Itís been a few years now that Iíve known a very sweet lady Iíll call Anna. I met her through the most unfortunate of circumstances. Her husband had passed away and her whole world was turned upside down. To be expected, the emotional loss she suffered was significant. But her loss was compounded by her lack of understanding of her financial situation. Anna had no idea where to turn, or what to do. She had never had to write a check, let alone balance the checkbook. Anna needed help.
She came to me with a plastic bag stuffed full of old tax records, an old trust document, and a bunch of financial statements (most of which were still in their respective mailing envelopes). This pile of paperwork represented her financial life. And she had no idea what any of it meant. Iíll never forget the anxiety she brought with them. After we spent some time together, it was clear that she had plenty of money. I think she knew it, but because everything was so unorganized, she was worried.
I was reminded of Anna and her pile of papers last week as my wife and I prepared to discuss our finances as part of our Spring-cleaning list. Because I am so busy, it isnít often enough that she and I sit down to discuss our situation. Perhaps youíre the same way. Perhaps you pile papers like Anna. Iíd venture to guess that many of us donít take the time to think about all the things that make up our financial lives in a comprehensive way. Instead we put things on a pile. We put our finances out of sight and out of mind.
At first it might just be the first investment we hear about, but soon we have old work accounts, a few shares of some stock we inherited from our grandparents, and an old will that was written when the kids were born. Over time, we end up with a giant mess, and it becomes clear that nothing works together in any noticeable way.
Real financial advice is the process of bringing order to that pile of stuff. Itís the process of compartmentalizing resources, prioritizing goals, and then aligning the resources with the goals. Itís a process of reassessing those resources and goals over time; to be sure weíre still on track. It doesnít have to mean that everything is neatly piled, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. But it does require a scheduled check-up every now and then. Not unlike Spring-cleaning!
As you get the yard ready for warmer weather, and exchange the winter clothes for warmer attire, Iíd ask you to think about Anna. Is your financial life just a pile of papers right now? Is it time for your finances to undergo some Spring-cleaning too? Start by calling a CFP professional and schedule your check-up. Fill a plastic bag if you must, but you donít have to be discouraged. There is help.
Benjamin N. Haas, CFP, CRPC, US Wealth Management. 158 West Main Street, Kutztown. Securities offered through LPL Financial. Member FINRA/SIPC. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which investment(s) may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor prior to investing.