I’ve blathered on this month about having grown-up responsibilities, right? Well, there is barely anything more grown-up than having a financial planner. I mean, a financial planner that is an actual human with a degree and a book of business and not your mom breathing down your neck asking how you think you’re going to pay your rent if you buy another pair of shoes.
Enter Bob Dignan. Bob is my financial planner who actually came as part of the Randy J Package Deal (also included – an Intro to Indian food course and the ability to find a Lord of the Rings and/or Star Wars movie on TV any time of the day or night). He is also the furthest thing you’d expect of a financial planner with posh offices in downtown Delafield and the fancy color-coded quarterly reports.
Dude (yes, “dude” is appropriate here), is the most down-to-earth, speaks-in-English, numbers-related professional I have ever had the pleasure of working with. I actually understand what it is we’re doing here when he tells me. (Just don’t ask me to explain it back to you…) It’s an added bonus that he knows where to put our retirement funds AND wanted to be the guy that was also my first crush. (Oh, Alex P. Keaton, I’ll never quit you…)
With that said, it is my pleasure to introduce Bob’s thoughts back to his 25-year-old self with a bonus lesson for all of us, no matter what our age. I love them all, particularly as I start down this road of parenthood.
One of the problems with having intelligent people in your life is that too often they get you thinking about things. When that happens to me, and it does pretty frequently, I just can’t let those ideas go until I’ve beaten them to death. No, really…to death. And so it went a week or so ago as I read Maggie’s blog, and wondered what pieces of advice I would most like to go back in time to share with myself 20 years ago, when I was an optimistic 25-year-old.
As with most things, a few days of beating that unfortunate proverbial horse did wonders for the clarity and insight.
In the spirit of complete disclosure, I have to confess that my role model growing up was Alex P. Keaton…save maybe a few political beliefs (and if you have to ask who he was, then I’m in real trouble). But from a very early age I realized that capitalism was a beautiful thing, and that the world was there for the taking for those that believed in working hard and doing the right thing. Thankfully, somewhere in the midst of five very formative years at the University of Wisconsin, I somehow transformed from a potential corporate stiff who wanted to be a Mergers and Acquisitions Attorney into a guy that really wanted to lead his own YMCA Camp. I didn’t quite get there, but I’ve learned a few things along the way.
Live without fear!
No matter how young or old, the level of risk that we actually face in life is rarely as great as the risk that we perceive we face. In order to be open to taking risk later in life, you have to learn how to do it early, and if you don’t, it becomes harder and harder to get outside of your comfort zone with each passing day.
This is especially true when children enter your life (sorry Maggie!). While children are perhaps the greatest blessing that can be imagined, the reality is that once you hear that first cry, you will be afraid of something, every moment, for the rest of your life. The lady in church that doesn’t cover her mouth when she coughs. The closet in the hall that is waiting to pinch little fingers. A grape that isn’t cut into minute bits.
Live without fear while you can, because things change forever in a period of only nine months, and when that happens it tends to creep more easily into all areas of your life. And once it has, just TRY learning to live without it.
Money is just money, stuff is just stuff.
Somewhere along the way, a very wise person said to me, “Money is the most easily renewable resource in the world.” I won’t lie, I laughed at them when they said it. Deep inside me was still the capitalist that said, “More is better,” but along the way, it finally hit me (HARD) and it stuck. You can’t ignore the need for money, but you can overstate its importance…and most of us do. Daily.
Yes, you can do more cool things with more money, but there is no finish line to wealth and there is a finite amount of time to life. Missed date nights. Missed kindergarten Christmas concerts. Missed opportunities to chase butterflies in the backyard. Get your priorities straight early, and the money thing takes care of itself in time. You might never have that Mercedes convertible, but the guy next to you on the freeway in the fancy car might never know what it’s like to see his daughter’s smile when she catches her first fish. Take your pick, but choose wisely.
Life without passion isn’t living.
If you’re fortunate, this is the one thing that you learn early and the one lesson that you pass on to your kids. We all need to put food on the table, and keep that roof over our head, but too many people settle for being a cog in a machine and not doing something that they truly believe in. “Do something that you love, and you’ll never work another day in your life.” Figuring this out early, when our need for cash is lower (and we are more adaptable) certainly makes it easier to follow this mantra late in life.
And let’s be clear, doing something that you love doesn’t mean that it won’t be stressful or that it will be easy. It isn’t supposed to be. When you take risks, personally or professionally, it creates stress and makes it harder. But to quote Jimmy Dugan, “The hard is what makes it great.” Where there is passion, greatness is possible, and perhaps, inevitable.
So while I wish that I had known all this twenty years ago, there is perhaps one more lesson that is even more important.
It’s never too late.
It might be harder, and it might demand that we are forced to step further outside of our comfort zone, but greatness is always possible. Even when the lessons come later than perhaps we wish they had.
More About Bob Dignan
Bob is one half of the Partnership Team at CedarPoint Investment Advisors, and has enjoyed serving his clients in a wide variety of investment and financial planning areas for nearly 17 years.
Additionally, he is a shamelessly proud graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is die hard outdoorsman and an all-too-infrequent runner and cyclist. He lives in East Troy with his wife Christine and their 3 children.