For the first time ever, my wife paid attention to an advertising campaign produced by a major brokerage firm. In this case, it was the nearly ubiquitous “Talk to Chuck” campaign for Charles Schwab, in which cartoon people discuss their financial needs to the camera. This particular spot showed a man concerned with having to pay eight bucks for each trade he made with his broker.
This basically spurred a lengthy and interesting conversation with my wife about individual stock investing and eventually it led back to our own finances, values, and where we wanted to go with our lives in the next few years. My impression of her before the conversation is that she would be very conservative with investing, but I found out quite directly that she was much more aggressive about investments than I was. More than anything, she seemed relieved by the end of the conversation, as if perhaps this simple television advertisement had opened a door of communication that had previously been closed to us.
The moral of the story? Don’t worry about talking to Chuck until you’ve talked to the people central in your life. If you’re married or are in a long-term committed relationship, you should know what your spouse thinks about basic financial issues and you should both have a pretty strong picture of your financial backbone. Do you know where every dollar is at in your marriage? If you both don’t know this, money is probably a nervous area for you.
Even more, talking to a financial advisor is a waste of time if you aren’t on the same page as the others in your life. You know what your goals are and you might even have a great picture of your finances, but what about these questions?
What are your spouse’s goals?
What are the goals you have in mind for your children?
When do you want to retire?
When does your spouse want to retire?
What level of risk are you both comfortable with?
How much autonomy are you willing to give to your investment advisor?
Here’s the real secret: if you are truly open with those central in your life on these issues, you probably don’t need to talk to Chuck at all. Many times, all financial planners really do is guide you through these questions and then match you up with a set of investment in line with your answers, but if you’ve already done the difficult communication part, some basic internet research can help you find investment solutions that are appropriate. Better yet, visit one of the many financial resources on the internet (like this one), read a bit, and ask some questions. There are countless people out there who can offer you advice on any topic that you want to know.
Even if you decide that a financial advisor is the way to go, talk to those most important to you before you talk to Chuck.