Taking a Step Back to Move Forward When Retirement is Around the Corner
Charles and Lisa had been clients for years. We had an exemplary advisor/client relationship: open, clear, and regular communication, and mutual trust. We had long maintained a plan that everyone had confidence in when we suggested taking part in a new exercise.
As trusted stewards of others’ money, we prioritize regularly participating in professional development opportunities. We had recently completed a refresher on the Financial Life Planning program. Our relationship with Charles and Lisa pre-dated this approach, so although we felt we knew them thoroughly, we knew that going back to basics could only strengthen their financial plan. They agreed.
The Right Questions
We gave them a list of questions to discuss before our next meeting. As Charles and Lisa worked through the list, they realized their priorities and goals had slightly shifted as retirement and “someday” were now right around the corner. Charles and Lisa wanted to be sure they got to see the people and places they had dreamed of visiting. And, they wanted to take those trips in a way that was enjoyable. As Lisa said, “I don’t want to stay in a hostel in Paris!”
They hadn’t expected to uncover anything new. We hadn’t expected it, either. But everyone was glad for the exercise. We began focusing on prioritizing travel within their plan. Charles and Lisa already had a number of accounts with “travel” money allocations. One such account was the safety fund.
However, Charles got visibly nervous about spending any money out of the safety fund, even money allocated specifically for travel. After some conversation (and insight from Lisa), we learned that in his upbringing, his mother was constantly worried about money. That was a formative script in his relationship with money.
So, we opened a new account called the travel fund. Money in this account is separate from the financial plan. Spending this money does not impact the plan or other accounts. This simple structure solution prioritizes their travel goal and creates a workaround to avoid triggering Charles emotionally.
If not for our Financial Life Planning conversations, we may never have uncovered both the need for a greater priority on travel and for a different account structure for the unique needs of the client. We believe in this process because it goes beyond questions of money to questions of life. Because in the end, it’s not about the money. It’s about the life it can help create.