Spring Cleaning

Benjamin Haas |

It’s been almost 7 years now that I’ve known a very sweet lady I’ll call Anna. I met her through the most unfortunate of circumstances. Her husband had passed away. Her emotional loss was compounded by her lack of understanding of her financial situation. She had never had to write a check, let alone balance the checkbook. Anna needed help.

She came to me with a plastic bag stuffed full of old tax records, an old trust document, and a bunch of financial statements (most of which were still unopened). This pile of paperwork represented her financial life. And she had no idea what any of it meant. I'll never forget the anxiety she brought with them. After we spent some time together, it was clear that she had plenty of money. I think she knew it, but because everything was so unorganized, she was worried.

I was reminded of Anna last week as my wife and I discussed our finances. It had been awhile. Perhaps you’re the same way. Perhaps you pile papers like Anna. I’d venture to guess that many of us don’t take the time to think about all the things that make up our financial lives in a comprehensive way. Instead we put things on a pile. We put our finances out of sight and out of mind.

At first it might just be a bank account, but soon we have old work accounts, a few shares of some stock we inherited from our grandparents, and an old will that was written when the kids were born. Over time, we end up with a giant mess, and it becomes clear that nothing works together.

Real financial advice is the process of bringing order to that pile of stuff. It’s the process of compartmentalizing resources, prioritizing goals, and then aligning the resources with the goals. It doesn’t have to mean that everything is neatly piled, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. But it does require a scheduled check-up every now and then. Not unlike Spring-cleaning!

As you get the yard ready for warmer weather, and exchange the winter clothes for warmer attire, I’d ask you to think about Anna. Is your financial life just a pile of papers right now? Is it time for your finances to undergo some Spring-cleaning too? Start by calling a CFP® professional and schedule your check-up. Fill a plastic bag if you must. But you don’t have to be discouraged. There is help.