financial planning tools

What a Nice Problem to Have!

photo shows a pile of small American cash bills

Money isn’t just money. This is one the unspoken understandings that drives our work at 228 Main.

(Green paper folding money is actually pretty gross, when you think about it. We exchange germ-ridden linen for goods and services? It’s weird.)

For many people we know, money represents work. It’s sweat and time and livelihood.

For some, money means travel, through time and chapters of our lives.

It’s supporting children and parents and ourselves and our communities.

It moves around among us and makes new things.

However, money can be a top stressor for many Americans. We’d like to offer a little reframe: money can be a wonderful problem to have.

In recent months, fresh flows of cash have been springing up in many households as the pandemic kept us less mobile and less active. Others have discovered more flexibility after paying down debt across the last year. And those stimulus checks arrived whether we needed them or not!

We’ve been hearing from some of you about those big financial questions of life, too, as some are wondering about whether a financial legacy takes the form of an inheritance for later or gifts splashed around to children or loved ones now.

Generational wealth is a powerful tool and privilege. It also highlights the tensions we feel around money: what is the utility of money, in our lives? What can it get us and others? What can it do for us and other?

How do you best use your money? There isn’t one answer—and we certainly aren’t here to tell you your answer—but oh my, what a nice problem to have!

Clients, may your wealth bring you only the best of dilemmas. We’ll be here to try to help you along your way.

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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.

How Does It Sound Now?

© Can Stock Photo / merydolla

They say country music great Chet Atkins was playing a gig in a small Nashville club. After finishing a song, an audience member said “Man, that old guitar sounds great.” Atkins placed the guitar on its stand and replied, “How does it sound now?”

I’m reminded of this story as we review available technology for financial planning and investing. Some approaches to investing rely entirely on technology. Your supposed “risk tolerance” can be reduced to a number, which correlates to a pre-determined set of investments chosen by an algorithm, a computer program.

The financial planning process may be practiced on a robotic basis as well. One may enter data into a program or website, and get back a recommendation as to how much money must be saved or invested each month to reach one’s goals.

Oddly, sometimes even financial representatives function only as a conduit to get information from you to put into the machinery, and then deliver the outcome of the calculations back to you. The main function of the human in that case is to be a money-finder, not actually do any investment work or financial counseling.

Lots of colors in the pie chart and lots of pages in the financial plan can not replace the human touch. Understanding and clarifying what makes you tick, your purpose, your most heartfelt goals, these are things best left to real people. The dialogue, the discussion may be the most valuable part of the process.

Often we find many little things that might be improved by a slightly different approach. But few people care, unless they feel they are on track to meet the biggest thing on their list – their most cherished goal. It seems like the robotic approach has trouble understanding priorities.

I’m thinking that the guitar will always need a guitar player, and a usable financial plan will often need a planner. Of course we use technology to extend our reach and effectiveness, but its biggest blessing is in giving us more time to work with you, one on one.

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..

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.