long term planning

Important but not Urgent

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On the advice of a speaker at a conference, I am in the process of re-reading Stephen Covey’s classic book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This 1980’s staple of business literature is surprisingly timeless.

One of Covey’s theories is that time management is really self-management. He suggested that all tasks might be categorized according to urgent or not urgent, and important or not important. Those things that are both urgent and important must always be handled: production, emergencies, project deadlines.

But many important things are not urgent:

  • Building relationships.
  • Increasing productive capacity.
  • Looking at new opportunities.
  • Planning.
  • Recreation.

On any given day, these non-urgent things might be ignored without huge cost. But in the long run, the time we spend on them might be a key indicator of success, health, and happiness. A balance between production (urgent and important) and taking care of productive capacity (important but not urgent) may be a hallmark of sustainable enterprise.

This seems to apply to our personal lives as well as business. (If we are doing it right, we lead integrated lives – being the same person off the job and on the job, anyway.) Many things that give us a chance for a longer, healthier life are important but not urgent.

Working on your plans and planning, whether for retirement or estate planning or whatever, falls into that ‘important but not urgent’ category as well. Easy to put off, not a big cost to ignore for a short time, but with a huge impact on long term outcomes.

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.

 

Taking Stock

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One of the things we do periodically with you is take stock. Having a periodic review helps us stay in touch with what is going on in your life. It’s also a good time to review your holdings, the economy and the markets as well. The items to discuss fall into these two basic categories.

  1. Planning – connecting your money to your life.
    1. Cash flow needs, saving, spending and lifestyle.
    2. Thinking on retirement.
    3. Plans for residence, if any, moving or major remodeling.
    4. Estate and trust considerations.
    5. Other objectives, special considerations, taxes.
  2. Investing – your portfolio and the markets.
    1. The role of volatility in long term investing.
    2. Risk tolerance discussion.
    3. Time horizon review.
    4. Our assessment of opportunities and risks.

Of course, we spend a lot of time working with you when a money question comes up. You can ask us anything, any time. If we don’t know the answer, we’ll do our best to find it.

Clients, if things are happening we should know about, please email us or call. Otherwise, we’ll be in touch by and by.

Navigating Life

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I have never been what they call “an early adopter.” Even at the dawn of the personal computing age, my strategy was to figure out where the leading edge of technology was, and take two steps back. So it may not surprise you to know I am fairly new to the world of smart phone navigation.

The way those systems work reminds me of the way we approach life here at 228 Main:

1. Start where you are.
2. Proceed by way of your plans.
3. Arrive at your dreams.

When the phone maps a route for you, it never says “Gosh! There are a lot of problems where you are. It’s too far to go! Maybe you should wait for a better day to go.” It simply takes your location and starts to make plans.

Once underway, if you get off course, the phone figures out whether it is better to go back the way you came, or take a new route to the same goal. One way or the other, it wants you back on track. It won’t let you go mile after mile the wrong direction.

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do. So one of the basic requirements is knowing your destination.

When we think about our work for you, there are many similarities. We begin by understanding where you are, your starting point. We invest time in learning your goals (or dreams), helping you clarify them if necessary. Where you are, where you want to go: it is about the same as using your phone to navigate.

Then we do the work. Sort out the best path to get you to your dreams. Check in and monitor it to make sure you are still on course. Provide midcourse corrections if needed. And communicate continuously with you.

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

Letters to our Children #4: Create Your Own Adventure

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Narratives, or stories, are how we understand the world and our place in it. They may play a powerful role in helping you form and reach your major aims. For example, my own narrative about working to age 92 has given our enterprise a vitality and dynamism that those coasting toward retirement may lack—among other benefits.

While your story is highly personal and unique, we often see these three patterns:

1. Younger clients are often aiming at building financial security, establishing homes and careers, within the longer term goal of becoming financially independent.
2. Some of our clients are retirees whose narratives involve being a good steward of their wealth, enjoying life by living modestly but well, and aiming at leaving a legacy to succeeding generations.
3. Others are more focused on travel or other things that were not possible during their working years, and having the cash flow to comfortably support those things.

The foundation of your narrative is your core principles, or what you are trying to do with your life. When your story connects with the most fundamental thing about you, it may be more likely to become true. What are the three most important things in your life?

Where and how do you want to live? What role will family play in your activities? How will you spend your time? Will you work at something you enjoy for pleasure in later years? Is entrepreneurship in your future?

You do yourself a big favor when you realize that life is your own adventure. You can create it.

Sometimes your story has to change because life happens. One chapter ends and a new one begins. We are almost never done with new chapters and new stories. Resiliency and adaptability, making the most of what you have to work with, are useful additions to any story.

