Dancing in the Rain

About the time that clients were receiving their monthly statements on their investment accounts, my business partner and I noticed an influx of calls and e-mails.  The general question being asked was “Am I okay?”  We work to position our clients in all aspects of their financial lives to make it through difficult financial times.  In our minds, that’s as important as taking advantage of financial opportunities – for some people it’s actually more important.  Our clients know that and generally talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk of diversifying investments, staying calm during difficult times, and making decisions based on factors other than fear or greed. 


But these are pretty unnerving times and even some of the most fearless individuals are beginning to have little beads of sweat popping onto their foreheads.  A friend forwarded this anonymous quote to my business partner: “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”


So let’s look at a few “dance moves” for current times:

         Eliminate frivolous items from your spending.  Unless you’re spending more than you make or you’ve lost a major source of income, don’t go overboard.  Everyone needs some rewards built in to their budget. 

         Have funds available.  Make sure you have 10% of your annual pre-tax income where you could get to it pretty quickly and another 20% or so when you could get to it over time or with some tax consequences. 

         Don’t put the rest of your money all into the stock market.  Beyond your highly liquid money, also have some that’s in pretty boring stuff life certificates of deposit and government bonds.

         Stick with quality.  This is a great time to get bargains on quality.  But don’t be speculative.  High quality diversified mutual funds are often better for the average consumer than individual stocks or mutual funds that concentrate on only one industry.  Professional advice on your situation is warranted.

         Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish.  Don’t be afraid to get professional advice.  Have a pro do your taxes, consult on your investments, and advise you on your overall financial situation. 

         Don’t scrimp on things you’ll later regret.  If you can afford some niceties that are timely, get them.  Buy holiday gifts, get professional portraits of your high school senior, take the vacation you had planned.  Don’t miss meals to do these things, but when times are good again, you don’t want to be sorry for once in a lifetime things you missed. 

         Be patient.  It may seem that the economy fell apart over night.  It didn’t.  The poor decisions and waste that impacted the financial markets and several of our industries have been going on for awhile.  The solutions will take time to be completely formed and implemented and the results will take awhile to be fully realized. 


Mistakes should be learning opportunities, so we should all take note and become wiser.     


Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

People who have a passion manifest it in how they live their lives.  This manifestation often comes in the form of deeds rather than words.


An example is Scott Staub.  I don’t really know Scott – just sat next to him on a plane.  But we chatted during our flight and got to talking about what we both do for a living.  Scott is Vice President of Fund Development for EMQ Children & Family Services.  His employer advocates for children to put them with good families and reunite them with their own families when practical.  It’s hard not to be impressed that someone derives their livelihood from such work.  When we chatted, we got to talking about kids and money.  Scott doesn’t have kids, but he’s active as an uncle as well as with the son of a single mom who’s a friend of his.  It’s clear that he’s a wonderful role model for these kids.  When a nephew turned 14 recently, Scott’s gift was a promise of money to the nephew as well as a donation to a charity of the nephew’s choosing on the nephew’s behalf.  And the nephew would receive his share of the money after he’d identified his charity and discussed it with his Uncle Scott. 


So here’s a man who’s part of a positive financial force through his career for many more kids than most of us parents are ever able to touch.  His work will have a huge impact on the lives of kids who desperately need it.  Outside work, the kids he has a personal relationship with can see the value of working in a profession that makes a difference in people’s lives and they get experience in how to make a difference for others in the world who need it.  In my chat with him, he wasn’t boastful about his life or critical of how other people live their lives.  He’s just doing what he feels led to do. 


If you were gone from this earth tomorrow and someone who didn’t know you was settling your financial affairs, what would they be able to see about what’s important to you?  Would they see someone who loved to eat out, had a great wine collection, and went on some fabulous trips?  Or would they see someone who supported those in need and made a positive difference in the world?  What would those who knew you tell others?  Would they comment on how big your house was and tell stories about the business adversaries you brought to their knees?  Or would they tell how you were the first person to motivate them to research a non-profit so you could make a donation?