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Wednesday
Aug152012

Don't Fret the Election So

The presidential campaign is in full-throated roar, and daily we hear the diatribe of charges and counter-charges from the candidates and their surrogates.  Much of this is just so much tripe, and some that the campaigns put out bears only scant resemblance to the truth.  Yet this campaign has convinced some that their future happiness and financial security depend almost totally on which candidate emerges victorious.  Some seem to think that all hope is lost if one candidate, or the other, wins.  Of course, it has ever been so, and my firm belief is that our republic will survive the next president, just as it has survived all of the past ones.  So allow me to point out a few things that will likely go much further in determining the state of your future life than will the outcome of this election.

There are some things over which we have some control, and others over which we have almost none.  Once you have given a candidate your vote and support, (and perhaps shared your views with all of your Facebook friends!)you have done just about all one can do to help a candidate get elected.  There are aspects of your financial lives, however, that you can affect on a daily basis.  These are things that we can control to some degree and that will ultimately have a far greater impact on our financial lives than who the next president may be.  Consider your answers to the following questions.

  1. Are you thrifty?  Do you give adequate thought to where and how you spend your money?  Are you a wise shopper or are you given to impulse purchases?  As inflation inevitably erodes our purchasing power developing "wise shopping" habits will become ever more important, especially for retirees.  Where and how we spend the dollars we have today will greatly impact our financial futures.
  2. Are you saving adequately for your retirement?  Just as importantly, do you know how much you will need for the retirement you envision?  The amount you save for your retirement will play a much larger role in your future happiness than will the return you may realize on those investments or who the president may be!
  3. Are your savings adequately diversified?  A number of scholarly studies have shown that diversification is more important to investing success than the specific investments you may choose, or who the president may be.
  4. How stable are your personal relationships, especially your marriage?  The stability of your marriage and other family relationships will be far more important to your future happiness and financial success than will the political climate.
  5. Do you have a financial plan for the future, or do you engage in "magical thinking" where you just assume everything will turn out alright?  Do you have realistic, well-defined goals that encourage and motivate you?
  6. Do you have someone in your life that you can trust for sound financial advice?  This could be a parent,   a well informed friend, or a professional financial advisor, but all of us need someone to look over our shoulders from time to time.  I encourage you to insure that your "trusted advisor" places your interests above their own.  That is one definition of a fiduciary, and that is the kind of person I suggest you find for financial advice.
  7. Are you sharing what you have been given with others?  Numerous studies have discovered, and Biblical teachings support the idea that sharing with others is one avenue to personal happiness.  Giving to others has been shown to reduce stress and bring joy to the giver.  Giving to others may be more important to your future happiness that the outcome of the election.  Don't believe me?  Check it out; you can "Google" it.

I do not mean to imply that this presidential election is not important, because it is.  All of them are, and this one perhaps more than most as these candidates offers such a stark contrast in how they view the role of government.  Thus we should take some time to educate ourselves and vote accordingly.  Just don't lose sight of all of the other things in your life over which you have more control and which may have far more impact on your future happiness than will the outcome of this election.  Control what you can and don't get too "wrapped around the axle" about that which you cannot control.

I am a member of the Alliance of Cambridge Advisors, and association of fee-only financial advisors.  Our founder, Bert Whitehead, wrote a book titled Why Smart People Do Stupid Things With Money.  It is one of my favorite financial books, and I encourage you to find a copy as it can change the way you think about money.  In this book Mr. Whitehead further develops the theme of emphasizing those aspects of our lives over which we have control as a means of reaching our financial goals.

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