You don't need to be told that managing your personal finances can be tough. Virtually anyone reading this will be able to say truthfully that money is tight in their household. Too many things need to be done, and there's not quite enough income to cover everything. So we all make choices. We prioritize. We postpone.
And, with embarrassing frequency, we also blunder.
In this Motley Fool Answers podcast, co-hosts Robert Brokamp and Alison Southwick have invited certified financial planner Josh Strange, the founder of Good Life Financial Advisors of Northern Virginia, to talk about the five most common money mistakes he sees his clients make, and how we can avoid them.
In this segment, he digs into a common excuse for not getting one's financial act together: the backward idea that we need to have it all figured out before we begin.
To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.
This video was recorded on Sept. 3, 2019.
Robert Brokamp: The last one. Mistake No. 5. Waiting until they have it all figured out to develop a financial plan.
Joshua Strange: Yeah, I see that, too. People are like, "Well, I don't have enough money. I need to better understand investing before I work with an advisor." Then it comes down to, "When are you going to take the time to really understand investing?" Or they're embarrassed to admit the mistakes that they've made. Sometimes you might say, "Gosh, I had $2,000 in a Roth IRA that I forgot about." I don't want to admit that to my advisor or on a national podcast. Just kidding, Bro!
Brokamp: It's all right. I can take it.
Strange: In all seriousness, it's important to realize I'm where I'm at, so I can either try to figure this out on my own or I can go get help. If you're having health issues, we go to the doctor and we just do whatever they say unquestioned, because that's something where it's hit us in the face.
A lot of times finances don't hit you in the face until it's too late to really do anything about it. So I think it's important to say, "Look. I'm where I'm at. I'm going to figure this out on my own or I'm going to find somebody to help me," and go from there.
Brokamp: So there's the development of the plan, which can involve all kinds of things. It can be an actual written plan or it could be calculations for people's saving goals. There are all kinds of things that can be part of a plan. You can come up with it but then there's actually putting it into action. From many financial advisors I've heard that's actually one of the hardest things to get people to do. People come in and they pay for the advice, and then they meet them a year later and they say, "Oh, yeah, I never got around to doing that." Is that something you've experienced, as well?
Strange: I've seen that, absolutely. What I've realized is a lot of my job as an advisor is to help lead people to reach the goals that they want to do. That involves some accountability. So you want to get your estate plan developed. When do we want to have that done? And then me following up to make sure that they've actually taken the actions to do it. It's holding people's hand along that journey and saying, "Look, you're not alone in this."
I think a year is too long, especially when you're in the beginning of developing a plan. I have a process I call the NGPS process. It's where we identify where you're at now, today, and figure out what your goals are. So what do you want to do? You want to get your estate plan in place. You want to make sure you've got long-term care covered. You want to consolidate those investment accounts.
We can look at what the problems are toward accomplishing those goals and then strategize. And then we revisit that NGPS, like a road map, but we revisit it with check points. So if you said, "Yeah, I want to get my estate plan done," we're either going to get an appointment with an attorney or we're going to have a deadline where you're going to have gone out and found somebody to help you with that.
Brokamp: And you'll actually go to those appointments with people, as well, if I remember that correctly?
Strange: Yes, I do. Because it can be overwhelming and sometimes it helps to have somebody translate lawyer-speak into people-speak. There are certainly great attorneys that are good at communicating these concepts to people, but sometimes it just helps, especially in a difficult concept like, "Hey, what happens if I die?" It's not the most fun to think about, but it's really important. And it's not just documents. It's an understanding of what your estate plan is. And estate plans aren't just for the wealthy. That's another show.
Alison BrokampSouthwick: It's remarkable how much being a financial planner is like being a personal trainer.
Brokamp: It really is.
Southwick: There's people like, "I know. I know I should exercise." Then you hire someone to solve all your problems and it turns out you're still the problem you need to solve.
Strange: That's it. A personal trainer can tell you here's what you need to eat -- here's what your workout regimen should look like -- but it's up to you to take the action and do the exercise and change your diet. And if you're not going to change, you can't expect anything to be different.