financial goals

Depth Is a Choice

photo shows the top of a silver ladder coming out of a blue swimming pool

Some people find money talk awkward, to say the least. To others, it can seem tacky or even rude.

We’re in the business of money talk, though, and we know that there’s no planning for the future without it. What’s more—it can be a real pleasure! What could be more empowering than connecting numbers on paper to one’s real life? Getting a story in motion for a fellow human through a financial planning journey?!

Yep, I’ve been told I’m a little excitable.

But I do wonder how much of folks’ baggage about money talk comes from an unexamined relationship with money (or maybe years of being told what’s “proper” and what’s not?).

Clients, we’re not going to make you check any baggage at our door, but we want you to hear this: we recognize that our work gets really personal, really quickly. We know that our financial pasts and our future goals are intimate stories.

Can you imagine having a planning conversation that wasn’t personal, though? “I currently have a number of resources in several forms, and at a date in the future, I would like to be able to spend a certain amount of money for, um, reasons.”

In her book The Art of Gathering, Priya Parker talks about a facilitator she interviewed who compared coming together to entering a swimming pool. “There is a deep end and a shallow end,” the facilitator told her. “You can choose whatever end you want.”

To borrow this idea, we would suggest that financial planning is “an invitation to intimacy, but depth is a complete choice.”

We believe goals are intimate and individual by nature. We’ve talked before about how your neighbor’s retirement plan won’t be yours, your friend’s recent housing decision isn’t a blueprint for yours… You catch our drift?

All this is to say—we are here for the personal, the more pragmatic, and everything in between. We know the business we’re in, and it’s all about… you.

Clients, write or call when it’s time to update the specifics of your plans and planning.


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My “Money” Valentine: Practicing Healthy Relationships with Money

photo shows dollars bent into heart shapes

With another Valentine’s Day approaching, plenty of folks are reflecting on their romantic entanglements or interests, but it’s making us think more deeply about all sorts of relationships. 

What does a healthy relationship with money feel like? 

We are not here to give personal advice, per se, but there seem to be some fundamental principles that could serve us well in any partnership. 

Make way for reality. 

The most important of life’s conversations require some vulnerability—and bravery. Whether we’re talking about romantic commitments, financial health, or other big relationship, everyone involved would do well to be on the same page from the get-go.  

Start by getting everything relevant out on the table. Getting more familiar with the current state of things will help you face and work with the reality of your financial life. The important conversations deserve this level of honesty, even when it’s “just” you and your money! 

Check your expectations. 

For any endeavor, idealizing a relationship can doom it in an instant. Instead we’d recommend checking in with your expectations about money. Is any past baggage adding weight to a current financial issue? Or does it feel like progress is coming way too slowly? 

Sometimes the problem isn’t the issue itself: the problem is how we are framing the problem. Goals can be wonderful (see below!), but even as we’re playing the long game, embrace what author Lynne Twist calls “experiences of sufficiency.”  

They are those moments when things feel whole and life is full of “enough.”  

A meal that satisfies. Sunbeams falling across the countertop. Clothes on your back.  

A plan that you allow to inspire some hope. Speaking of… 

Use goals to light the path you’d like to take. 

Not every day of a relationship will be great, but the point isn’t total control of the outcome. Security comes from having confidence that, generally, things are headed the right direction. 

So what are the milestones along the way that will remind you of that? That will spark joy, serve others, or continue to connect you to what’s important? 

In the end…  

Love is all you need! Thanks to the Beatles for this one, but it works. In short, compassion is a great foundation for a healthier relationship with money. 

If you’d like to talk about what this means for you, please write or call.


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What To Do with Stupid Questions

photo shows room of business people with hands up to ask questions

For a lot of people, there is nothing scarier than raising their hand—in the classroom, in the boardroom, wherever. 

“What if I ask a stupid question? Everyone will think I’m totally lost…” 

“What if what I’m asking for is outrageous? Everyone will think I’m greedy, delusional…” 

We’ve known plenty of teachers who trot out the old line that “there are no stupid questions.” Our fear of judgment, of facing what we don’t know, of owning our dreams—that feels way more real than pretending that no one will judge us. 

