If we were to take a close and honest look at it very many of us, I'm guessing, would admit that we have not given much if any consideration to where our journey in life might take us, or indeed where we WANT it to take us. For some reason we don't accept the fact that we actually do have some control over it, some.
Welcome back to Ireland's dedicated Financial Planning & Personal Finance Blog & Podcast. We are on a mission to help as many people here in Ireland to achieve what is important to them, whether that be life or money related......it's all tied into one! We create a weekly blog & podcast in the hope that it will help some people make decisions that will increase their chances of achieving or doing whatever is important to them; which is exactly what we are talking about here today actually!
There is a movement happening in the UK for the past 10 years or so, and we are slowly starting to see it happen here in Ireland. I was invited to speak at a Financial Planning conference (short video here) last week in DCU, which was lots of fun. But more importantly, the fact that over 200 Financial Advisors & Planners were present indicated a desire and a commitment to improve the service and benefit that you (the client) receive from financial advice. There is a definite realisation that there is more to advice than products! I have been beating the drum for the past 2 years and encouraging our readers and listeners to 'begin with the end in mind', but it's probably time to delve a little deeper in that, and explore the positive impact that doing that can have.
What Is Beginning With The End In Mind About? Is It Just Jargon?!
'Begin with the end in mind' is one of the '7 Habits' as designed by Stephen Covey, one of the leading lights (before he died) in the area of achieving personal and professional success, and doing so deliberately. If you do not know you destination, how will you ever hope to get there, is a key question in regards this whole area. If we do not begin with the end in mind then there is a real chance that we will drift through life with little or no purpose or goal in mind. We will most likely (and hopefully) have an enjoyable life all the same, but it is likely to be much more fulfilling and meaningful if we are working towards, and hopefully achieving and experiencing the things that matter most to us.
Now I do realise that that is all fairly deep, but it absolutely stands to reason that it is only by giving it due consideration and thought that we can figure out what is of most importance to us. Once we have that done we can then begin to figure out what steps we might need to take to try achieve it at some point in the future. We all know that life is unpredictable, we don't or can't control everything, however it is remiss to assume we have no control, and to be just swept along by it, and to be totally reactive instead of proactive about the journey.......it's time to take deliberate action!
So Do I Need Financial Advice?!
I have said it before, and i'll say it again.....'you probably do not need financial advice'! Until such time as you have considered your priorities, and have figured out what your 'plan' is there is no need for traditional financial advice. The reason being that traditional financial advice is about selling you products. Without having first established a plan then these products may or may not end up helping you get the life you want. Products should merely be the means to help you achieve your 'plan'. Ultimately if you have no plan then unfortunately a product is unlikely to help you get any closer to what you want to achieve. I have seem it countless times, where someone has lots of products but no idea why they have them or what they are going to do for them, that is a real shame and quite often a missed opportunity for the person to have been working towards what was important to them for years.
If on the other hand you are seeking help in determining your 'plan' then that is where Financial Planning (in it's true sense) comes into it's own. Financial Planning, I believe, is less about 'financial' and more about the 'planning'! This planning element is key. Yes it will be difficult, nothing worthwhile is ever easy. This supports you to take the time to figure out what is most important to you, how you want to live your life, what are the things that you most want to do/have/experience. This can often be a revelation for people, a real eye-opener, and one which gives them a new understanding of the value a true financial professional offers.
Once that plan has been determined (by you!), then and only then will you be able to establish what 'financial' aspects you will need to enable you to do that. Money is a tool, and enabler of the life that you want. If you don't have enough of it to do all the things you want to do or have, then you will need to prioritise.
The Benefit Of Beginning With The End In Mind?
By way of example I'll share a short story about 'Helen'. Helen is a really successful professional in her late 30's. She established her own business 5 years ago & is married happily for the past 2 years. Since day 1 she has been really busy in her business, winning new customers and growing the company revenues. Like many of us she was so consumed by all the busyness that she rarely took time to look at the bigger picture or to think about the future and how she wants to live her life, she is totally focused on the 'now'! All that she knew was that she wanted to get a better rate of return than she was getting on her deposits in the bank, she wanted to invest some funds in a portfolio that would help her do that.
However that was until she met a credible 'financial planner in shining armour'! This planner challenged her to look at the bigger picture, particularly before investing any funds in any fund, that it would inform her decision in a positive way. Following an initial chat they set about exploring what was of importance to Helen, other than the business and other than the investing of the deposit account. Helen was slow to open up, after-all these are things that we don't normally think about! Once she got going however she realised that while she loves her work and enjoys what she is creating, she has a strong desire to retire early, or at least to have the option to retire early. She also discovered that she is strongly motivated to ensure she helps others and shares her financial success. She also discovered that she doesn't currently give enough time to pursuing her hobby of surfing, something she has done for years but has recently fallen by the way-side.
So how did this help? Well her Financial Planner was able to then go away and do the research required to help her do the things she wanted to do or achieve, which were; be financially independent by 55, donate 5% earning each year, and budget to take 3 2-week breaks per year for her surfing trips abroad. Her planner went and did loads of boring research on her behalf, determined what her existing plans were doing for her, explored the tax efficiencies available to her, determined which portfolio might help her achieve her long term goals, ran various calculations and scenarios based on all the options available to her. This all culminated in the development of her own 'plan'!
This 'plan' outlined how Helen could go about doing, achieving and getting the things that she wanted and were meaningful to her. It outlined the pitfalls and challenges involved, and importantly what financial commitment would be required on her behalf in order to achieve them. They discussed her plan, agreed the priority areas for her, and set about putting the 'products' and structures in place to do what she wanted to do. Needless to say Helen was delighted, reassured that her investment of time in figuring out what was important to her, and investment of money in putting in place the structures to make it all happen was going to repay itself in multitudes. Good on you 'Helen'!!
Beginning with the end in mind doesn't mean picturing ourselves on our death-bed (although that is a different and really useful exercise for another day!). It is moreso taking a step toward being deliberate about what we want out of life. Many of us assume that that is too much to ask, that we are only inviting trouble in doing so, but unless we know where we want to go how will we ever get there!?
Thanks for reading.
You're a legend,