Do you need a financial planner? When I was just beginning my career as a schoolteacher, I didn’t think anything about that for a while. I knew that a certain percent of my salary was taken out of monthly paycheck and put into a teacher retirement fund. I knew that when I retired around age sixty, I would start receiving payments out of that fund in order to cover my bills.
Well, I don’t know that now. I worked only until age 36, when I became pregnant. But I suspect that if I had not done any independent investing, my monthly retirement from the state fund would have been frighteningly lacking.
Sometimes, ignorance isn’t bliss
I believe it was my second year teaching – could have been my first – that one of my colleagues approached me about seeing a financial planner. She was in her forties, and probably was remembering how stupid she had been about finances when she was my age.
She gave me a business card, I called and made an appointment, and began investing into annuities because my parents had made me afraid of the stock market.
That was semi-good. At least I got on the right track of not counting on a government agency to feed me in my old age.
Over the years, my financial planner from that particular company changed a few times. I even had the big boss herself help me out when the guy who had been my financial planner quit her employ. She was the one who finally told me that I was a big girl (I was thirty by then) and so I should branch out into mutual funds.
Then 9-1-1 happened a year or so later and the value of my mutual funds plummeted.
I told Christina to put my money back into annuities.
My ignorance made me lose a lot of money. And for some reason – though she must have known better – she never sat down with me and worked out the numbers to explain the average return of mutual funds over time, if you don’t freak out and pull all your money out when the stock market turns into a bear. So, overall it was good that I had a financial planner. I hadn’t been taught anything about investing, didn’t know until my mid-thirties that my non-investing, non-saving father left my mother with practically nothing.
The only thing I knew about finance was the importance of living beneath your means. Which is not a bad thing, of course, but not close to everything I needed to know.
If I knew then…
If I had known about The Permanent Portfolio when I was first starting out, I would have invested as much as I dared into it.
Maybe. But back then, there was no Internet. To do such a thing would require seeking out (and paying) a broker. A financial planner was the average person’s go-to for investing.
Why you don’t need a financial planner
My financial planners made two mistakes. First, nobody ever bothered to show me why mutual funds weren’t the huge risk I’d been led to believe. Granted, they are much riskier than The Permanent Portfolio, but they make a lot better return than annuities – even back then.
Second, Christina talked me into buying my own home, which turned out to be a condo because on my teacher’s salary there was no way I could afford a house in Dallas.
And I was NOT going to commute!
Long story short, I lost a good bit of money when I sold the condo. I would have been $11,000 richer if I had just continued to rent an apartment until I married Jerry.
My husband, by the way, never used a financial planner. He worked for a corporation with a 401k and was told to max it out every year, so he did, investing mostly in mutual funds.
If you work for a corporation that makes investing easy, that gives you a leg up right there. But if you are looking for super-early retirement, such as what my husband and I achieved, you will need to invest beyond a 401k or 403b, whose maximum annual additions are severely limited.
Do you need a financial planner to figure that out? Nope. You’ve got the books The Permanent Portfolio by Craig Rowland and The Ivy Portfolio by Faber and Richardson. You’ve got the Internet. You can go to the website of T. Rowe Price, Vanguard, or Fidelity and open a brokerage account, put money into it, then start dividing up your funds according to the portfolio type you choose.
All without the help of a financial planner – who would look at you like you had three heads when you told them you wanted to put 25% of your assets into a money market account! (That’s part of The Permanent Portfolio.) And who might also pressure you to make expensive mistakes based on mainstream financial advice, like, oh, I don’t know, buying a house when you don’t really want to.
If you’re serious about retiring much sooner than mainstream culture dictates, read my book, read the other books cited above (they are both available on e-readers), and start investing.
I accept in advance the thanks you’ll give me ten to twenty years from now. 😉