Sometimes, though, we are our own best foil. We talk ourselves out of what we want before we even let ourselves say it out loud! We go into negotiations muzzled by our fear, so we ask for less than we want. We refuse to raise our hand, so we never get the answers we need. 

But we’ve got a trick for this, and we practice it in every conversation. Whether we’re working with each other on the staff, with you, or with our friends and colleagues at LPL, we wield a powerful tool that can defeat any stupid question. 

Curiosity.  

Curiosity is by far the best treatment for that fear: you just have to let yourself be more interested finding solutions and gaining understanding than you are afraid of how you look. 

And clients, we think it applies to you, too. When we work on your financial plans and planning, honest answers take us farther. Where are you headed? What are your dreams? What ideas and questions do you have? 

Why lowball our goals before we even get to work on them? Let’s give them a fighting chance. 

Clients, when you’re ready to talk about this or anything else, write or call. 


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Drop Your Tools

photo shows the front of a flat, wooden raft and the rushing water in front of it

We need to cross the river. The river has its dangers, but we can’t stay here. We gather materials and fashion a raft. Perched atop, we paddle it to the other shore, where we have a decision to make.

This raft has served us so well: it helped us get to this side of the river. It is a valuable tool. Should we carry it on our backs, as we continue on land?

Just posing the question should reveal how silly it would be to drag along something we’re done with. No, of course we shouldn’t carry the raft with us.

But as humans we do this sort of thing all the time. We mistake the tool for its meaning, and we cling to what has worked in the past. We can’t drop our tools: they got us here! Where would we be without them? Who would we be without them?

That type of thinking gets people all tangled up. We’re not our choices, and we’re not our tools. (And none of this is for forever!)

In our shop, when we suggest a change of course, it may indicate that a new opportunity has become available, but sometimes it just means that an older strategy is no longer serving us. It has played itself out. And we don’t care what anybody else thinks about our strategies, either, but the meaning of our tools comes not from just having them—but from having used them.

The parable of the raft was one of the Buddha’s teachings. He implored his students to trust their own experiences and use his teachings only as they were helpful. Otherwise, drop them. No dogma, no tool for its own sake.

Trust that the proper strategy and tactics will become clear from the values and principles at the core of this adventure. No strategy, no tactic for its own sake.

Clients, when it’s time to make a change in your portfolios, when we learn something new about the world around us, we will strive to be as transparent as possible. We will share our thinking, how it has changed, and what led us to our conclusion.

When you’d like to talk about this, or anything else, write or call.

Liquid Assets

© Can Stock Photo / sparkia

One of the keys to successfully weathering the downturns in the market, large and small, is having sufficient cash to do what you need to do in your real life. That helps avoid selling long term investments at bad times.

A few weeks back we went through investment advisory accounts to check cash balances for ongoing monthly distributions and make sure we had cash positions to last several months. And in our reviews with you, we inquire about upcoming cash needs.

As our lives unfold, our situations may change. For example, we talked with a pair of young adults a few weeks back, a brother and sister, who each are completing advanced degrees. In infancy, they received a gift of shares of stock from their great-grandfather, an old friend of mine.

Their holdings grew over the years. Each one called to talk about the strategy for paying off student loan balances later this year with the value of the accounts. When it became evident that the holding period was down to months, we advised the sale of sufficient stock to clear their balances, at once. Money that you plan on spending in the short term should not be invested for the long term.

The moral of the story is to communicate with us about exceptional cash needs that develop. If together we manage your liquidity to avoid untimely sales of long term investments, you and we will both be better off.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email or call.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals?

© Can Stock Photo / PixelsAway

We’ve all hard about SMART goals, haven’t we? The acronym stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound.”

Perhaps SMART goals should be balanced with GUT goals: General, Unbounded, Timeless.

SMART goals are all about what we do. GUT goals are all about who we are.

Great thinker James Clear talks says the key to lasting improvement is to change who we believe we are. This is key because we humans are always in the process of becoming who we believe we are. This is a general concept. For example, we might come to believe we are a person who prioritizes exercise.

Compare that to a SMART goal like ‘walk two miles every day.’ Life has a way of getting in the way of our plans; the specific plan to walk might fall to inclement weather, or an upset schedule. But if we believe we are a person who prioritizes exercise, we will usually figure out a way to get exercise despite the disruptions that inevitably pop up.

