There’s a saying I love: “Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good.”
As someone with perfectionist tendencies, this resonates with me, but I struggle to accept the inherent wisdom.
After all there are other sayings which, at least on the surface, counter this advice: “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”
As a financial planner, I see how perfectionist tendencies prevent people from taking steps toward calm and clarity.
Let’s face it: There will always be some obstacle to getting your financial garage cleaned out. I’m writing this in January. The excuse I’m starting to hear is, “I can think about planning after the taxes are done.” Does that sound reasonable? Actually, it’s a horrible excuse. Taxes and planning are strategic processes, which can and should be addressed concurrently, not sequentially.
After April 15, the next excuse will be, “It’s summer. The kids (or grandkids) are out of school, and we’re going on vacation.”
In the fall, it becomes, “Everybody’s back to school, and we’re so busy now!”
Then the holidays roll around, and any thoughts of planning are kicked to the curb like dried-out fruitcakes.
Then it’s tax season again, and the whole excuse fest begins anew.
I understand the desire to approach financial planning in an orderly fashion. Often, people are vaguely embarrassed, thinking that the mythical “everybody else” has their stuff so tight that they’ll teach the planner a thing or two!
But this idea of waiting for the perfect time, waiting for some future event to shed light on one’s financial situation – it’s an excuse. It’s a reasonable-sounding way of putting off decisions.
You wouldn’t say, “I’m not doing any financial planning right now because I dread the process, and I’m afraid of what I might find.” (That makes it sound like going to the dentist!) But it sounds completely rational to say you’re busy with other activities, or you need to get the taxes or wills done.
Not suggesting that the process is always a breeze.
People often find themselves facing some less-than-pleasant realities. They find they have to work longer than they had hoped, or save more money, or learn that they have no investment philosophy – just a lump of stocks, bonds and mutual funds with no strategy for achieving any goal.
But just like going to the dentist, finding a cavity, and getting it fixed, isn’t it worth knowing this? Wouldn’t you rather get past a difficult hurdle, and then get yourself on track to finishing the race?
If your answer is yes – even a reluctant, foot-dragging yes – then it’s time to abandon the smart-sounding excuses, and just start the process of cleaning out the clutter from that financial garage.