On Tuesday, I had a phone consultation with a Certified Financial Planner from Vanguard. It was an initial meeting, wherein we talked about each other, focusing on my goals. I tried to take into account many of my own suggestions for working with a financial adviser, but in preparing for the meeting, I realized — well, I’ve known this, but nothing brings an issue more to the front of the mind than being required to think about it — that I’m not sure about the next steps I’d like to take with my life.
I’ve been running Consumerism Commentary since 2003. While I started it as a hobby and an opportunity to learn how to manage my own finances, it has grown into a business of its own, allowing me to leave my unsatisfying day job and work for myself. I don’t see myself doing this forever. When looking at the long-term possibilities, there is a significant opportunity to grow this business, but I also need to ask myself if that’s the right direction for me in the long term. I’m not particularly interested in writing a book, like many other personal finance bloggers have done. I love writing and building communities, and that’s been the core of what I’ve been doing since the early 1990s; I was just lucky to apply these interests to personal finance at the right time — a time I needed it from a personal perspective and a time at which the world would suddenly show a growing interest in independent financial voices.
It’s important to know and understand life goals before talking with a financial planner in order to devise a plan that matches those goals. When I left the non-profit arts management world in 2001, my dream was to re-enter when I was in a better financial situation. And while I thought it was an impossibility at the time, I liked the thought of starting a foundation if I ever found myself in the position to do so, never thinking I would have that opportunity. Today, I’m not convinced that is the right path for me. For now, I plan on continuing what I’ve been doing, but working harder to identify where I’d like to see myself in twenty years.
Of course, people set goals all the time, only for life’s circumstances to move in a different direction. All the best planning in the world can’t take into account changing interests and desires. Regardless of my contemplation over goals, I met with Vanguard’s financial planner. I came away with a good strategy that I can use for my investments while mapping out my future. He also helped me understand why, given the option and a desire to have tax-efficient bonds in your portfolio, it’s better in the long term to have bonds in accounts like 401(k)s and any stock funds in taxable accounts, the opposite of what I thought would be a good tax strategy. This is an idea I’ll share in a future article. Update! Read more about the investing strategy I discussed with the Vanguard financial planner.
The financial planner I spoke with is not paid by commission. He understood I subscribe to the index fund philosophy, and recommended only index mutual funds — and only four specific funds for the right diversification and asset allocation that will allow me to likely perform better than a savings account, invest for the long-term, and give myself a cushion to think about the next steps in my life.
Here are some interesting articles I came across this week, including one of my own published elsewhere.
Earlier this week, I wrote an article for Forbes about start-up entrepreneurs looking for capital funding. In some instances, starting a small business can require some money up front, and I’ve offered some suggestions for coming up with the funds. I’ll be writing for Forbes more often, and I’ll point out when those articles are published. On the same topic, don’t miss last Sunday’s podcast featuring a venture capital firm targeting entrepreneurs within Generation Y.
On Monday, Briana from 20 and Engaged hosted the latest edition of the Carnival of Personal Finance, which included last week’s guest article that asked, Could you Survive at the Poverty Line? This guest article from Your Finances Simplified attracted some media attention; the author will be appearing on WINA Morning News, a radio show in Charlottesville, Virginia, live at 7:45 AM on the east coast. The radio station also streams online, so you can listen if you’re outside of the broadcast area.
Sam from Financial Samurai notes that credit card usage has increased. For the last few years, a good percentage of American consumers put away their credit cards in what appeared to be a New Frugality. Experts asked each other whether the recession would breed a new generation whose philosophy was rooted in frugality.
While it’s a generalization, it’s fair to say that those who lived through the Great Depression had a good understanding of saving and buying what they need without relying on credit. The recession might have fostered a new generation with similar ideals, and many authors we’ve featured on the Consumerism Commentary Podcast have expressed their belief in a fundamental long-term shift in attitude, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. People have been returning to credit whenever it is available.
The Jenny Pincher describes the difference between making money and becoming wealthy. It’s all in the mindset. I agree with the article, but I like to step back once in a while and look at the big picture. Whether making money or becoming wealthy, you should have goals, and these goals should be in your mindset at all times. As I mentioned above, I’m working on defining my own long-term life goals, but I know that any goal itself is not related to money. Money is a tool to help put goals within reach or extend my goals to have a larger effect, but it should not be a life mission to die with the biggest bank account balance.
Updated December 23, 2011 and originally published December 17, 2011.