Once you know where you are and know where you’re going, you can develop a strategy to make the journey.
Running a business as I have for almost 20 years, I’ve become very familiar with the corporate balance sheet. The running tab of company assets and liabilities is critical for us to know where we stand any time we need to make a decision. It allows us to consider meaningful risks, think for the long-term and always know the full picture of our status quo.
Given how powerful this tool is for our business, I’ve always been amazed how few people have one for their own personal finances. In our years of financial advising, we’ve seen it all. People who show up with boxes of unopened statements, missing pensions they don’t know how to retrieve, even one client who kept a terrifying box of medical bills all the while having $50,000 sitting in the bank. In every situation, the starting point was simple: Know what you own.
So many of our clients over the years have been overcome by financial distractions that were easy to solve. Credit cards they could easily pay off with the right plan, fears of not being on track for retirement, an (apparent) inability to start a business. Most of these problems could be addressed by first gathering good information and having a clear definition of the status quo. Knowing what they owned all in one simple report could eliminate many of the distractions of worry, fear, and confusion.
Before the internet age, this was a difficult task. Clients would make spreadsheets of handwritten figures, updating it regularly from statements and stock quotes from the Wall Street Journal. As time went on those spreadsheets became Excel documents. The only problem was, as soon as all the information was written down (a difficult task); they were then immediately out of date. Loans got paid off; assets changed in value.
Brokerage houses and big banks tried to solve this by convincing people to move all their assets and liabilities with them. Then clients would get a 12 or 15-page statement with everything on it, but often this required buying into their particular proprietary brand of products.
Because we don’t manufacture financial products at Trilogy Financial, we are here to help our clients make financial decisions by choosing among the diverse financial instruments available in the market. It’s taken us some time, but we’ve invested in some great technology platforms that allow clients to aggregate their accounts: investments, banking, loans, and even some insurances, all in one central decision-making venue. For clients who hire one of our advisors as their DecisionCoach, they get our full fiduciary services along with this interconnected data management system.
It’s my sincere belief that you can’t make good financial decisions until you know what you own. This is MISSION CRITICAL. Yes, start with a growth mindset. Yes, organize your goals. But then establish a clear and factually-based starting point. Once you know where you are and know where you’re going, you can develop a strategy to make the journey.