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What We Really Do PDF Print E-mail
Written by John D. Buerger, CFP®   
Tuesday, 19 January 2010 05:49
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John Buerger

I think there is a gross misunderstanding.

I would bet that "what I do" and "what you think I do" are substantially different from each other.

That's too bad ... and I hope to change that some with this post.

It means that you will get far less benefit from the material on this website than you could or should and ... more important ... It keeps you from realizing your potential (which is my #1 objective).

It keeps you from getting the most out of your life!

DOES MY REALITY EQUAL YOUR PERCEPTION?
WHAT WE DO - REALLY
THE JIGSAW PUZZLE ANALOGY
THE ODDS ARE AGAINST YOU ...
... BUT YOU CAN BEAT THEM

This post grows out of quarterly conference for the FPA (Financial Planning Association) that I attended last Friday down in Thousand Oaks.  I've always liked these quarterly meetings.  They are a chance to connect with other like-minding financial professionals - real financial planners - and compare stories about the good work that each of us has been able to accomplish.

And that is exactly the way I would describe what I - and other CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professionals - do.  It is "good work" on par with what the best doctors, scientists, teachers and coaches do to make this world a better place for all of us.

Does My Reality Equal Your Perception?

When I meet someone for the first time and they ask me what I do, I tell them I am a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and I help people make smart choices with their money - choices that are in alignment with their life mission, vision, values and goals.

MY REALITY - In my mind I'm thinking of how I have already helped dozens (more than a hundred) people improve cash flow, save more and do things (like travel or retire or build a business) they couldn't figure out for themselves.  I've celebrated successes and helped others make the most out of tough times (we've had plenty of those the past few years).

It's really rewarding work that has been extremely valuable to the clients who have paid for those services.

YOUR PERCEPTION - The person that I meet, on the other hand, might be thinking of all the financial salespeople and others they have met who work in financial services - sharks who have used hard nosed sales techniques and sold them products they later found out they didn't need and couldn't really afford.   If the person didn't have that bad experience (some people are fortunate) or they're really nice, they'll just lump me in with other investment advisors and ask me for a hot tip on the stock market.

Either way, the picture in my mind is usually VERY different from the picture in your mind because of the experiences and behavior of those who have come before me.

What We Do - Really

While you might want to lump a financial planner into the same group as your investment advisor, CPA or tax accountant, our work is far more forward-thinking and holistic than that.  Where most people view their financial decisions in relationship to the here and now, a financial planner helps you view your financial decisions today within the framework of both the present and your future quality of life.

"A financial planner does vast amounts of research and draws on extensive education and experience to understand the events of the past, the economics of today and determine the potential outcomes of the future so that he/she can help you (the client) navigate whatever threats and opportunities you may encounter on your way to your goals and dreams."

Think about that for a moment ...

How many other people do you know who make it their job to look into the foggy future and dare to help you navigate your way through it?  With all that is going on in our economy and with our government, the future is foggier, the waters are murkier and everything is more dangerous than ever, but your friendly, holistic advisor is there working feverishly to find solutions that mitigate as much risk as possible and improve your odds of success.

Now compare those last couple of paragraphs to the type of financial services worker I am most commonly lumped in with - the stockbroker or financial services salesperson.

There is a huge difference.

To help you understand even better the depth of the true financial planning process, I'd like to try an analogy: the jigsaw puzzlle.

The Jigsaw Puzzle Analogy

Your financial life is like a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle that has just been dumped out onto the table ... and all the pieces are face down.  If you are like most people, you probably have a system for doing a jigsaw puzzle (for example: first find all the edge pieces and put them together) but we believe the first thing you should do is get a good idea of what the puzzle should look like when we're done - that means flipping over the pieces AND looking at the picture on the box.

Now life isn't quite that simple - the picture on the box becomes clearer the longer you look at it (the longer you think about your life's goals, mission, vision and values).  Right now, that picture is probably pretty fuzzy so part of the financial planning process is to have conversations about what you want that picture to look like when your puzzle is finally put together.

Since we're experienced professionals, we've done this type of puzzle before and we know some tried and true strategies that will help you get through it quickly.  We can help you sort your pieces (face up) so that rather than have one big, confusing 1000 piece puzzle to work on, you'll have half a dozen smaller, more managable 75-piece puzzles.

The end result is that you will get the puzzle done quicker ... with fewer mistakes and less stress in the process.  Not only that, the picture will look like what YOU want, not what I or someone else thought would be a good picture.

The Odds Are Against You ...

The odds are against you.  Most people (about 95%) will never achieve financial independence (where their income producing assets create enough income for them to enjoy the lifestyle to which they have grown accustomed).

Likewise, only a small percentage of Americans will engage with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional to help them - preferring to read self-help books, buy financial products from a salesperson/stockbroker or (and this is the most common) think about it later and do nothing today.

I was chatting with a tax accountant last week and he offered that the reason so many people prefer to ignore financial planning is that they don't want to go through the process.  It's like standing naked in front of someone you don't know (financially naked is worse than physically naked, I guess) which is almost impossibly unfomfortable.  Add to this the fact that you KNOW things aren't right and you don't want to hear the diagnosis and it is easy to understand the hesitancy to take action.

Denial is a very powerful human coping mechanism ... that does absolutely nothing to help you.

... But You CAN Beat Them

The best way to achieve financial success is to have a plan.  Whether you create this plan yourself or work with a professional, the success of your strategy will depend on (1) your current understanding of your present situation (standing naked), (2) your clarity of where you want to be (the picture on the jigsaw box) and (3) your ability to take action and push through resistance to make your goals and dreams come true.

Most people let denial take over and as a result, they never achieve their potential.

How you beat those odds is by understanding that the denial - the unwillingness to make a few changes and get outside your comfort zone - will forever lock you into the 95% which ... as I said before ... doesn't serve you well.

My experience has taught me that awareness of the problem is the first step to the solution ... in fact you can't have the solution without the awareness. 

That is my reality ...

... which is not always the same as your perception.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 January 2010 22:20