We have heard the expression from both outside sources and from clients, that visiting your financial advisor is like a visit to the dentist and marriage counselor all wrapped up together. Revealing personal financial information is fraught with fear and emotion. Many people are more comfortable talking about their personal health and what ails them physically than about their personal wealth and desires for their financial future.
The impact of feeling judged might be one reason behind the fear and emotion. Many clients ask us if they are like our other clients. We clearly want to know how we stack up compared to others. We hear the expression, “you must see this all the time”, all the time. There are also the apologies, expressing regret in hindsight that you should have done more; wishing you had saved better; lamenting you should have spent less.
Budgeting is a good example of feeling judged. We do not require you to complete a budget to work with us, nor do we critique it. We provide a spending worksheet to help you identify your budget, but it is your budget. We might ask clarifying questions or point out a common expense overlooked, but we will not tell you where to change your budget. Your priorities and values around money are what make you unique and should be respected by us.
A recent discussion with a client about comparing led to an interesting revelation about differing circumstances. I sometimes use the example of an inheritance. We typically have no idea whether our neighbor or co-worker inherited a sum of wealth. Instead, we wonder why our lifestyle doesn’t match our peers. The client responded that was exactly what happened within their own family, as far as an in-law inheriting a sum of money that was not part of their side of the family.
The desire for a life well lived is a meaningful goal regardless of the circumstances that led you to where you are when you come see us. When asked how you compare, the honest answer is that we don’t compare and there is no comparing anyway. I have been doing financial goal planning for almost 23 years now, and every situation is different. Many clients have heard us express that is one of the things we love about our jobs. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together to help you achieve your financial goals is fascinating and fulfilling work. Every puzzle is different, truly making our work fun and challenging. There is no cookie cutter recipe for setting up a financial plan for you and there is no judgement. Seriously, we do not walk away from the meeting thinking about how much better you could have done getting to where you are today. Where you are today is here, and we look forward to helping you make wise financial decisions towards a life well lived.
Cathie Straub, CPA, CFP®
Director, APCM Wealth Management for Individuals