I never thought that I would get so much flack for doing what I advise people to do all of the time – see a financial planner. When I first approached Ben with the idea he said, “There’s nothing that I can learn from him that I can’t learn from you….for free.” I also told some of my coworkers who similarly thought it would be a waste of time and money. Even the advisor that we met with, who already knew me because of his work with my firm, asked why I was there.
I wanted to meet with someone for several reasons. First, talking with an expert about my favorite topic sounded really fun to me. Second, there are things that I don’t know and meeting with someone who can take a fresh look at our situation could provide significant insight. Lastly, I just wanted to make sure we were on the right track. I put a lot of effort into managing our finances, and it would be great to get reassurance that we are doing the right things.
In the end, Ben and I left the session feeling that the time was well worth the $900 that we spent. Here are my top four most valuable takeaways.
1. We had to Get Organized: Our financial lives are already pretty organized. But having a date where we had to show another person our entire financial portfolio – cash flow statements, balance sheets, insurance documents, will, trust, etc. – forced us to gather all of our info in one folder and ensure our documents were up to date. I even did our taxes before the session so we could show him our first joint return. We came armed with everything, and I now keep it all in the same folder that we brought.
2. We Avoided Tensions from Previous Arguments: If you’ve been in a relationship a while, you already know that many arguments come with baggage from previous fights. I feel like this is especially true for Ben and me given our long history. Discussing items that we’ve previously argued about brings up bad feelings and hinders us from getting to the crux of the problem. However, talking with a neutral third party who didn’t judge or have previous context around questions or comments kept us focused on our goals.
3. Ben geeked out (a little bit): I have never seen Ben more motivated about our finances than he was after the meeting. He explained afterwards that he often times just follows my lead because I have the expertise. I’ve also seen this dynamic in other couples that I’ve advised where one person “takes the lead” and the other spouse may not feel like he or she contributes very much. But sitting in our session, Ben had to participate and give ideas. Our advisor was especially cognizant of Ben understanding all of the terms that we discussed. At one point during the meeting, I was just the guy providing information about our cash flow, retirement goals, and amount of coverage while Ben and the advisor discussed terms like back-door Roth IRA and QDRO. Seeing Ben so engaged gave me new perspective on his appreciation for our finances.
4. We Learned Some New Approaches: Our advisor thought that we were doing well with our finances. He also gave us some additional tweaks that I hadn’t thought of before – getting a retirement rider on our disability policy and increasing our auto deductible to help pay for the cost of an umbrella policy. Ben’s favorite takeaway was approaching retirement as a unit and making sure we maximize the types of investment vehicles that we have. And again, I got to spend several hours talking personal finance with another money nerd. He seemed to enjoy it too, since the session went over two extra hours.
So I stand by my advice: see a Certified Financial Planner that you trust, no matter how on top of things you are. Getting a fresh perspective on your relationship with your finances will benefit you well beyond the money you will spend.