I like to think I am a nice guy. Typically, it works well: when you collaborate with others to help them achieve what they want for a living, being nice fits nicely.
Sometimes, however, you do someone a disservice by being too nice. The yes-man finds himself agreeably approving self-inflicted problems to those he serves. As an advisor first starting to give advice, it was difficult to disagree with someone. My family reading this will be shocked--I grew up loving to disagree and would argue from every point of view but the one offered to me.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is hold someone accountable. Kicking the can down the road may be easier, but it does no one any favors in the long run. One might say we are in the business of the long run.
My favorite questions I like to ask potential new clients center around what is important to them and their families. What do you want to do one day? Where would you like to go? What would you like to see and experience and, yes, have? (It is okay to want things, you know.)
Then I look at the other side of the coin--having seen the side that wants, how it is going to happen? How do we make this into a reality? Most of the time, people are on the right track. There may need to be some tweaking/fine tuning here and there, but we aren’t far off.
Then there are times when something isn’t adding up. The numbers don’t work, and something has to give. Too few dollars are chasing too many goods. Too little saving is chasing away too many dreams. There seems to be a disconnect, sometimes by accident and sometimes by sheer denial.
I learned very quickly that it does not serve anyone to let it go. Don’t get me wrong: I do not beat down the door and tell people they can’t accomplish what they want because they don’t have the discipline to save enough money. Or tell them the path to failure is littered with the bones of those who tried to take on too much risk while chasing higher returns. Honesty doesn’t have to be brutal. Honesty can be empathetic and kind and rooted in a commitment to be your advocate.
We can walk down a path together and spend some time climbing to a vantage point. If we survey the financial landscape, so to speak, we can see your intended destination if you continue on your path. We can have a powerful, open conversation about what you want to change if you don’t like where you are headed.
Admittedly, there are some people who are not ready to have that conversation, and I usually stop hearing from them after a certain point. They are afraid of what they might find and would rather keep their head down than make a difficult change.
But there are some who are ready and willing and brave enough to face uncertainty and take ownership of their future. I am proud to say that my clients are this way. They recognize that if they face it now, Future Them will often thank them. Actually, Present Them thanks them too because they give themselves permission to stop worrying about the unknown. They pull from within themselves the ability to change and choose their path. Feeling confident that you are on the path to get where you want is often well worth having a little less now. We can help release the stress and worry that comes from living from paycheck to paycheck. There are people who live that way from all walks of life--those making $3,000 a month and those making $30,000 a month.
So, I resolve to say yes when I should--not just because I can. Hopefully my relationship with my clients is strong enough to bear the brunt of good advice when my answer isn’t yes.