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Why to Avoid Financial Planning Over the Holidays

Nov. 17, 2016
Financial Planning, Investing
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By Eric Jorgensen

Learn more about Eric at NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor.

It’s that time of year when retailers step up their game and try to convince you that you need what they sell and that you can save so much more by buying from them.

On the flip side, you can’t get away from advice to set up a plan to save for your goals — no matter how many times you’ve tried before and failed.

For many people, this all leads to the nagging sense that they really should sit down with a financial advisor and make a plan.

Why the timing may not be right

I think this could be the worst time for you to try to plan, unless it’s something you’ve already been thinking about.

People won’t follow through with anything unless they’re committed to it. If the only reason you’re sitting down with a financial advisor is because you think you must change something — but you don’t really believe you’re in a position to — you’re probably better off not even meeting.

Don’t get me wrong. You’ll certainly walk away from such a meeting with some great ideas, and your advisor will explain what you need to do to meet your goals. But I’m not sure you’ll listen to what your advisor says, especially if you’re focused on how much you still have to do to host Thanksgiving, or you’re obsessively running through your holiday shopping list, fretting over how to pay for it all.

Be honest with yourself

Instead, take a step back and ask yourself these questions:

  • “What goals did I set for myself this time last year?”
  • “Were they successful?”
  • “If so, what helped make them successful? If not, what got in the way?”

Using these questions as a framework, think about what you want to accomplish in 2017.

It’s OK if creating a financial plan isn’t important to you right now. We all have stuff going on in our lives, and we have only so much capacity to deal with it.

It’s more important to be honest with yourself. If you spend the money to sit down with an advisor and you’re not ready, you won’t be successful, and you may resent the expense. This can leave a bad taste in your mouth and make it unlikely you’ll try again.

However, you should not — and cannot — put off financial planning forever. It needs to be important to you, not because you want to get rich, necessarily, but because it can play a huge role in reaching your goals.

So what should you do?

Here, then, are my recommendations:

Find an advisor who will meet you where you are, even if you’re only ready to start with baby steps, like identifying where your money is going and ensuring your retirement savings plan is properly allocated and you’re contributing.

Set the appointment for after New Year’s. This removes the noise created by holiday planning, and a few months probably won’t make that much of a difference, especially if you can go into the meeting focused and committed.

The most important thing to remember is that this financial plan is for you, not the advisor. It needs to be something you agree with and believe you can accomplish; otherwise it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Give yourself permission to enjoy the holiday season, but commit to a deadline to develop a plan. Enjoy the rest of 2016, and make 2017 even better by providing yourself with a road map to a successful financial future.

Eric Jorgensen is a fee-only financial planner with MainStreet Financial Planning in Silver Spring, Maryland.