financial goals

The Journey [video]


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TRANSCRIPT:

[MARK] They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Really, the whole journey, every inch of it, happens one step at a time. Everything you can think of is made of tiny things, tiny actions, single steps. The secret to accomplishing anything is basically to put one foot in front of the other.

The training of an Olympic swimmer happens one stroke at a time. Our quaint quarters at 228 Main were built one brick at a time. Books get written one word at a time. The 25 year history of LFS happened one day at a time. A $1 million 401(k) account gets built one fraction of a paycheck at a time. Healthy eating habits are formed one bite at a time. Relationships blossom one conversation at a time. A portfolio gets put together one opportunity at a time.

Humble, common actions within the reach of anyone are what great stuff is made of. You do this simple thing. Then you do it again. Then you do it again.

The secret to accomplishing anything great is to put one foot in front of the other, while you are aimed in the general direction of something worthwhile.

Resolution, Two Ways

photo shows a camera in the background out of focus and a lens in the foreground in focus

Clients, among you there are amateur (and even some pro!) photogs. If you have worked with cameras or graphics, you are familiar with the term “resolution.” It refers to the clarity of an image, one of the classic definitions of the word.

Another has to do with a sense of purpose. In our financial plans and planning, we are thinking about the person we want to be and the life we want to lead in the future. We have to consider where to wake up every day, what to do, how to spend our days… These issues are integral to setting our goals. When we know what we want to do or who we want to be, we may resolve to get there.

Or, another way… We may become resolute.

Taken together, both these definitions of “resolution” become powerful characteristics in the planning process. We seek clarity for our vision of the future, to get a high-resolution image in mind. Then we resolve to shape our actions toward our goal; in other words, we make a resolution.

Of course, nothing as momentous as our life plans could be that simple. Never having been to the future, our vision of it will likely need adjusting along the way. And success is less a matter of grit and grim resolution than figuring out the systems that will get us where we want to go, in the most effective, least obnoxious manner.

Rather than clarity about a singular goal, we may work toward building options. Perhaps we cannot yet know whether we will prefer to retire in-place or as a snowbird—or to move to the mountains or the sea. We might end up preferring becoming a picture of leisure or maybe endeavoring in a pleasant encore career in an area of interest. The key to holding options is having the resources that can fund different paths.

No matter the picture you envision, with some clarity and resolve, we believe lots of possibilities might take shape before our eyes.

Clients, if you would like to gain greater resolution about your goals, or develop the resolution to make more options available, email us or call.


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Play the audio version of this text below:

Living on Purpose

photo shows a highway stretching out into a blue sky

Some say the young believe themselves immortal. When our whole lives seem to be ahead of us, it feels like there is plenty of time to do whatever we intend to do.

But we know the mortality rate is 100% in the long run. More than 3 million people died last year in the United States, about 1 person in 100.

And in our experience, many people coming to grips with their own mortality come to believe that life is short—no matter their age.

If it’s true, then how do you fill in the blank? “Life is short, I better ___________.”

In the prior chapter of my life, we filled in the blank with “we better have a little fun every day.” That’s still appropriate in this chapter, but I ponder what else fits in the blank these days.

Interestingly, some things are so basic to our natures they go without saying. A person who is consistently kind and empathetic to others might not think to fill in the blank with “be kind” because it is assumed. So thinking about how you might fill in the blank is another way to be intentional about how you live, to do things on purpose.

Maybe that’s what all this is about. By the end of the road, I’d like to know that I meant the things I did and did the things I meant to.

How about you?

Clients, life is short. How can we serve you—and help you connect your money with your one precious life? Call or email, anytime.


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Play the audio version of this post below:

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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Play the audio version of this post below:

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.