Rarely are two people’s opinions on financial matters in agreement. Take investments, for example. Every day millions of buyers and sellers exchange shares of companies where one party thinks it is time to sell and another thinks it is a good time to buy. The same juxtapositions occur in every other part of your financial life.
In your financial life, it really doesn’t matter what choice your neighbor or sister made with respect to their finances. Their needs, time frames, tolerance for risk, employment situation and family world may be completely different from yours. In fact, once people decide to become financially aware and get their fiscal act tightened up, it is frequently clear that even within the same walls there are differences among spouses and partners regarding what to do.
To make the right choice for your family, you first need to understand your options. Understanding means taking the time to learn about all of the possible solutions and evaluating them with respect to your specific facts and circumstances. This is obviously challenge one – and a steep one at that. It can be self-taught, but it may take you a lifetime. If you have chosen to work with an advisor, make sure that their investment in you delivers enough education so that you completely understand your options and why a certain path is most appropriate for you today.
Unfortunately, this is not a one and done exercise. Your learning and tweaking is something more like a lifetime endeavor.
The reason? Stuff happens. Economies, tax laws, health, family, earnings, inflation are always in motion and can change in a moment. This requires your recollection of what you’ve done with a keen memory of why you did it. It also requires ongoing monitoring and that you are also sharp enough to know when it is time to modify, eliminate or add some new strategies to accommodate what has changed.
In this process of learning – also choose to critically evaluate the help that you’ve enlisted. Take a careful look at the professionals that make up your advisory team. Is everyone carrying their own weight? Is there any interaction amongst them? Is there any coordination of efforts to be sure that nothing is falling between the cracks?
Don’t take this lightly. My experience has shown that many of your professional advisors stick to their knitting or silo of subject matter expertise, and that gaps frequently exist that your accountant, lawyer, insurance agent and asset manager have ignored to your detriment. One of the more obvious signs that your team is dysfunctional is how you own your assets.
Joint ownership amongst spouses, or even worse, with children is a telltale sign that your team is asleep at the switch and not thinking about your best long term interests. Another may be beneficiary elections. Have you made your young adult children the alternate beneficiary of a large life policy or retirement account? Enough said.