imagesWhen is the best time to plant a tree?  Twen­ty years ago. When is the next best time? Today.

The same think­ing applies to get­ting finan­cial help. When is the best time to get finan­cial advice?  Twen­ty years ago.  When is the next best time? Today.

Seri­ous­ly, the answer is always ear­li­er is bet­ter.  The Boomer gen­er­a­tion has cho­sen to most­ly wait until 50, 55 or 60 to seek finan­cial help. Their premise was gath­er finan­cial assets, then get help.  Gen X and Y are smarter. They were good stu­dents, watch­ing their par­ents, and they know they don’t want to do it that way.  They know, the soon­er you get help, the eas­i­er it is to reach your goals.  They know there are lots of com­pet­ing choic­es for their time and mon­ey and they know they will make bet­ter deci­sions with help.

If you were giv­en two choices:

  1. An ordi­nary life, one filled with finan­cial stress and dis­cord or
  2. An extra­or­di­nary life, one filled with high impact pur­pose and great memories.

What would you choose?

Seems like a sil­ly ques­tion, but for most peo­ple they set­tle for num­ber one most­ly because they don’t get the finan­cial help they need and deserve.

Mon­ey is the medi­um of exchange used to acquire vir­tu­al­ly every­thing you need in life, like food, hous­ing, cloth­ing, health care and trans­porta­tion as well as those things you want like, fam­i­ly expe­ri­ences and great trav­el. Mon­ey is why you go to work every­day. Mon­ey is so impor­tant to us that you are will­ing to take the one com­mod­i­ty in your life that is irre­place­able and lim­it­ed, time, and exchange it day after day for mon­ey. When you waste mon­ey, you deval­ue your­self and the time you sacrificed.

Mon­ey isn’t impor­tant some­times, it is always impor­tant. It weaves and threads through every facet of your life.  Yet you may spend more time plan­ning your vaca­tions than your money.

To help put things in per­spec­tive I have tak­en Stephen Cov­ey’s Four Quad­rants, from his clas­sic book, The 7 Habits of High­ly Effec­tive Peo­ple, and adjust­ed it to focus on mon­ey and finance instead of time management.

We will always have quad­rant 1, urgent and impor­tant mat­ters.  They will require our imme­di­ate atten­tion and often with­out notice.  How­ev­er, the more time we spend in quad­rant 2, on the not urgent and impor­tant, the eas­i­er the urgent and impor­tant mat­ters can be handled.

When you are in quad­rant 1, your activ­i­ties involve fire fight­ing and cri­sis man­age­ment.  When you are in quad­rant 2, your activ­i­ties involve plan­ning, clar­i­fy­ing your val­ues, mak­ing clear choic­es and eval­u­at­ing options and focus­ing your mon­ey in align­ment with your values.

Recent­ly a For­tune 500 exec­u­tive came in to devel­op a Pros­per­i­ty Plan.  About two months after com­plet­ing the first ver­sion of his plan, he was offered a buy out agree­ment as part of glob­al down­siz­ing.  This was a big deci­sion, one that had impli­ca­tions for every facet of his life. Because he had a plan, he had invest­ed his ener­gy and time in quad­rant 2. He was able to update his plan to con­sid­er the buy out in one meet­ing.  He left clear and con­fi­dent in his deci­sion.  His invest­ment in quad­rant 2, saved him time and ener­gy and gave him a foun­da­tion to solid­i­fy his choice when a quad­rant 1, the urgent and impor­tant mat­ter, was presented.

In addi­tion to “twen­ty years ago”, when are some oth­er times that pay­ing for qual­i­ty finan­cial advice always pays off?

In mak­ing a col­lege deci­sion, espe­cial­ly one that involves debt.  Few eigh­teen year olds have the finan­cial acu­men to clear­ly under­stand the con­se­quences of the choic­es they are mak­ing when it comes to col­lege debt.  Quad­rant 1 deci­sions made at 18, can keep you in quad­rant 1 for a life­time.  Don’t make that mis­take, get help instead.

As an entre­pre­neur start­ing out. Too few entre­pre­neurs pri­or­i­tize finan­cial advice ear­ly in their busi­ness ven­ture.  As a result, they make deci­sions that cost them dear­ly down the road.  Kind of like a pen­ny saved is a pen­ny earned.  A prob­lem avoid­ed is cheap­er than a prob­lem created.

If you are mak­ing over $120,000 a year fam­i­ly income.  Medi­an fam­i­ly income in the US per the Cen­sus Bureau is $53,000.  At this lev­el you are mak­ing more than twice the medi­an income and pros­per­i­ty plan­ning will help you get clar­i­ty about what is impor­tant and give you the con­fi­dence to take action.

As a cou­ple where one fam­i­ly mem­ber makes all the finan­cial deci­sions for the house­hold.  Pros­per­i­ty plan­ning pro­vides an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate finan­cial part­ner­ship, get every­one on the same page and reduce finan­cial conflict.

As a busi­ness own­er stuck in quad­rant 1.  If you are putting out fires and man­ag­ing cri­sis, the pros­per­i­ty plan­ning process cre­ates clar­i­ty and focus and gives you the con­fi­dence to take action.

As a busi­ness own­er in tran­si­tion.  If you are with­in five years of tran­si­tion­ing your busi­ness to the next gen­er­a­tion, or to an out­side par­ty, get help now.  You’ll need to be clear on your per­son­al finan­cial plan and how that fits into the busi­ness tran­si­tion plan.  Cash flow and tax con­se­quences are dri­ven based on the legal agree­ments you make.  Plan­ning before nego­ti­at­ing and sign­ing agree­ments is critical.

Now that you know when to get help, let’s talk about how to get help.  My expe­ri­ence is that the best advi­sor is an inde­pen­dent finan­cial plan­ner with a sol­id back­ground and no hid­den agen­da.  You will know there is no hid­den agen­da by the way that they charge. If they charge a fee for their work, one that is nego­ti­at­ed above board, that you under­stand and is in writ­ing, there is no hid­den agenda.

Find a plan­ner who spends most of their time and ener­gy with you in quad­rant 2.  By engag­ing in a plan­ning process with the plan­ner, one that is ongo­ing and con­tin­u­ous, you devel­op clar­i­ty about your deci­sions and gives you con­fi­dence in your actions.

Ask about their expe­ri­ence and cre­den­tials.  Get ref­er­ences.  Use your intu­ition. You know who to trust when you are lis­ten­ing to your inner wisdom.

If you aren’t sure, feel bul­lied or rushed to make a deci­sion, walk away.  A good plan­ner is a life­long part­ner in your pros­per­i­ty.  Don’t set­tle.  Keep look­ing until you have found the right per­son for you.

The best time to get finan­cial help was twen­ty years ago. The next best time is today.  Start the New Year off right by spend­ing your time and ener­gy in quad­rant 2!

In joy,