Pat: From Plastic Bag to Financial Plan

Benjamin Haas |

It’s been almost 5 years now since Pat passed away. Anytime I meet a widow, I think about how I met Pat through the most unfortunate of circumstances. Her husband had passed away and her emotional loss was compounded by her lack of understanding of her financial situation. She never had to write a check, let alone balance the checkbook. Pat needed my 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. She didn’t know how things would work now. Did she have enough? How would she access money to pay bills? This was all new to her.  

I hope you’re not in the same position as Pat. But I think we all might have those moments of fear with money, or a sense of disorganization with our financial plans. We don’t always 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 or in a drawer somewhere. 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. And then, something happens and we just aren’t sure if we’re doing the right thing, or if we’re going to be ok.  

Real financial advice is the process of bringing order to that pile of stuff. It’s the process of compartmentalizing resources, prioritizing what matters most to us, and then aligning our financial resources with the purpose we want money to serve in our lives. 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 Pat. 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. 


Investment advice offered through Great Valley Advisor Group, a Registered Investment Advisor. Great Valley Advisor Group and Haas Financial Group are separate entities. This is not intended to be used as tax or legal advice. Please consult a tax or legal professional for specific information and advice. 

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