The events in Japan over the past couple of weeks make it all too clear what little control we have over our lives. We have some – such as in the decisions we make – but by and large, we are vulnerable. I don’t write this to scare anyone and I bristle when I am made aware of anyone playing on people’s fears to promote their own livelihood; rather, I say it out of a state of peace and acceptance.
As a financial planner, I am aware that I can play to the illusion of control when I recommend people take certain steps, because I am suggesting that these steps will help them achieve their goals. But I am not guaranteeing such an outcome. Not only would that be malpractice, it would be careless. I craft my recommendations based on all manner of assumptions such as those for rates of inflation, rates of return, income stability, health, life…all of this is fiction the day after I deliver the plan, and this is why an annual review is necessary; to see how close or how far from my assumptions my client’s life played out.
But my clients have a role in this, too. As I mentioned, we do have control over our decisions (it’s the whole “I can’t control the wind but I can control my sails” philosophy). Oftentimes clients will “stall out” when they it comes down to acting on my recommendations (I.e. update their asset allocation, get their wills drafted, get the disability insurance they need) because (a) they stop viewing it as a priority (b) they don’t make the time to do it (c) they don’t want to address items that have emotional baggage and/or (d) they don’t want to spend the money. These are all decisions we can make, things that we can control, but may choose NOT TO.
There are many things in life you just have to accept and leave in the hands of fate or a Higher Power, but there are many aspects of our lives that we can affect if only we put our thoughts and energy into them.