I still can hear my professor’s voice from grad school echoing through my head repeatedly… “What gets measured gets done.” I am not going to say that this mantra is full proof nor will I say that things that are not measured do not get done, but it is amazing how if you are willing to go through the process of measuring things… to keep track of them, that they often seem more likely to get done.

In work, that is why it is important to not only have things that are measured but to think about the implications of what may be ignored due to the items that are chosen to be measured… Often in the workplace, whether a small business or a large corporation, this has led to the arrangement of a balanced scorecard where different things are measured to hopefully alleviate not having one important thing sacrificed for the sake of another.

In financial planning as it exists today, there often are tendencies to try to focus on one thing in terms of looking at priorities. Though there is definite power in focus, especially if one is willing to sacrifice other areas of one’s life to achieve something, this may not always be practical or advisable. Often it is not.

In goal setting, many may have made New Year’s resolutions as it related to health and wealth. These may include a goal to lose so much weight by such and such point, or to be able to complete a certain activity by a certain point of time, or to have accumulated X number of dollars.

I have completed a number of marathons. It involves a lot of training and a lot of time. I had to sacrifice other things in my life to be able to do these things. Though I reaped a number of benefits, including feeling better physically and in the training for one of them, losing a fair amount of weight, I also had less time that I spent on my relationships and some of them may have suffered accordingly.

Part of the beauty of planning is in trying to find the balance of what should be measured. What should be priority? What should we make certain is kept in the picture so it does not suffer? How often will we check in to make sure that we are going in the right direction? Are we prepared to readjust if our goals have unintentional side effects?

What measured does get done… and it can be used for significant benefit. It is also important to remember that there is more than just one thing that most of us face.

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I hope everyone is having a fantastic 2013 so far. I know I have been introduced to a number of new people who have decided to bring me on as a planner or a CFO to them and for that I am grateful. Perhaps even more importantly as far as I am concerned are those people who have decided to stick with me. They ultimately are the ones that allow me to focus on doing what I really love, which is working with people in examining how they spend their resources in order to help them achieve their goals.

This brings me to a very important point. Gratitude. I will suggest that one of the hallmarks of being able to build wealth is being grateful for what you have. Forget the psychological impact that you may have if you are never thankful to others for what they have done or given to you and their possible willingness to give you more. Let us think in terms of practicality. If you know that you want a specific something, let us say financial freedom, but you sabotage it because you always have to have a nicer car or a nicer home or a nicer vacation, your chances of achieving the financial freedom you “desire” are greatly diminished.

It is amazing how people who are grateful for what they have may be more content and better able to put aside the fruits of their hard work and ambition to get them where they want to go. I have noticed that people who are grateful tend to be able to stretch a dollar a lot further than those who lack gratitude. Please note that being grateful is not the same as being apathetic and lazy. Chances are that you will still have to work… and work hard to achieve your dreams and goals, but if you work on cultivating your gratitude, chances are your journey will be more pleasant.

What are you grateful for today?

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Why the House?

Occasionally I talk with different financial advisors and we often hear about different couples who think about divorce. More often than not, the lower income earner of the couple requests to have the house. The question that goes through my mind is why? Some people seem to think they have not “won the divorce” or are not secure unless they get the house. To many the house is the prize, a trophy of sorts that says I am the one in the right and the other person is gone. Though I realize emotions may lead one to feel that way, the financial reality will often suggest that nothing could be further from the truth. The house is more than likely an albatross around the lower income earner’s neck.

The house after the divorce is too large for the individual once the couple has split. It requires more costs in terms of upkeep, etc. than they would have most likely had if they had looked for a place on their own. The house is not liquid. Last time I checked people’s homes are not made of gingerbread nor other edible material. In short financially, the house is more likely a gold-plated ball and chain rather than an asset that allows the person to move on with their lives after what may be a painful emotional experience.

Some of you may be detecting my belief that the personal residence is probably one of the last things one should desire in terms of assets should one try to divvy up assets for a divorce. Personal property probably goes lower than the house on my list. If one is out to “win” in the divorce game, go for the assets that are more liquid and have income producing value first.  The other person is stuck with assets that very well may cost more to maintain and does not give them nearly the flexibility to move on with their life. Offhand, that does not sound like a good scenario to me.

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Hot Stock Tip…

Occasionally those who do not know what I do when I mention that I am in financial services ask me,”So, what is the hot stock tip?” This typically leads me to explain to them that I do not deal in hot stock tips. I do not even sell any product. I try to help people make sense of their financial situation by putting together a plan that addresses their goals and desires.

Often this is a fairly intensive process of getting to know the client, their goals and dreams, and then going through the grunt work of trying to assist them making it a reality by looking at their budget and spending habits and trying to put the proper pieces in place as indicated by a custom-tailored plan.

One thing that I have tended to notice regarding the “hot stock tips” that I have received is that they tend to be fairly risky, and quite probably a good way to lose money for the person who has received it. Rarely have I heard from get rich quick scenarios the caveat… “lose money quicker…” It simply does not tend to sound as good from a sales perspective, I guess.

Budgeting is not sexy to most people. However, it can assist people with being able to put aside money to help them achieve their long term hopes and dreams. But for those of you that are still itching for a hot stock tip, here it is… Be careful with “hot stock tips”… the reason why they are so hot, is that you just might get burned.


