"Ladies and gentlemen, you are embarking upon a journey of epic proportions. It will require all that you have to give and all that you are. You have come here with a brain full of mush. And if you survive...you will leave--thinking...like a CFP."
In 1990, a (then) middle-aged brilliant scholar changed my future, and the future of the profession of financial planning. He wrote "To Think Like a CFP," as relevant today as it was nearly 30 years ago. Dick Wagner would go on to become my friend and mentor. He passed away, suddenly, this past weekend. I'd like to take this opportunity to reflect upon some of the lessons he gave us.
First, financial planning is noble and good. It is important. And it is difficult. We carry a great burden as we sit around a small table, heart to heart, eyeball to eyeball with you. For an amateur, financial planning doesn't seem complicated. Mostly it's a math question. How much money do you need and when? What do you have and what does it take to get there?
But the real world is scary and the emotions, namely elation and fear, that drive most of what we enjoy about life, kill us financially. And there is no calculating for the psyche.
Dick became my friend after he saw me on TV. I had the nerve tell a complete stranger to "Get real! Get a job!" This father of two and husband was about to risk his family's only money on a get-rich-quick scheme, because the economy was bad and he couldn't easily-enough find meaningful work.