I’ve never found the delivering ‘hard truth’ part of this job easy. I’m not really a tough love kind of guy.
But it’s important.
And there’s nothing more difficult for me than sitting across from someone who’s just been hit with a heavy dose of financial truth… and who honestly believes it’s too late to do anything about it.
“I’m almost 70, there’s nothing I can do about this now…”
“I’ve made so many mistakes, the damage is done…”
“I am so screwed.”
It’s hard because they’re not necessarily wrong.
The cold hard truth of the numbers
One of the big questions people have when they come to talk to a financial planner is about retirement.
Do I have enough? Am I doing okay? Am I on track?
So, you go through their numbers, and see how much they’ll probably need to fund the lifestyle they want in retirement. Then you see what resources they have available – governmental and personal.
And even though that’s a pretty simplistic way to look at the problem, it gives you a good overview of whether they’re in the ballpark or not.
But let’s imagine you’re in your late 60s and have a potential need for over a million dollars in your retirement, but only have 50,000 saved … what are you supposed to do?
What if you’re also staring in the face of some pretty serious health concerns?
Without the benefit of years of income coming in, or time for COMPOUND INTEREST to help you… it’s hard not to agree that it’s actually too late to do anything that will fix everything.
It’s worth fighting even if it’s too late to win
We always want things to be simpler, to divide the world into a series of yes or no questions.
Can I fund my retirement?
Yes or no.
But if the answer ends up being ‘no’… what then? What next?
The common sense answer is that you adjust expectations. You change your needs in the future. You make the formula balance.
But I’m not talking about the people that can make that work.
I’m talking about the people that feel like they can’t. I’m talking about the ones who see a retirement ratio (needs : available resources) and who feel like making those two sides meet is a fairy tale.
I’m talking about the people who won’t even go talk to a financial planner because they’re convinced that their future is set. That they’ve made too many mistakes. That’s it’s absolutely too late.
To those people I say:
Maybe you’re right. Maybe it is too late to win this financial fight.
Fight because inevitability can go %$#& itself
I am only 32.
But when I look back at the last 10 years there are many things that happened and that I did that would have seemed absolutely impossible to my younger self.
Clearly the word ‘impossible’ (or at least things that ‘feel’ impossible) isn’t as absolute as I used to think.
But let’s say you aren’t in the mood for any of that ‘anything can happen’ nonsense.
You should fight anyway.
You should fight because there are never just two choices.
You should fight because your finances are so much more complex and run deeper than just answering the question: will I have a funded retirement or non-funded retirement?
There are so many little things that can be changed.
And I’m sure that those changes will be accompanied by the constant chorus of “if only I would have done this X years ago”. That’s fine. But don’t let it stop you.
Don’t let the feeling that the future is set stop you from trying to change it.
Because then it’ll really be set in stone.
How to start fighting … when the war might be lost…
If the new goal is to jettison inevitability … where do you start?
Well, anywhere is fine.
There’s no perfect beginning because you’ve completely rejected the end.
My friend Kate recently wrote about how CLARITY COMES FROM ACTION NOT THOUGHT, and even though her post isn’t directly related to what we’re talking about, the core statement is bang on.
Fight first. Direction later.
As another friend so often puts it:
“Just do the next good thing.”
Because sometimes the big picture is so insanely overwhelming, any remotely positive outcome so impossible, that that kind of focus becomes counterproductive.
It can’t be about the end anymore.
Honestly, I don’t know if the future is inevitable or not. Poets have been arguing about that for hundreds of years. But I can’t believe that it is. I won’t believe that it is. And I’ll leave you with the last words of one of my favourite poems by Edna St Vincent Millay (she’s talking about another kind of inevitable end (death), but it still rings true to me).
“I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.”
I know the numbers.
I see the facts.
I understand the hopelessness.
But I do not approve.
And I am not resigned.
Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator
Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.
She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.
Email Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org