Last week my son, Logan, turned five years old. Everyone tells you these years go by incredibly fast but there’s nothing you can do to slow down time. Instead, I’ve been trying my best to enjoy every minute of these years. What has amazed me more than anything is how much I’ve learned from him. I write down notes from time to time when he does something that opens my eyes and I thought I’d share a few of those lessons here. Many of these can be applied to different areas of your life, including your finances.
1. If you can’t see someone else’s point of view, change your perspective.
One morning we walked out the door and I noticed a huge spider web next to our house. I pointed it out to Logan and told him how cool it looked. He said he couldn't see it. I kept pointing and he kept telling me he couldn’t see it. Finally I crouched down to his level and looked up at the spider web and realized from his perspective the clouds behind it made it impossible to see. I picked him up and he was able to see it clearly with trees in the background.
Henry Ford once said, “If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” Every time I find myself disagreeing with someone I try to look at the situation from their perspective. It might not change your mind but it will allow you to better understand the situation and come to a better resolution.
2. Never stop asking “why”. Kids are learning machines.
It seems like every little piece of information they learn opens up a window into a new world. I joke that my son’s favorite word is “why”. Every time you answer one question, he asks another. While it can grow frustrating to answer endless questions, I’m always reminding myself not to discourage this habit. I want him to ask questions so he can learn and understand the world around him.
For some reason as we get older we too frequently stop asking why. We begin to think we know more than we do and stop questioning things. We start to do things a certain way just because that’s the way we’ve always done it. Spending time with a kid reminds you how much you don’t know. Do you get a big tax refund every year without wondering why? Do you have investments in your portfolio that you don’t know why you own? Take a cue from a five year old and start to ask “why” again.
3. If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.
My son absolutely hates it when he can’t do something that someone else can, particularly his older brother. He also refuses to give up. When he heard his brother whistling he spent hours and hours trying until finally he started to make noise. And when his brother didn’t want to go ice skating because he didn’t know how, he made sure to tell him he “just had to keep trying and he’d get better, like I did with whistling.”
Finances are hard to understand and many people give up to easily on learning the basics. While you might have someone like me handling your finances for you, it’s still important for you to understand why we do what we do. This is why we spend so much time educating our clients, writing blogs and sending emails. The more you know, the easier it will be to make the right financial decisions, so don’t give up.
4. Make the most out of rainy days.
Most people are happier when the sun is shining and the weather is nice. But the weather can’t always be nice. Sometimes it will rain or snow or just be cold and grey. Logan is just as happy jumping in the puddles in the rain as he is playing soccer in the sun. We sit at the window and watch lightning during a storm. He was even sad when we missed a small snowstorm because we were on the beach in Florida!
Life isn’t always perfect and we need to learn to appreciate the bad times with the good. This is particularly relevant to investing. The stock market will always go through periods of negative returns. You can panic every time there’s a storm or you can learn to live with them because you know they are natural and eventually the sun will come back out.
5. Be more present in your life and focus on what matters.
Today’s world is full of distractions. We all have a small computer in our pockets that can answer any question you can think of in the blink of an eye. It can also keep us from focusing on what’s most important in our lives, even when that most important thing is right in front of us. If I’m on my ipad reading an article and my son wants my attention he doesn’t just ask me, he puts his head or his feet or his whole body in between my eyes and my device. While my initial reaction might sometimes be irritation, it always works to remind me to put down the device.
We often think of financial planning as purely a numbers game. When a client comes to us it is usually driven by a specific question, but the answer usually lies much deeper. We often get so wrapped up in our busy lives we don’t take the time to step back and think about what we want out of life and what makes us happy. In order to come up with the right answers to your financial questions, it’s critical to gain this understanding. In the end we’ll need to crunch numbers, but financial planning starts here. The next time you find yourself distracted on your phone, imagine a five year old poking his head in front of it, put it down and focus on what really matters in your life.
It’s hard to believe my son is only five yet has taught me so many wise lessons. I can’t wait to see find out what he’ll teach me next.
-Chris Benson, CPA, PFS
The views expressed represent the opinions of L.K. Benson & Company and are subject to change. These views are not intended as a forecast, a guarantee of future results, investment recommendation, or an offer to buy or sell any securities. The information provided is of a general nature and should not be construed as investment advice or to provide any investment, tax, financial or legal advice or service to any person.Please see Additional Disclosures more information.