“Financial empowerment”…

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last several months trying to get my arms around our message.  

What do we do that’s unique or different from any of the other million financial service providers out there offering you advice on your money?

For 13 years I worked with thousands of these offices.  A relatively small sample size in the grand scheme of things, but a pretty substantial sample size nonetheless.

It was that experience that led Derek and me to step out from a secure career with a great company and take the chance of building something bigger and more impactful in the first place.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  There are some great financial professionals out there…

Some really smart technicians when it comes to creating plans and making investment recommendations.  There are also some great salespeople in this business.  People who aren’t as much technicians in the craft of delivering custom financial advice, as they are great at delivering a compelling message that can scare you into action.

I worked with both, and despite what a lot of critics of the financial service industry will say, I actually think there’s room for both.  If either of these two options serves your needs and helps you get closer to your vision of financial success, God bless you!

But back to the original point of this message.  There was something about this experience that left me frustrated.  Left me with a feeling that there had to be something more beyond what I was seeing in this business.  That feeling started as a little annoying itch that I didn’t pay much mind to, because I didn’t recognize what I was feeling yet.  Over time that itch started to get more aggravated, but I still wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to do with it.

Then one July night last year, I woke up in a cold sweat around 2:00 in the morning.  My heart was pounding and mind was racing.  I had this feeling in my gut that was telling me I had to make a change.  I still didn’t know exactly what that change meant or exactly what it would look like, but it was loud and clear that the path I was on wasn’t the one I was intended to be on over the long haul.  There was a bigger purpose I was intended to pursue.  A bigger message I was intended to explore and share.

I never made it back to sleep that night, and fortunately or unfortunately, that was far from my last sleepless night over the last year and a half, but it was the one that started me on this journey.

As I started to try to translate that feeling I struggled to gain clarity, but the further I continued on the path I was on, the more disconnected I felt myself becoming with the work I was doing.  It had nothing to do with the advisors I worked with specifically.  It was more of a disenchantment I started to feel with the business and industry as a whole.  From the way that the financial institutions at top of the food chain trained us to sell their products, to the way many (not all) advisors looked to shove all their clients into a one-size-fits-all product or plan –  it all became more and more frustrating and discouraging.

But over and above any of this, the real root of that feeling and discouragement was that we weren’t addressing the real issue.  At least not the issue I wanted to address and solve in my own life, for myself and for my wife, and for our friends and families.

What was that issue?  I wasn’t quite sure yet, but I knew it revolved around the fact that money wasn’t really the problem.  Everything I saw over those 13 years addressed questions associated with what to do with your money.  Where to invest, how to allocate.  What risks you needed to address, and how you mitigate them.  Etc, etc, etc…all important, NO, critical information to learn and understand, but no matter how many presentations I saw, or gave on the subject of effective retirement planning, every single one was really just a variation of the same presentation.

Work hard, scrap, save, sacrifice and do without, so you can contribute to your retirement plan and invest more in the stock market.  Put in your 40 years, pick up your head when you cross the figurative finish line, called “retirement”, and pray that you’ve done enough to live the rest of your life comfortably without running out of money first.  Sound familiar?  Is that really what you want your financial life to look like?  Yeah…me neither.

So what was missing?  My determination was that the missing piece was the connection to the bigger picture.  To the role the money was intended to serve in your life.  To the purpose we’re here to fulfill.

Dave Ramsey has built an empire around the idea of creating “Financial Peace”.  I love that idea.  I think it’s sound and has helped a lot of families get themselves out of reckless behavior to become more financially responsible with how they spend their money, manage debt, save, etc.  All good stuff…

However, if you get to the heart of what Dave teaches, at least from my narrow perspective, it boils down to a scarcity-based mindset.  Relegate spending to an envelope system, never utilize debt, diversify your investments, and play the long game.  Not necessarily bad advice, but does that sound familiar?  Aren’t we really just repackaging the same old conventional strategy at the end of the day?  Live within your means, keep your head down, do without, hope and pray it all works out down the road?  Wash, rinse, repeat…

Look, I’m not saying that can’t work for people.  I know for sure it has for many, and it’s head and shoulders above doing nothing at all.  I just know for me, it still falls short of what I want for my financial life.  It’s an uninspired message to me and fails to get to the heart of what I ultimately want my life to represent after I’m gone.

How motivated are you by the idea of focusing all your attention on restriction, limitation, scarcity, and sacrifice?

Do you have any idea how big the opportunities and possibilities are in the world we live in today?  Provided you take the time to explore beyond the tragedy and suffering spotlighted by a 24/7 news cycle, it’s actually pretty awe-inspiring.

