What I Learned This Year
Talking with people about money has taught me a lot
2022 was a really interesting year in the world of finance. We experienced inflation rates we haven’t seen in decades, a relentless rise in interest rates, and a turbulent stock market. Will 2023 be a calmer year on this front? I suspect it will, but who can say - anything can happen.
Not only was it fascinating to watch the economy and stock market this year, I also learned a lot of new things. I worked with many people in the past 12 months. Talking with clients and diving deep into their finances is a privilege. In opening up their lives and their finances to me, I’ve learned a lot and it has made me a better financial planner. And this learning is ongoing - I feel a little like an artificial intelligence bot: the more input I get, the more I understand.
When I was young and started reading fiction, I found great comfort in realizing that the characters in the books sometimes had the same worries, thoughts, and feelings as I did. Knowing this lessened the intensity of the emotion and made me feel better. I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience, be it from reading, listening to podcasts or in other ways.
Here are five things I learned this year that might help you feel a little validated and understood when it comes to money.
1. People want to talk about their money. Sometimes I feel like my first meeting with a client is a little bit of therapy for them. They want to talk about what they are nervous about, what they worry about, and what they want their future to look like. Sometimes there is an element of regret about how they dealt with money in the past. They express their dreams for the future with a little bit of “I’m sure it’s impossible but I’d like to …” Talking about money in this way isn’t something we tend to do – working with a financial professional provides that opportunity to talk freely and openly about money.
2. Not knowing is the hardest thing. People often aren’t at all sure about where they stand financially. They have a bit of an idea, but there is sometimes also fear that they haven’t saved enough. Not knowing creates anxiety and takes up brain space. Whether the news is good or bad, it’s better to know than not know it. And usually the news isn’t as bad as people think it will be.
3. People are confused. There is a lot of information about personal finance available but it’s confusing. It’s pretty easy to learn the facts, but figuring out how to apply it to your life is actually really hard. Where do you start? What’s most important? Which accounts are the right ones to use? When people are confused or overwhelmed, it can result in the worst-case scenario: doing nothing. Working with a financial coach or planner helps to sort through the clutter and get stuff done.
4. Dealing with financial institutions is a pain. I worked for a bank for over two decades and I was relatively sheltered from the experience of having to actually deal with the bank on a personal level. Now that I’m a regular customer, I see the annoyance, hassle and hoops to jump through that everyone else has always complained about. If you’re annoyed with your bank, trust me, you’re not the only one.
5. The state of the economy actually matters to people. For years in prior jobs, I read and talked about the economy but usually in vague terms and from a distance. This year, I’ve witnessed what impact rising interest rates have had on real people, seen how a downturn in a sector can leave someone jobless, and the reality of high inflation. And now that I’m self-employed, I myself am no longer sheltered from the risk of a recession. The economy matters in a real and tangible way.
What else did I learn this year? How to run and grow a business. I always thought self-employment wasn’t for me, until I met my partner (who is self-employed) and I saw how empowering, flexible and just plain fun it is.
The top five things I learned on that front are:
1. Just do it. The best way to learn is to do. 2. It’s true: you do think about your business 7 days a week. 3. There is always something to work on to improve, enhance and grow the business. 4. It’s crucial to identify things that aren’t adding value and stop doing them. 5. You have to market yourself and highlight your strengths, being brave and confident.
I hope you had a year of learning too – be it at work, in a relationship, pursuing a hobby or something else. Here’s to another fun year!