Safety is riskier than you realize

The title is a direct quote from Barbara Sher’s I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, an excellent read if you’re trying to figure out what you want from life.  I highlighted it as a reminder to myself. Unless I’m willing to step outside of my comfort zone, I have no hope of living the life I seek.

I spend a lot of time with older people. They are keenly aware that all we have in life is time. Looking back over a long life, people regret misusing their time, not pursuing their dreams. No one says, “I tried to be a (fill in your dream) and I wish I hadn’t”. Nope, because the simple act of taking a step to make your wish real changes your life. Merely stepping on to the path gives your life purpose and makes it meaningful.

Two important take aways from I Could Do Anything

1)      You don’t have to bet everything on a big change to follow your dream. Take the easy first steps without giving up your day job and selling the house. If you would love a different career, learn about the entry requirements, take a class, join a group, get to know people who are doing what you want to do.

2)      The outcome doesn’t really matter. What?!? Overcoming fear and discomfort to take steps to realize your dream will make your life more exciting and give it meaning, regardless of whether that particular goal is ever achieved. There’s nothing like living a meaningful life to open your eyes to opportunities you would never have imagined otherwise. Dreams morph and change over time…and that’s not a bad thing.

Let those two points reassure you—the decision isn’t no risk or all risk. Loosening our grip on safety is the path to a purposeful life.

The Ultimate Valentine’s gift

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, so you may be thinking of chocolate, flowers, romantic dinners and sappy cards. I love all of those! But this year let’s make Valentine’s Day a time to demonstrate our love in a more practical way—by sharing information.

It isn’t uncommon for an unexpected death to result in stress for the survivors that goes way beyond the grief. If you lost your partner, would you know the location of all of your accounts, the safety deposit box key, or the main water shutoff for your home? Dividing up tasks makes sense for efficiency; it also results in pockets of specialized knowledge. Unless we deliberately and systematically share information, our loved ones are at risk should we be out-of-commission or absent.

Organizing our financial and household information feels like an overwhelming task. That’s why even most financial planners, masters of organizing information that we are, haven’t done it! Financial planner Steve Juetten and his wife Nancy created the “Life Goes on Roadmap” to make this process manageable and fun…when they realized that they hadn’t put together their own information. Feel better now? I do!

Whether you go with the roadmap, create your own spreadsheet or Word document (stored securely, please!) or take out paper and pen (again, stored securely), do your loved ones a big favor and get started now. Step by step, even if it’s only 15 minutes a week, you can knock this out. Each step you take provides your partner or family with information they didn’t have before—that is valuable progress. This Valentine’s Day, consider the ultimate practical gift of information to go along with the chocolates!

Becoming a Warrior

Last weekend we took my dad to see a local production of “Happy Days” the musical. Yep—that “Happy Days”, based on the 70’s TV show about life in the late 50’s. Never thought I would be quoting Fonzie, but one of his lines early in the play hit the mark: I’m not a worrier, I’m a warrior (not a direct quote cause my English teacher mother wouldn’t approve of the use of ain’t).

Worrier → Warrior

Words to live by!

We know that worrying serves no practical purpose but does make us anxious and miserable. So let’s reframe our worries and be warriors. Let’s courageously attack the roots of worry.

Many of us feel financially insecure, whether we have $500 or $5,000,000. We’ll never know for sure if it’s enough, but we can educate ourselves on the most likely outcomes. Spoiler alert: even when we can see on an intellectual level that we’re in ok, good, or great shape, it doesn’t automatically stop us from worrying. However, by reframing our worry and choosing to be warriors, we’ll fearlessly seek out the information that over time will calm our anxieties.

In the process of educating ourselves we may not like the probably outcomes we find. Switching in to warrior mode leads us to make changes now so the future options will be different. Let’s not resign ourselves to a mountain of debt or a soul-sucking job. The warrior in us can take steps to reshape our lives. Reframe your worry, choose to be a warrior, and lead the life you want!

Happiness and Money—what’s the link?

We’ve all heard the proverb “Money can’t buy happiness”…but haven’t  you also caught yourself thinking that getting a raise or bonus or winning the lottery would make life so much better? Personally and professionally, I’m fascinated by the relationship between money and happiness. I just finished reading Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton. Normally books head back to the library as soon as I read the last page, but this one has given me so much to ponder:

·        Income gains beyond $75,000/year don’t increase happiness, but

·        How we spend our money can make us happier

It turns out that most of us don’t really know what makes us happy, so happier spending is a two part process. First, pay attention to how you feel when you buy that latte or take a friend to lunch. Then, using what you’ve learned, take a moment to pause and be deliberate before spending.

Dunn and Norton outline five principles that anyone can apply to wring more happiness from money. Not surprisingly, choosing to spend money on experiences, other people, and to free up time give us more pleasure than buying more stuff. But there’s much more packed in this small volume—I highly recommend it!

For a quick overview of Dunn and Norton’s work, check out this video:

Elizabeth Dunn: Happiness and Money

Happy Spending!

Check out Garrett Planning Network members quoted on Lifehacker

Several financial planners with the Garrett Planning Network, including me, were quoted recently in Alicia Adamczyk’s article on converting Roth IRAs:

Lifehacker Should You Convert to a Roth

Garrett Planning Network, of which I’m a proud member, is a nationwide group of hundreds of independent, Fee-Only financial planners providing advice to people from all walks of life, without minimum account requirements, sales commissions, or long-term commitments. We members proudly embrace our fiduciary duty, always placing our clients' best interests first.