The SMART goal of walking two miles every day is specific, so involves failure when it is not met. But the GUT goal of becoming a person who prioritizes exercise, being general, does not chalk up a failure when the inevitable lapse occurs.

On another parameter, SMART goals can only be applied to things that are measurable. Many of the most important things cannot be measured. Try to quantify empathy, love, a sunset, or the work of an inspired person. A GUT goal might be about things that cannot be measured. One example, to be present in the presence of others: more empathetic, more attentive, more closely connected to the moment. If we come to believe we are that person, our actions will reflect it.

There are corollaries to personal financial planning. If we believe we are people who put something away every payday, who think twice before committing to large expenditures, who live below our means, who balance long term goals against impulsive spending, then our daily actions may support our key objectives.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.

Financial Inflammation

© Can Stock Photo / staras

Inflammation is one of the ways the human body deals with harmful stimuli. It keeps us healthy. Chronic inflammation is something else: it is thought by some to be at the root of many health challenges. It seems to be a factor in heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, and other serious problems. Complex processes are difficult to manage, but some things have been shown to reduce chronic inflammation.

We use the concept of chronic inflammation to think about other areas of life, as well. Sometimes we meet people who have conflicting goals, plans that are unlikely to happen, unsatisfying spending habits, or ineffective use of wealth.
All of these are a form of financial inflammation.

The first step in dealing with inflammation is understanding its role in keeping us from healthy bodies or working financial plans. Then we can work on the things that are aggravating it and the things that may help control it.

1. Clarifying goals provides a focus that may guide our decision-making and reduce uncertainty.

2. Figuring out a path to get to your goals provides a roadmap to move you toward that desired future.

3. Fixing the things that interfere with progress, and finding ways to improve your progress, are ways to systematically reduce the financial inflammation in your life.

Vitality is a good thing in your financial plans and planning, as well as in life.

Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

20/20 Foresight

© Can Stock Photo / leolintang

The New Year is upon us. Like Opening Day of baseball season, the first day of school, or any other beginning, it is a good time for plans and planning.

We’ve been able to focus on strategic issues in recent weeks, ones that will shape our work for you in the years to come. The general theme? Build an enterprise that will serve you well, and be durable enough to outlive me.

While we work ON the business, of course, we also need to work IN the business, taking care of things for you. Fortunately, we know exactly what the stock market and the economy are going to do: go up and down, same as always. Time tested principles and strategies will always be the foundation of our work with you. They do not eliminate the ups and downs, but they improve the odds we will survive them and come out on the other side.

The items on our list are wide ranging. The more significant ones: finding and developing more good people to join the team, figuring out office space, determining whether we need to form our own Registered Investment Advisor, guiding the evolution of our offerings, and building a more robust financial planning process.

But enough about us. What about your strategic issues? If you want to talk about retirement, changing where you live, sorting out who should get what after you are gone, or simply where to invest for the long run, email us or call.

Letters To Our Children #3: The Outlines of Planning

© Can Stock Photo / gina_sanders

The object of planning is to figure out your primary aim or goals in life, and what you need to do to get there. The habit of rethinking these things from time to time and assessing your progress keeps you on track.

It is helpful to think in terms of narrative – stories – that describe what you are thinking about. For example, if your story involves retiring to a home in the mountains, your life between now and then will be shaped by that goal. You might vacation in your intended destination, get a feel for the lifestyle, the real estate market, activities, how your life might look in retirement. The narrative may motivate you to do what you need to do to make it a reality some day.

No matter how distant your goal, you’ll be better off if you know how much wealth you might need to get where you want to go. So there is some arithmetic and financial planning to do.

Getting down to details, we think there are several broad categories that need attention in a comprehensive plan. People are better off when they think about and manage:

• Human capital, or earning power, and careers.
• Investing wisely, managing financial assets.
• Spending well, managing the budget and liabilities.
• Residential plans, where do you want to wake up every day?
• Educational funding plans for children or other relatives.
• Retirement intentions.
• Exposures to loss.

In subsequent letters, we will get down to details in each of these areas. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.