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- Some financial advice may be a bitter pill to swallow, but that doesn't make it less essential.
- Financial experts told us people hate to be told to spend less, and to save earlier for retirement.
- Folks also hate to hear they should say no to their kids, and that timing the market is a bad idea.
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When it comes to finances, there is some advice that is too tough a pill to swallow for some folks. Anybody can have a closed mind and closed ears, be it a high-net-worth shopaholic hiding shopping adventures from a spouse, jeopardizing the family's finances, the newly divorced person who doesn't want to hear that they will need to downsize because they can no longer afford the lifestyle they've become accustomed to, or the young person who refuses to talk about saving for retirement because it seems a lifetime away.
Chat with a financial advisor and they'll give you a mouthful of the advice people tend to resist and why. I spoke to financial experts to get the lowdown on where they have to courageously battle good financial advice against hard heads.
1. You can't keep spending like crazy
If you want to ruffle feathers, utter the words "spend less."
Ami Shah, a certified financial planner and co-founder of money management site Steward, says one concept some don't want to embrace is the notion that how much you spend matters as much, if not more, than how much you earn or how you invest.
"Folks agonize over negotiating pay or maximizing their returns by just a couple of percentage points, but it's lifestyle creep kills a lot of folks. It sounds like, 'I'm working so hard; don't I deserve x?'" says Shah.
How does she try to lead them to a come-to-Jesus moment? "First, I acknowledge that urge to enjoy your increase in income in the present, especially if you're getting a piece of the American Dream that your family hasn't had before. The first step is a mindset shift to realize that your money can earn more for you than you can, and in order to do that, you have to invest it … and in order to do that, you have to not spend all of it," she says.
Second, she helps them focus on the big rocks of spending that matter. Housing is most people's highest expense, and she spends a lot of time talking wealthy people out of real estate. "I encourage them to be judicious when selecting where they live so that rent or housing costs don't creep above 25% of their net income."
Third, she encourages people to pay their future-self first by automatically depositing a part of their paycheck each month in long-term investments as a "set-it-and-forget-it" way to ensure they're not overspending.
2. Forget trying to time the market
Another thing people resist, says Shah, is the notion that they can't time the market or consistently pick winners. "This is a devilish one," she says. "Every investor is tempted to time the market, but it requires you to get both the exit and the re-entry right. This can sound like, 'It seems like stocks are heady right now, should I hold off?' or 'My friend made a fortune on Tesla, should I invest, too?'"
Her response? She asks them to take their predictions for a test drive. "I coach clients that if they think they can do this, to keep a journal of their specific predictions for a few months or so. If you are like most, you'll realize your crystal ball is cloudy. You're not smarter than the market. Nor am I."
For those who really have an itch to scratch on "gaming the market," Shah suggests they start by investing their nest egg for upcoming big life goals (a house, retirement) in low-cost index funds, and then to set up a "sandbox" of "play money" for more individual stock picking with money in excess of what they need to save to hit their goals. "That way, they have the chance to try out different ideas, without risking their family's future," she says.
3. Just say no to your children
There's helping your kids and then there's enabling them, even crippling them when you don't have good boundaries. How many times are you going to pay their rent? Some parents can't find it within themselves to say no to their kids, no matter their age.
"When it comes to saying no to their kids, they resist it because it will be uncomfortable. It's hard to make dinner when you're tired. It's hard to say no to sports and activities, especially when kids have been cooped up inside with the pandemic. It's hard to share why you're saying no. You're exposing your mistakes with money, but there are tons of emotions associated with it as well, from guilt to shame and everything in between," says Amy Greene of Amy Greene Financial Coaching.
Paul Layton, a senior financial advisor with Personal Capital, says many clients don't like to hear that they need to put their own financial interests before their children. "I have some clients that sacrifice their retirement goals to benefit their children, often in the form of education spending or a first-time home purchase. If taking care of your kids is a high priority, my advice is to make sure that your retirement picture is solid first. Otherwise, retirement may not turn out the way you had hoped," says Layton.
He helps them see the light by reminding them, "The best gift you could give your children is your own financial independence as you grow older."
4. Save for retirement ASAP
Getting some young folks to see the value of saving as soon as possible for retirement can be challenging. Tomy Boboy, founder of Everyday Finance and former investment advisor, says, "What they least want to hear is that preparing for retirement starts now, that they need to start deciding what the word retirement looks like for them and to create a plan that can get them there through saving and investing."
What powers of persuasion does he turn to? "The same techniques that got me on board when I was younger. Showing them what retirement could look like depending on the decisions they make today. The good could be that they get to live out the retirement of their dreams with no income worries due to their smart decisions at a younger age. The bad is they could never retire at all, working part-time in their late 70s-80s to supplement their retirement nest egg."
Jessica Lepore, founder of Survested, a life insurance agency, says, "The younger the client you encounter, the less they truly understand the value of financial preparation. Admittedly so, it is extremely difficult to imagine putting money aside month after month to not see it for 30 or 40 years. Out of my clients who are in retirement or close to it, I constantly hear that they wished they invested more into retirement when they were younger."
The key to getting clients to listen is education, she says. "By spending time explaining the importance, having them understand the need, the financial commitment, and how it can work for them, the client will feel confident that what you have discussed reflects the adjustments they need to make. "
5. Plan for the inevitable
Yes, the end will come. Who wants to think about the day when they're no longer around? Estate planning is uncomfortable.
"Clients enjoy discussing tax-saving strategies, retirement income projections, but estate planning is easily the area of the planning process that sees the most resistance," says Andrew Clement, a certified financial planner with Dobyns Wealth Team. "And that resistance comes in the form of delay and avoidance. It's not just the uncomfortable nature of staring our demise in the face, but also simply the unknown of the process. What are the documents? A trust – what is that? Do I need one?"
His strategy? Use cold, hard facts. Says Clement, "Estate conversations are not an 'if' but a 'when.' They can be had around a coffee table where clients get to control the narrative, or by your family around a coffin – which do you prefer?"
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