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

Life in Four Dimensions

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Kurt Vonnegut wrote about a race of beings who could see in four dimensions. The fourth dimension is time. “All moments, past, present, and future, have always existed, always will exist.” They could look at different moments from the past or future the way you and I might look at a stretch of the Rocky Mountains.

This is an interesting way to think about the work we do together with you, planning for the future. It requires us to see the future we want, and do what is needed to make that plan potentially become reality. People in their working years need to see ahead a decade or two or three, and envision the future.

Our investment process relies heavily on history, being able to see the past. Most conditions in the economy and markets repeat from time to time in one form or another. We can better understand these things when we know what has gone on before. In other words, seeing the past may provide clues that help us in the present.

The Vonnegut quote contains an implication with which we strongly disagree. The idea that the future is already set implies that nothing we do matters.

In fact, our whole philosophy is that the choices we make are crucial in shaping the future. There are many things beyond our control, but we control our actions. We do not control the future, but we can work to make the best things more likely to happen.

Putting this all together, we can formulate our own idea about life in four dimensions: learn from the past to shape the future we desire. When we work together, we have a better chance to pull this off.

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

Change is Changing

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When we think about our lives, our work, and our leisure, it seems evident that the pace of change is accelerating. This is not a new idea. A 1970 best-selling book by Alvin and Heidi Toffler, Future Shock, first brought this idea into public consciousness—they argued that the rate of change was overwhelming for many people. The future was coming too quickly. And since then, things have only gotten faster.

Thinker Burt White spent time talking about change at the recent LPL Financial national conference. One of the lessons of change is that knowing about it is not good enough, he says: “You have to do something about it.”

We think about the evolution of the economy and the markets, the changing face of law and regulation, industry trends that affect us, and the unfolding needs of you, our clients. There are many sources of change!

Knowing that adaptability is the new superpower, as White says, we also think about how we survive change, or better yet, thrive in it. How do we “do something about it”? The answer, for us, has a number of parts.

• Focusing on your wellbeing helps us sort out what we need to do in seeking to improve your position in the years ahead. You know our theory has long been the better off you are, the better off we will ultimately be. Looking at change through this lens brings clarity about what we need to do.

• Planning to work to age 92 has perhaps given us the perspective of a younger, more vibrant enterprise. When others might be coasting toward retirement, seeking an exit, we are gearing up and planning for the decades ahead.

• Having a sophisticated institutional partner like LPL Financial is a boon. It feels as if they are creating the future of digital communications together with us. They are at the leading edge of new media in terms of support and training, in our opinion. Few colleagues employ these tools to the extent we do, to keep our connection to you.

The unfolding future, change and all, feels as if it were built for us. We like having the same story for everyone. Communicating at the speed of light is good for you and for us. And it is as gratifying as ever to work with you as you strive toward your goals.

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


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Connect the Dots

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Do you remember the “connect the dots” pictures for children? By drawing lines from one dot to the next, the players discover that a coherent picture emerges from a seemingly disorganized collection of dots on the page.

Likewise, our work involves creating a picture that makes sense out of all the things going on in the world. In our version, though, there’s no handy numbering guide to draw our attention to the relevant dots.

Instead there seems to be an infinite number of dots in the world. So our first task is to do some sorting. For example, a vast mass of information is available about the day-to-day movement of the stock market. We can sort out any dots that fit into the category “the market goes up and down”—and then discard them. They are not pertinent for long-term investors.

Time horizon plays a large role in sorting as well. There is a wealth of opinions about nearly any investment alternative. A short-term technical analyst may have an opinion that is useful to a day trader but worthless to investors who are thinking in terms of years or decades.

But our work involves more than sorting out what to ignore. We frequently need to dig deeper—to read SEC filings, to research what happened in prior cycles years ago, and to look up many years of operating results. In other words, we still have to be able to find some of the specific dots we know are needed to complete the picture.

For example, we believe that inflation in the next few years will exceed consensus expectations. There is little information from the past decade supporting this view, in our opinion, but as we dig deeper, the patterns going back many decades suggest we may have it right. (No guarantees.)

Another way of saying all of this is that perspective, context, and background matter as we try to connect the dots. We are fortunate to have time to think deeply—and clients who value our methods and our work are a big plus. Together, we’ll create the picture.

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


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

The economic forecasts set forth in this material may not develop as predicted and there can be no guarantee that strategies promoted will be successful.

Only Thirty Years Left

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In the merry month of May a long time ago, I graduated from college in a new cheap suit and embarked on my career in financial services. The first entry on the resume was life insurance agent, the Prudential Insurance Company of America.

The insurance companies managed their affairs with vast armies of file clerks and secretaries and bookkeepers, filling towers of offices in major cities. There were no computers on desktops, long distance telephone calls cost a lot of money, and typing a letter was surprisingly time consuming.

