The biggest challenge to keeping a resolution is: the change is up to us. We have to stop smoking, start exercising, and change our habits. Yet the reason we are making a resolution in the first place is that we haven’t been able to get ourselves to perform according to our own aspirations. It would be so much easier if someone else could effect the changes we want for ourselves.
If you think this sounds lazy, self-indulgent, or unrealistic, maybe it’s time to reconsider your assumptions about behavior modification. Having someone else get you in shape is arguably the most effective way to make lasting changes.
In fitness, consider the value of a personal trainer. The trainer designs the program, demonstrates the exercises, monitors your progress, and becomes your accountability partner. If you just eat what you’re supposed to, show up for workouts, and go through the motions of embracing a fitter lifestyle, the odds are pretty high you’ll see some success. In the process, you become immersed in a supportive culture, and eventually some of the details that probably would have overwhelmed you had you done them on your own become habits, acquired through osmosis. American culture idolizes independence and self-reliance, but positive change is often more successful when it’s a group effort.
They’re Just Dying to Show You What They Can Do
When it comes to personal finance, the Information Age has given rise to a veritable cornucopia of programs and applications. It’s not an exaggeration to say your smartphone can probably access, analyze, and monitor your financial information better than the Chief Financial Officer of a major corporation could a decade ago.
The challenge for consumers with a get-my-finances-in-shape resolution is sifting through the myriad options and implementing a program that works for them. Sure, you can make this a do-it-yourself project. But if you know your history with other go-it-alone resolutions, why not have someone else do the heavy lifting? Especially since most practitioners in the personal finance industry would love to show what they can do.
Almost every business in the financial services industry has proprietary financial organization programs for use with their customers, and most are complementary—you don’t even have to pay a user fee. These programs can aggregate your various accounts, and often provide real-time updates. A click of a button can generate monthly reports, and produce year-over-year comparisons. The projected performance of alternative strategies can be assessed under all sorts of scenarios, summarized in charts and graphs, and notated with great precision. And once you figure out what’s going on and what you want to accomplish, action steps can be pre-programmed—monthly withdrawals, rebalancing, account transfers, etc.
In most cases, the only “work” consumers have to do is provide documentation for input and formatting, and show up for planning discussions and regular reviews. You decide the changes you want to implement, and then put the professional in charge of the execution. Personal passwords and cloud storage give you 24/7 access, monitoring capability, and final authorization over every transaction.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! is Dr. Seuss’s last book. Published in 1990, it’s an upbeat, inspirational rhyme encouraging people to see a world full of wonderful opportunities. It may seem like hype, but that Seussian optimism certainly reflects the potential impact of technology in personal finance.
Most Americans simply have no idea how thoroughly organized and ship-shape their finances could be if they decided to ask a financial professional to do the job for them. And in many cases, the out-of-pocket costs are negligible—a little record-gathering, some listening, and consideration of the possibilities. As the process becomes ingrained in daily life, benefits from staying on top of your financial condition will inevitably follow: improved financial literacy, informed spending decisions, increased saving, greater awareness of opportunities. And all because your New Year’s resolution was to let someone else get you in (financial) shape. In the words of Dr. Seuss…“TODAY IS YOUR DAY!”
Elozor Preil, RICPR, CLTC is Managing Director at Wealth Advisory Group and Registered Representative and Financial Advisor of Park Avenue Securities LLC (PAS). He can be reached at [email protected] See www.wagroupllc.com/epreil for full disclosures and disclaimers. Guardian, its subsidiaries, agents, or employees do not give tax or legal advice. You should consult your tax or legal advisor regarding your individual situation.
By Elozor M. Preil