Personal Finance, Part 1

This is the first in an irregular series of articles on personal finance issues.  I have only worked in two industries in my life — life insurance and asset management.  I have distinct opinions here, and ones that may prove to be controversial, because they will step on the toes of those who disproportionately benefit from how the system works at present.  All of that said, don’t take my word as gospel on these issues for your own personal situation.  Get personal, tailored advice from someone who knows your intimate financial details.

Tonight’s topic is on work.  Who drives your financial plan?  Either you can drive it, or, you can hire someone to drive it, or, you can let multiple parties take a “piece of the action” and end up with a crazy quilt.  The first option means that you have to work and learn.  The second option means that you have to learn enough to choose a good advisor.  The last option means that there is no organizing principle, but you end up with whoever successfully convinces you to part with money for a part of a financial plan on any given day.

I encourage the first two options.  They are cheaper, integrated, and you get better results.  When friends come to me for advice, my first question is “how much work do you want to do?”  It’s good to learn about financial topics.  Aside from the personal benefits, there are positive spillover effects into the rest of life.  It makes you more productive to those you serve, if you understand the basic economics behind the tasks that you do.

I understand enough about automobiles to be able to know whether my mechanic is likely lying to me.  The same is needed to be an intelligent user of financial professionals.  To not learn the modest amount needed to evaluate financial professionals is to invite financial salesmen to come and sell you on their product of the day, which may not be the best thing for you.

Twenty years ago, I  began spending an hour a day on average improving my knowledge of financial matters.  You don’t need to do that much, but you do need to learn about personal finance issues.  Future articles in this series will give my view of personal finance topics; I hope you can benefit from them.