I’m more of a fisherman than a skier, so last week when I found myself on the ski slopes at the top of Mt Werner in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, I was a bit nervous. I had been skiing all day and felt pretty confident on the nice, easy green slopes like “Sundial”, but when my good friends Beth and Buzz steered me left off my usual chair lift instead of right, I found myself on a much tougher, blue run. As the picture below highlights, my choices were all challenging blue or black diamond runs. My friends assured me I could handle “High Noon” because I’d skied slopes as difficult before, and they believed it would make the day more memorable for me. I certainly wasn’t facing the same danger Gary Cooper found at High Noon, but like Grace Kelly who got off the train to help Marshal Kane, my friends were by my side. I trusted that my friends had my best interests in mind, so I pushed over the top. They were right. It was invigorating, thrilling, and rewarding! I completed the run and repeated the track two more times. I wouldn’t have tried it by myself and am glad my friends pushed me to step out of my comfort zone. I wasn’t crazy enough to try the black diamond “Three O’Clock” run though! Maybe next year!
Deciding to take the uncomfortable path that day reminded me of a financial plan I recently designed and implemented with two clients. No, I didn’t push them over a steep cliff! I helped them step out of their comfort zone, so they could implement strategies to pursue their goals. I met with a couple who is four years from retirement and has accumulated an IRA large enough to provide them today with retirement security for life. They reached financial independence because they have been disciplined 401k savers, spend conservatively and because we had successfully managed their portfolio through two decades of volatile markets. As I updated their plan to account for recent changes in tax laws, market volatility, interest rates and their revised goals, I recommended that they dramatically change the plan that had made them successful. I asked them to stop contributing to their 401k “growth” focused plan and instead pay more taxes now and accumulate an after-tax portfolio of tax-free bonds. To say that the couple was skeptical and uncomfortable is an understatement. I was moving them into a strategy that I believed was in their best interests, but one they were initially uncomfortable with. Like my good friends did for me, I pushed my clients out of their comfort zone because that is what good advisors do.
My clients are a mix of different ages, occupations, income levels, family circumstances, and fluid conditions. Twenty-seven years of planning for clients has taught me that their plans need to change in response to evolving life circumstances, and often that change is hard for people to accept. If their “easier” current course doesn’t lead them on a path to reaching their goals, then it’s my job to push clients toward that harder ski slope.
To catch the personal, professional, financial or other trophy fish are you going after, be open to stepping out of your comfort zone as you prepare and implement plans to catch your dream fish. You will have more control over how you catch them and in which rivers and streams or oceans you fish in.
Tim Scannell, CPA, CFPTM provides Personal and Business Tax Planning, Estate Planning, Investment Management, and Generational Wealth management to his clients. “We strive to deliver transparent, proactive, independent, and comprehensive planning and communications to the families we work for”.