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A Discussion with My Dad

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Yesterday, my Dad pointed out an article (as he so often does) in the weekend Wall Street Journal titled, “Dad, Did You Achieve All of Your Life Goals?” by a Mr. Warren Kozak, written from the perspective of a 68 year old dad fielding this question from his 21 year old daughter as she embarks on her Senior year in college. It’s a bit of a tear jerker, as you might expect – but an excellent little read and a welcome respite from other, darker headlines.  The point of the article is the author’s realization of how significantly his definition of “success” had changed over the course of the 50+ years since he was 21, and how what he now calls his “greatest accomplishments” were not even on his list of aspirations all those years ago.

After much thought, the father ultimately tells his daughter, “I am still a work in progress and could mess up royally before it’s all over…” and “It’s a great question, but you have to grow into the answer.”

This article struck me because so often we only (re)assess our values, and the financial implications of those values, at points of necessity or upheaval – a death in the family, unsettling news surrounding our health or employment, a child about to depart for college… you get the idea.  With all of the white noise surrounding us, it’s no surprise that so many decisions (financial or otherwise) are often RE-actionary, or driven by fear, instead of by a conscious consideration of how our values may have changed, may BE changing, and how our habits, financial and otherwise, need to change with them.

I don’t want to hijack the beautiful, emotion-filled message of this WSJ article and replace it with a discussion of dollars and cents (I personally am a sucker for any articles that pull at my heart strings, as many of you know…), but as our values and our finances are often inextricably related, I’d like to offer the following:

  • Values should drive your financial plan.  A plan provides a snapshot in time, as well as a road-map to achieving future (hopefully values-based) goals.
  • Values will inevitably change over time – sometimes quietly, and sometimes with a bang.
  • As you review your financial plan, take the opportunity to assess not only the investment-related aspects of your finances – risk profile, allocation, asset selection, whether the Democratic debates are going to impact your portfolio this month… but more importantly, whether your financial plan is an honest representation of your current values – not the values and objectives you assigned to yourself 10-20 years ago.

Through that lens, your plan can be fluid.  It is subject to no one’s judgement but your own.   You can give yourself the opportunity to, as the article’s author suggests, “be a work in progress and grow into the answer.”

Keep Looking Forward!

Emily

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