Just a few years before, the New York Stock Exchange got so far behind in its record-keeping that it was forced to stay closed on Wednesdays for months in order to catch up the paperwork. This was due to the record trading volume of…wait for it…TWELVE MILLION SHARES A DAY.

Needless to say, times have changed a lot since I got in business.

I don’t understand how it happened, but I am turning age 62 this month. My plan to work to age 92 may be keeping me young. Between our digital communications, expansion of the team, reworking our systems and processes, keeping up with economic and market developments, and talking to you, there isn’t really time to feel old.

Thinking about the arc of this career so far, I began in the 20th century with a company founded in the 19th century. And now we are at the vanguard of the 21st century.

It feels like this unfolding age was made for us. We understand how to communicate with you in the new media. Being straightforward is a big edge when everything you say and do is visible. Word of mouth is a speed-of-light phenomena nowadays.

At this milestone, with so much left to do, we are grateful to be alive and part of it. With the best clients in the world and support by LPL Financial, we are very fortunate.

Clients, thank you all, again, for everything. If we can do anything for you, email us or call. Here’s to a great thirty years ahead, for you and for us.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Leibman Financial Services and LPL Financial are not affiliated.

Playing the Long Game

© Can Stock Photo / JamieWilson

The more we think about it, the more striking it is. We are talking about the connections between major decisions and strategies in other parts of life, and effective investing.

Lengthening your time horizon enables you to look past normal market ups and downs, and perhaps enjoy long term gains. On the other hand, a short-term focus leaves people with a choice of potentially safer but stagnant accounts, or day-trading. Our experience leads us to believe that playing the long game pays. No guarantees, of course.

Likewise, thinking about where you want to be seven or fourteen or twenty-one years from now gives you a framework that shapes the choices you make day to day. You may be more likely to make progress toward your major goals in life. Not playing the long game may hurt your chances.

Many have had the experience of enjoying some product or service that seemed to be priced at unbelievable bargain levels. When we were young, a wonderful barbecue ribs place opened up nearby. Great food, all you could eat, an unbelievable price. There was nothing else like it. Customers flocked to it—we went back again and again.

For a few months, that is. Until it closed without notice or warning. The proprietor had not been thinking about the long game. He knew it was important to deliver a great experience to large numbers of customers. But he wasn’t paying attention to the need to cover his overhead and make a decent return. A dining room full of happy customers, the short term indicator, was not enough.

As customers, we would have been better off to pay sustainable prices to keep the restauranteur in business. His place might have become one of those beloved institutions that last generations. Instead, we got bargains on good food for a few months—then it was over.

In our business, we often counsel people about investments or insurance they originally purchased from an agent or advisor prior to becoming our client. Often some level of confusion or frustration has crept into their understanding of what they have. We are always happy help clear things up.

But this is an object lesson to us about the importance of being there for you. We are always thinking about the long game for our enterprise, too. Clients, if you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are 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.

Invest Wisely, Spend Well

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A client came in, hat in hand, apologizing profusely for requesting the withdrawal of a few thousand dollars. He seemed sure the request would upset me.

I’m opposed to clients giving their hard-earned money away to scammers or nephews buying bars, so I inquired as to the use of the funds. It turns out that his home needed a modification to accommodate his wife’s changing health.

Of course, I told him that I would be upset if he didn’t use his wealth to make the home improvement. Relieved, he told me that his previous advisor would get agitated about any withdrawals from his investment accounts. It sounded as if that advisor forgot whose money it was.

We devote most of our time and attention and thoughts and words to our version of investing wisely. But what is it all for? There is no reason to be the richest person in the cemetery.

A more balanced view is captured in the short phrase, ‘invest wisely, spend well.’ We aren’t suggesting that you chop down the orchard to sell it as firewood. But it is OK to use the fruit crop to make life better for you and people you care about.

The same lesson was driven home by other friends. In their 70’s, this couple took their extended family on a vacation to a fabulous destination. In the telling, she raved about how great it was while he silently shook his head. I asked him if he had a different opinion. He said they should have started those trips twenty years before.

Many of us need to be diligent about saving and cautious about spending in our working years. Building toward financial independence in the face of everyday expenses can be a struggle. If we do it right, the struggle fades away as the years go by. At a certain point, we may need to warm up more to the idea of spending well.

Clients, we are always thinking about your long term financial position. Your situation seven or fourteen years from now matters—we plan on being here, and we plan on you being here too. But the idea isn’t to pile up the most money you can—it is to strive to have the resources to do what you want and need to do.

Invest wisely. Spend well. If you would like to discuss how this applies to you, please email us or call.


The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are 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.