There’s an old Yogi Berra–ism, though it is correctly attributed to computer scientist Jan van de Snepscheut, about theory and practice: “In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.”
While Yogi may have attributed the concept to baseball and Van de Snepscheut to computer algorithms, it also applies to personal finance.
Most financial planners will, or at least should, admit that recommendations they provide to clients are not exactly rocket science. In fact, recommendations are often rooted in basic financial common sense, along with a dollop of analysis, tax rules, asset allocation strategies concerning compounding savings, and rates of return versus interest amortization, inflation and spending.
In short, success in personal finance and planning is often simple to understand to anyone who carries out the various tasks that are required to create a workable plan.
What gets many people into trouble is bad financial habits. We overspend when we should save, drive up credit card balances, forget to pay life insurance premiums, under-insure cars and homes, hide our heads in the sand about college costs for our children, and dismiss the notion of our own eventual demise, all while failing to get our estate in order.
For many, it’s all those things and more.
And we forget the lessons of the past: the tech boom and bust of the late 1990s; the inflation of the 1970s; how markets recover eventually from a crash; that something for nothing is, and always will be, a fantasy; that companies need sales, revenue and eventual real earnings to survive and support a wildly high stock valuation; and how supposedly secret stock tips or strategies touted by investment newsletters are not really so secret or exclusive (except to you and 3 million of your closest co-subscribers).
Despite common knowledge about Ponzi schemes and ever-vigilant regulators watching out for unethical product-pushing, adviser-charlatans and consumers still get taken to the cleaners at times.
PT Barnum is attributed with the snarky comment about a sucker being born every minute. When it comes to personal finance, Barnum was a prophet.
After nearly 20 years of professional practice, I’ve seen that many clients I’ve counseled do, in fact, have a decent handle of what they’re trying to do and why. Circumstances and life events may derail their initial plans, or perhaps things didn’t work out the way they hoped, but that’s life, of course.
In most cases, my work with these folks has been chiefly to crystalize and structure what they innately know about their money – they often just need someone who, with some specialized knowledge and the software programs to demonstrate in charts and graphs, can help them flesh out the numbers and forecasts into something they can grasp and understand.
With this direction and a second opinion, people often feel empowered to forge ahead toward their objectives, despite the many obstacles and setbacks that are part of life. For the most part then, people have a good feel for where they are, whether their future looks bright or potentially troublesome.
After these many years, I’ve also seen that even those with modest means can build wealth for the long term. For these people, the advantage is having stout fiscal discipline, adherence to a plan of some sort, a conservative lifestyle and the faith that the sacrifices they’ve made along the way will serve them well in the future.
There are many financial books published each year, but the basics remain the same. The markets, investing trends, financial gurus and politicians, of course, all come and go. But if you save for the future, invest wisely and carefully, avoid falling prey to get-rich schemes or ill-conceived financial decisions, most likely you will end up with sufficient financial success to fill most of your dreams and aspirations for you and your family. It just takes a plan and the willpower to execute it.
As an aside, I would like to announce that this is my last column for The Newport Daily News. I’d like to thank the editorial staff, especially current editor Jon Zins, former editor Sheila Mullowney and former copy desk chief Harvey Peters for their help and guidance.
I also thank former publisher Bill Lucey and the Sherman family for their support in allowing me to write this column over the past 17 years.
I hope readers have enjoyed and benefited from the advice and guidance I’ve provided. It has been a privilege and an honor to be part of The Daily News and to help readers of the paper in this way. Cheers and good financial wishes to all.
Kevin Worthley is an investment adviser representative and registered representative of Wealth Management Resources Inc., a registered investment adviser and Financial Industry Regulatory Authority member broker/dealer. The opinions expressed are his, and sources used are deemed reliable but cannot be guaranteed. For questions or comments, call 356-1400.