Creating a life that excites you!

To give advice that helps people make their best financial decisions, financial planners need to understand what is important to each client. So, we ask questions like “What are your goals?” or “What do you want from life?”…questions not many of us have a good answer to! Results: blank looks, crickets, or “I want to put my kids through college” or “I want to retire at 63-1/3”. It turns out that these are not the best questions to get us moving where we want to go.

In his book The 4-Hour Workweek, author and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss explains that the opposite of happiness isn’t sadness, it’s boredom! The right question to ask yourself isn’t about goals or wants, it is simply “What would excite me?” Tim describes how practical goals aren’t inspiring enough to keep us committed through the inevitable problems that arise. While this feels like sacrilege for me to be writing as a financial planner, it resonates with me and fits my life experience. Ron and I spent three years in New York City preparing to sail away to the Caribbean while I worked as an institutional investor. Some parts were fun and exciting—buying a sailboat, getting her fitted out for ocean sailing, dreaming about warm clear water and sunny days. But a lot of it was inconvenient—saving every penny by not eating out, taking taxis, getting haircuts or buying clothes. Some of it was just hard—not telling my colleagues that I was planning a drastic life change. We did it successfully, though, because we were excited by this dream.

It turns out that practical goals, while important, are most achievable in the service of what excites us. Take some time today to think about what excites you. And then, take a step or two toward that exciting vision. I think you’ll see those practical goals falling in line on your way to a life you’ll love.

Spending time on what matters most

First off, I’ll confess—I’m not a sports fan or a spectator. I like driving my car on the race track but don’t get too excited about watching the professionals race. So when I started taking my dad to see the Winston-Salem Dash play baseball in 2014, after Dad relocated to North Carolina, I wasn’t an enthusiastic fan. Dad was a high school football and basketball coach and played football in college (on Montclair State’s undefeated 1947 team!). He is a life-long devotee of team sports. Actually, it’s worse than that—I wasn’t a fan and I wasn’t even very good company. Dad knows me pretty well, he could probably guess I was counting down the minutes and wondering if I’d be able to persuade him to leave after the 5th inning. I often brought a book to read.


What changed? Over time, Dad lost virtually all of his vision to wet macular degeneration. He still loved the ballpark but could no longer see what was going on on the field. Ron pointed out that we would need to start calling the plays for Dad. He would do it when he came to the ballpark and I started paying attention so I could do it when just Dad and I went. This was incredibly hard work for someone who knew nothing about the game—often I had no idea what was going on. It also required a lot of concentration which, after a day at the office, was in short supply. We persisted and I got better (still have a long ways to go!). Dad does unpredictably see some and will occasionally surprise me when I’m not on the ball (pun intended):


Dad:       “Did they just steal 3rd?”

Me:        “Oh, I guess they do have a guy on 3rd now, I must have missed that…” (while wondering if that player was just dropped by aliens?)


But what I slowly came to realize was that by bringing my entire self and being present, I had regular opportunities to connect with my dad, through our shared baseball experience. We enjoyed talking about the game, the players, the new manager, both at the park and while anticipating the next game. And that feeling of connection improves both of our lives—for an older person like Dad, so much of what he values in life is gone, leaving little for him to share with the people he loves. And for me, it gives me a chance to have back a little piece of the father I’ve known for most of my life who is slowly disappearing over time.


In an exuberant mood during a game in 2017, I asked Dad if he would like to attend all of the 2018 home games. He agreed that that sounded like fun and, just like that, I was committed. As the season approached, I had to question the sanity of offering to attend 70 baseball games while holding down a job. Dad ended up getting to 69 of the 70 games—he chose to go see the Glenn Miller Orchestra and miss one game. I made it to most of those and, thankfully, my partner Ron was able to take Dad to the couple of games I couldn’t fit in.


Dad and I got to know all of the ballpark regulars, including the valet parking folks and stadium workers, and the cameramen for the TV stations who set up right next to our seats. About two months in to the season, Chris Lea, the sports anchor from our local WXII TV station, realized that, whenever he was at the ballpark, we were too…and asked if we were attending all of the games. Hope you’ll enjoy this lovely story Chris did about Dad and me:


WXII12 Story


Attending 70 baseball games is a big commitment, but Dad is determined to make all 70 this year and so am I—our quality of life depends on it!

The Fair Winds Financial Advice web site offers links to a variety of sites maintained by third parties. If you choose to access these sites, you will be leaving the Fair Winds Financial Advice web site. These sites are managed by unaffiliated organizations that do not have a business relationship with Fair Winds Financial Advice or Garrett Investment Advisors, LLC. These links are only offered for use at your own discretion. Fair Winds Financial Advice and Garrett Investment Advisors, LLC do not provide, and are not responsible for, the product, service, or overall website content available on third-party sites. By providing links to these sites Fair Winds Financial Advice and Garrett Investment Advisors, LLC are not promoting, approving or endorsing either the content of the sites or any product or service offered by the sites’ sponsors. Our privacy polices do not apply to linked websites. You should consult the privacy disclosures on each third-party site for further information. Third-party web sites may provide different security features than the Fair Winds Financial Advice web site.