Think about this for a minute…the first motorized automobile came to the United States in 1893.  That was 125 years ago.  Cars weren’t made readily available to the public until the 1920s, less than 100 years ago.  Over the course of that 100 years, man discovered flight, achieved space travel and put a man on the moon.  We’ve cured countless diseases, invented computers, and technology that can perform tasks that are incomprehensible to most of us.  That same car that the first US citizens were just learning to drive less than 100 years ago is capable of driving itself today and can run on electricity (which also didn’t exist 150 years ago by the way!).  Can you imagine what life will look like in another 100 years?  It’s beyond most of our wildest imaginations…

Now I get it…the cynics in the crowd will usually chime in right about now to explain why that’s the problem!  How civilization is doomed.  How “back in the good old days things were so much better because (fill in the blank)”…

That’s nonsense.  What, “back in the day” when life expectancy was  50 years old, and disease and suffering was rampant?  Or back in the day when blacks and whites were segregated and couldn’t drink from the same water fountain or use the same bathroom, and women couldn’t vote?

Give me a break…that’s the small-minded, scarcity-based thinking that’s been hardwired into most of us through popular news and media, but just because that’s how most of us have been conditioned, doesn’t mean it’s right.

Want some hard data to support how much better off our society is as a whole?

Consider the following from Peter Diamandis, author of Abundance-The Future is Better than You Think:

  • The global poverty level, which is defined as having to live on less than $1.25/day has dropped from 53% to 17% over the last 30 years across the globe
  • Child labor has been reduced by over 50% just since the year 2000
  • Mortality rates for children under the age of 5 have dropped by over 50%, just since 1990
  • Teenage pregnancy – in 1960, 89 out of 1000 teenage women were getting pregnant.  Today that rate has dropped to less than 29 out of 1000
  • Violent crimes in the United States – as recently as the mid-’90s there were as many as 50 violent crime victims in the US, per 1000 citizens.  Today that number is less than 15 per 1000.
  • Global literacy has increased from around 10% to almost 100% over the last 500 years (a lot less time than it sounds like in the grand scheme of things)

The truth is, the media’s job is to capture eyeballs.  Humans are wired to be 10x more responsive to negative news than positive news, so what’s the incentive for the media to share positive news with us?  There isn’t any!

I’m not suggesting there isn’t a tremendous amount of sadness, tragedy, and suffering in the world; I’m actually extremely sensitive to every bit of it.  What I am saying is things have improved beyond most of our comprehension whether you’re aware of it or not.

Ok, so what does all this have to do with financial planning?  And what does it have to do with my sleepless nights?  And most importantly, why should you care?  All fair questions…

I want to revisit Mr. Ramsey’s idea of “Financial Peace” for just a moment.  If Financial Peace is designed to have you think and plan from a position of scarcity, my proposal is that we shift our mindset and start to think in terms of “Financial Empowerment”.  Financial Empowerment operates from a position of abundance, possibility, and opportunity, and is the next level once peace has been achieved.

This was the “A-ha” moment for me, and ultimately was the thought that led me to finally discover how I wanted to “scratch that itch” that had been keeping me up at night so often over the previous year.

Here’s the thing…money is nothing more than a tool designed to serve you and me, yet it’s where we focus almost all of our attention.  In reality, money is essentially just a permission slip that gives you the ability to buy what you want and need and do things you want to do.  On the scarcity-based side of the coin, finances and money are sources of confusion, frustration, overwhelm, and stress.

On the other side of the coin through – the abundance focused side – finance and money represent security.  It represents opportunity, peace of mind, possibility, and the chance for lasting impact and contribution to the world at large.  Now that’s an inspiring thought – at least to me!

See that’s the heart of the matter.  The reason I was having so much of a mental hangup with what I’ve seen from the financial service industry is that it delivered nothing for me personally, and nothing for the people in my life that I care most about.  It didn’t address what I really wanted from my life or serve me in a way I was satisfied with.  When I think of building the life I want for me and my family, I don’t want to live a life of restriction and limitation.  I want to grow and develop.  I want to explore, connect, love, and contribute.  And I want to bring as many people as I can on that journey with me.

That’s the possibility I see with “financial planning”.  That’s the opportunity I see when looking through the lens of abundance, and financial empowerment.  I see money being utilized as the ultimate facilitator for good and achievement in the world.

Most people aspire to be “wealthy”,whatever that means.  Wealth is really just the byproduct of value creation.  If I value what you do, or what you offer, more than I value the dollar in my pocket, and I think your thing will deliver me a benefit that exceeds that dollar, then it’s a worthwhile exchange for me.  If you want to make more money and build more wealth, you have to deliver more value to the world.  That may feel like an oversimplification, but that’s really what it’s about.

The ones who solve the biggest problems for people, and deliver the most value, acquire the greatest amount of wealth and prosperity.  We’ll explore this further in the future, but this idea will be at the center of what we focus on at Two Waters Wealth Management.

We’re on a mission to deliver “Financial Empowerment”.  To help you get crystal clear about what you want out of life.  How you personally define financial success for yourself and your family, and then we’ll design the roadmap that will help you facilitate that vision.

With greater focus on vision and clarity (i.e. what you really want out of life) and greater ownership and accountability of what’s required to deliver on that vision (i.e. more honesty with yourself about where you are today and what you have to do to get there) it’s not only possible, it becomes probable to achieve financial security and prosperity.

If you want Financial Empowerment for you and your family, let’s have a conversation.  And collectively, let’s change the conversation around financial planning.  It starts with you and me!