Who doesn't want to hear that they look great in those jeans, belt out a tune like a pro, and are looking A-OK to achieve their financial goals? There's no harm in overlooking those few extra pounds or hitting a few false notes during the office karaoke outing. However, little white financial lies aren't so harmless.
Believing that your finances are in better shape than they really are is costly and leads to bad decisions that have long-term negative consequences:
- You probably wouldn't buy a new car if you knew it would push your retirement date out five years.
- You'd think twice about borrowing from your 401(k) if someone spelled out what doing so was really going to cost you in the long-run.
- Would you have stretched to buy that much house if you hadn't been told that, sure, you could afford it?
If you met someone who was brutally honest about your boneheaded ideas, you might be a tad turned off at first. You might think twice about whatever money move you were considering. But would you be brave enough to reverse course -- or even hire the naysayer to give you financial guidance?
You should. As we pointed out in "3 Things Your Advisor's Too Scared to Tell You," the truth might sting for a bit, but we'd all be much better off if our financial pros didn't pussyfoot around our problems because they're scared we can't take it.
You can handle the truth
In her more than 20 years in the financial planning field, Sheryl Garrett has seen the fallout from clients who were misled by previous advisors or simply ignored the advice they had been given.
Garrett, founder of the Garrett Financial Network, tells tales of wealthy families who never bothered to compose their wills, near-retirees with nothing in their nest eggs, and families drowning in homes that were four times more than they could afford.
Here we continue the excerpt from our interview with Garrett with three more stark truths that many advisors are afraid to utter.
1. He's gone and you're back to square one
"From a purely personal finance standpoint, surviving the loss of a spouse -- whether through death or divorce -- is literally like starting out all over again financially.
"One common mistake I see is that women want to keep the house -- we feel like we weren't able to hang on to our family as we knew it, and so we hang on to our home life because it looks the same. That can be a really disastrous mistake. Sometimes we need to cut the cord and really step back and make some severe adjustments in our lifestyles to survive."
2. You aren't getting younger, so you better get smarter
"In one of our questionnaires we ask, 'What in your financial life do you wish you would have done differently?' No matter if the person answering is 27 years old or 77 years old, they almost always say something like, 'I wish I would have started sooner.'
"You have to recognize that nobody is going to take better care of your money than you will. Getting started is hard -- a lot of times people don't know where to begin. But you cannot put this off any longer. Start taking the initiative to become an informed consumer, an informed investor, an informed individual with regard to your money because if you are working with a financial advisor, you need to know what they are talking about. You need to be able to ask them questions and understand their responses. If you don't understand them, you need to feel comfortable enough to say, 'I don't have a clue what you said.'"
(You can't turn back the hands of time, so put down the wrinkle cream and start calculating how far your savings will take you in retirement. See How to Salvage Your Retirement Plan Right Now." If you decide to seek the help of a money pro, this free advisor questionnaire will help you find out if they're a good fit.)
3. Actually, you can't have it all
"I mentioned that people have a hard time just getting started saving and investing. One problem is our optimism. We tend to think of optimism as a very positive thing. We think we can have everything we want now and we can have everything we want in the future. Well, it just doesn't work that way. You can't have it all now and later.
"In my grandparents' generation they took the bull by the horns to take care of themselves. They maybe saw civil war on their homeland and recognized that they couldn't rely on their government or employer -- they saw real hardship. Then along came the baby boomers, of which I am part of, and we decided that it only just keeps getting better. We got a raise the previous year and assume we're getting one this year and next, so we spend it now, get easy credit, and couldn't be bothered to notice that it wasn't adding up.
"Heck, I am a big optimist, but at the same time, I don't want to get blindsided because I was so optimistic I didn't recognize the potential risks involved."
(In Save More Now, Play Much More Later see what saving $100 extra a month will do for your golden years.)
Ready to face reality?
Questions about saving for college? Asset allocation? Annuities? Insurance? Credit? We'll tell it to you straight and walk you through these topics and more in our Personal Finance and Retirement areas on Fool.com. If you want to get a second opinion from a trusted, independent, fee-only financial advisor (the only kind of advisor we recommend), see if there's a Garrett-certified pro in your area. (For a limited time Motley Fools can get a complimentary "Get Acquainted" meeting (over the phone or in person) and a 10% discount for new clients. Find an advisor in your area and look for The Motley Fool icon.)
For related Foolishness:
Dayana Yochim sent her parents to Garrett Financial Network nearly a decade ago to get their important papers in order. No, they didn't write her out of the will for making the suggestion. They thanked her. The Fool's disclosure policy does not mince words.
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