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Some may think I am about to speak out of the other side of my mouth as it relates to financial planning. How it is important to start off with goal setting, refine these goals, budget accordingly, and then use whatever forms of planning you can to help you achieve these goals. Perhaps, that may not be the right place to start. Perhaps the best place to start is with legacy.

Legacy is how you are remembered by others. I loved my grandmother. I knew her growing up and remembered when she passed away while I was in college. When I came back for her funeral, I also remember that during her eulogy that the person talked about her volunteering for this charitable group, the twenty years she played the piano for the church, etc. However, as I went around I overheard a number of conversations that truly captured her legacy. “Who was she again? You know, Mary Sue… she was the one with all of the good recipes.” Or “I am going to miss her flower arrangements so much…” Not one person aside from the eulogist talked about the charities or the twenty years of playing the piano for the church. Most people talked about her cooking or her flower arranging. That was her legacy. My grandmother was a great cook who freely gave out recipes and loved to make dried flower arrangements. I will suggest there are far worse legacies one can have.

There are some important lessons to be learned about legacy from this example. It is other people who in the end decide our legacy. We may do some very worthwhile actions in our lifetime, but they often may pale in comparison to who we are at our core. Though I know my grandmother played the piano, in the end, I too have to admit that I could see how most people would remember her for her cooking and her dried flower arrangements. I would personally like to add that she was a doting grandmother to me.

There are others who may commit a tragic or several tragic mistakes which will haunt them beyond their graves. I will not mention names specifically in this case. They are mentioned often enough in the news for one to readily come up with a list. The lesson is that though it can take a long time to build up a positive legacy, like reputation it does not take long to develop a negative one.

The good news is that even though we can only influence our legacy, we can take actions to change how we are remembered assuming we find it important. The story goes that Alfred Nobel had a life-changing moment when he read his obituary. From someone who was perhaps best known for his propagation of destruction, he went on to be known as the person who honored those who bettered humanity with his institute for Nobel Prizes. Perhaps this would be a good time to stop and think how you would like to be remembered.

Some may wonder why this relates to financial planning.  If one truly cares about how one is remembered, this would suggest that one may need to take different actions and/or set aside resources whether time or money to help shape one’s legacy. This could be life-changing for some as it was for Alfred Nobel when he read “his own” obituary published by a French newspaper.

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The Logo, Origami, and Financial Planning

From the title, this post may entirely appear to be self-serving and self-gratifying. I would suggest that it still probably is worth a read. There are many aspects of the Objective Planning logo that I like. I want to take the time and share one that I like as it relates to financial planning.

The logo has an origami like feel to it and seems to suggest one form leading to another. Financial planning, in my opinion, should be very much like origami in that it demands vision of where one wants to go, the creativity to take what may appear to be an ordinary situation and turn it into something different. Part of this usually involves adaptability and flexibility on the participant’s part. There is the saying that if you do what you always did, you should expect to get what you always got. If you want something different than what you have, most likely it is going to require flexibility on your part, and in the case of financial planning, to make the folds necessary in your life to get where you want to go. Some of these folds may be stronger than others, sometimes they may even seem uncomfortable, leaving a crease, but they will help to create the shape of where you want to go.

Though there are basic patterns, there are many different ways to help you achieve your objectives. Hopefully, these should be tailored to your individual needs in how one should get there. Also, in many cases, there are many different goals that you may want to achieve and if you are like most people neither have the resources nor the desire to accomplish/have all of them at once. As it relates to financial planning and origami this could mean taking the same resources and turning them into different things at different times to match your preferences.

The bottom line is that financial planning like origami should involve creativity and flexibility. If you are merely told you need to save X number of dollars to get to Y and that is your financial plan, I would think that you have received something that does not come close to capturing the potential that financial planning can bring. I would suggest that is only one aspect of financial planning, which though important, if one has the willingness to adapt, may not be as important as it appears on the surface.

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Memorial Day

There are many assumptions that exist when it relates to financial planning. Many people will talk about assumed rates of return, tax rates or life expectancy. I want to give a nod to several interrelated ones that are often taken for granted by many in the United States. Many of these assumptions are in a significant part due to the men and women who preserve the peace of our country. On Memorial Day we remember those that gave their lives while serving in the military for our freedom.

How much meaning would the amount you accumulated in your Roth IRA mean if you had to worry about people threatening your life on a regular basis led by either foreign invaders or mobs within our country?

What would it mean if we as the people were forced to live under a system where we had no choice, no influence or direction as it related to law or governance? Tyranny could easily reign. Things or privileges for which we have long worked could end up being taken from us at the whim of our leaders. If one lives long in such a society, what impetus is there for hope or production?

Not to make light of it, but a relatively small example of how violence and terror can affect our lives can be seen in the fallout from September 11, 2001. Approximately 3,000 people died and billions of dollars were lost. This was caused by a terrorist organization. Could you imagine what impact it would have if we had to worry about war on our own soil?

Peace and stability are some of the foundations on which any financial planning rests. Without these twin pillars, building wealth becomes a very different exercise where one always must be on one’s guard against the potential of someone with more power or cunning.

Please take a moment to thank and consider those who have fallen. Many of the things that you enjoy today are in part due to their blood.

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