#145 It’s Not a Game

One of the local financial institutions had radio commercials a while ago recounting a football play where the fan-supported team catches a long-pass to earn a touchdown. Now there’s a hockey on one (which really doesn’t makes sense to me the way the Oilers are playing), suggesting that it’s time to step up to the big leagues, and use the advice of a professional. And that’s where the commercial part of the message comes in.

I want to be clear right off the top that I am not commenting on the quality of this institutions products, service or advice. But I was late for work the other day because I heard the radio ad as I was putting my socks on, and then had to sit down with the iPad for fifteen minutes and write a rant to myself that has formed the basis for this column. I get that they’re just trying to market on professionalism, and the creative mind behind the ad probably has an appreciation for professional sports.

But this is not a game.

A lady has a stroke, and she’s in a coma. The doctors say she’ll never recover. The family has gathered and is ready to say goodbye. And then… she wakes up. A miracle – it looks like she’ll just about fully recover. But the celebration ends too soon, because within months her husband is diagnosed cancer. It’s fast, rare, and terminal. The last time we ever spoke, he asks me to take care of his wife. He says that he trusts me. He loves her, and he knows I will do what is right by her. So his pension and life insurance proceeds transition under our management, and we walk into a world beyond fiduciary duty. This isn’t just placing a client’s needs above our own; it’s about honestly caring about their wellbeing. This is a real client, and this is not a game.

A husband purchases a ten-year-term life insurance policy in 2005. He just needs to cover the last ten years of his employment, and then they’ll be set to enjoy the best years of their lives. But that’s not how it plays out. Because after just a year and a half, he became terminally ill. It’s slow, it’s expensive, and it’s the hardest thing their family has ever had to deal with. Now the policy is up for renewal, and instead of ten years of intense savings, they’ve got nothing left. The doctors have given him less than a year, but in order to pay the renewal premium on the life insurance policy, they’ll have to borrow the funds from their adult children. We worked with closely with the clients and the life insurance company to have half of the death benefit pre-released. Now she’s crying on the phone. The cheque just came in. Their lives will never be okay, but at least for now their finances will be. This is a real client, and this not a game.

We work hard at what we do, and we care just as hard. But it’s not a thankless role. Clients are forever telling us how they’ve never felt like they’ve had an advisor they could trust until they met us. Or that we always work so hard for them, they feel like they’re our only client. Or that their biggest fear is that we’ll get get head-hunted to a big city and they won’t know what to do. This isn’t a game for my clients – and it’s not a game for me either. I absolutely love what I do, and I love that it’s real.

But if you did want to compare Financial Planning it to a sport, you could try marathons. Last summer, inspired by my Boston-Marathon-finishing friend Vanessa, we decided to take fitness into our own hands and started training for a 5K. When the opportunity came up, we changed our minds and decided to run a 10K instead. Because, why not, right?

Here is the first way that long-term financial planning compares to a marathon. It sucks, it’s hard, and sometimes it’s not very fun at all. There are also some stupid-crazy river valleys, and just as soon as you start to feel like you’ve put them down-range, you realize the race doubles-back and you have to go do it all over again (audible Homer Simpson moan). It’s exhausting too. It feels like you’ve given it everything you’ve got, and then you see a helpful little sign that says “kilometer 2”. Slowly, you begin to realize that long-term and eternity may be synonymous.

The second way that long-term financial planning compares to a marathon is that it’s easier when you’ve got support. Having a few hours’ worth of 180bpm songs on the iPod and good quality shoes are a good start, but having a partner -or a sister- running beside you, keeping you in check, is much better. Thinking about dropping down to a walking pace for a while? Or maybe even about diving into the woods and taking a nap? Thinking about flipping the bird to that river valley hill and arms-crossed parking your tush in the middle of the pavement? That’s natural. But your partner will be there to encourage you to go on, to make good decisions, and to face that hill head on. Just one step at a time, and pretty soon, you’ll be half way there. And then almost there. And then you can see the finish line. At the end of the day, you’ll be proud of yourself for sticking to it. And you’ll be healthier for it too. The hard work was yours alone to bear, but at the same time, listening to the right music, wearing good quality shoes (remember – goals first, price second) and having a partner there to support you has helped you reach your goals faster than you would have expected. But it wasn’t easy. And it wasn’t always fun. And it was most certainly not a game.

If you have questions on how setting goals can help you become the person you want to be, or if you want to speak with someone who takes your finances as seriously as you do, speak with a Certified Financial Planner today.

Written by Meagan S. Balaneski, CFP, R.F.P.

Meagan S. Balaneski, CFP, R.F.P CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® Advantage Insurance & Investment Advisors Investment Funds Representative Manulife Securities Investment Services Inc.

The opinions expressed are those of Meagan S. Balaneski and may not necessarily reflect the views of Manulife Securities Investment Services Inc.

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