Maybe you're the 1 out of 100 that doesn't.  If you're like the other 99%, you'll probably benefit from working with a professional.  And you won't know what you don't know until you meet with one. 

It's a no-brainer.  A good financial planner won't charge you anything for an introductory meeting to figure out if you'd benefit from working together.  There is nothing to lose but the half hour you spend with him/her. 

So I encourage you to schedule an appointment with a financial planner today.  It goes without saying, I'd be happy to sit down with you.   But if I'm not your cup of tea, there are plenty of other independent, fee-based financial planners out there.   (Though I encourage you to stay away from "Financial Advisors" who work at a brokerage or insurance company.)

For me, just schedule a 30 minute introductory meeting from my website. 

For someone else, interview a planner from any of these independent, fee-based financial planner networks. 

National Association of Personal Financial Advisors

Financial Planning Association

Garrett Planning Network - Financial planning paid by the hour