Maybe it’s Just Me…
Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s because I talk about this stuff on a daily basis. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in the financial planning industry for fifteen years. Maybe it’s because every financial article I read seems to be saying the same thing without saying anything at all. Or maybe I’m just frustrated by an industry that seems determined to “sell” people on the idea that you can “out-guess” the market or that there really is a magic money manager out there, somewhere, that can make all your investment dreams come true.
It’s like we were lulled to sleep. The large majority of the investing public grew up investing their hard earned money during the greatest bull market in history, 1982-2000, when the S&P 500 averaged 15% per year, and it felt great! We could spend as we pleased, save a little, and just sit back and watch it grow. The down side was that while we were experiencing these above average returns, we were also developing incredibly poor spending habits (code for living beyond our means) and saving habits (code for not saving). The “feel-good” years allowed us to make poor lifestyle choices but still be “okay.” We were provided some cover or leeway. We could go ahead and lease that car, take that cruise, or, heck, yeah, we most certainly “need” that new house with a sweet new 30-year mortgage. While we were on our spending spree, our retirement picture still looked good. Well, just about any financial plan can look good when the money you invested is doubling every five years and, of course, we were sure it was going to continue indefinitely.
We have now been awakened by the Great Recession and a decade of negative returns on U.S. stocks. Combine that with an unemployment rate seemingly stuck at 9.5 percent and you’ve got a recipe for some confused and almost desperate investors. What should I do? How should I invest my money? Can I reach my financial goals? These are all fair questions and questions in need of being asked and answered. My frustration lies in where we are looking for the answers. The answers aren’t in the latest money magazine. The answers won’t come from the latest and greatest hedge fund manager. The answer is not an investment product that just happens to pay your broker a large commission.
The answer is very unique to each person and to each family. It starts with a vision—an idea or dream of what financial independence would mean to you, your spouse, and your children. Most of the time, it’s not what the media would have us believe. We’ve all seen the commercials…invest with us and you will travel the world and have a second home on the beach.
Maybe it’s just me, but my true vision of financial independence comes from peace of mind–not from products and promises, but from the choices one makes and the realization that sometimes we sacrifice true peace by constantly wanting more.