I am both excited and honored to be a part of the Orange County Tribune. I believe the money world doesn’t need to be as overwhelming and as confusing as the financial industry would make it. In this column I hope to provide you with the practical financial information that will make it easier for you to “do business” every day.
With that in mind, I want to introduce one of the most helpful money philosophies around. Over the centuries this philosophy has taken many shapes – first popularized by Benjamin Franklin in Poor Richards Almanac, and retold in such wonderful stories as The “Richest Man in Babylon” – it certainly isn’t an original idea. I’ll avoid plagiarizing (and the fire storm that creates) by quoting a popular character from two hit movies, our friend Dory.
The philosophy is “just keep swimming.” Over my 34-year tax and financial planning career I’ve helped hundreds of clients to retire. My clientele was never the “rich and famous” and only accidentally included anyone whose name you’d recognize. No, my practice typified the slogan “financial planning for real people.”
In that time and over all those people there were lots of common threads – but the one that always held true was that those who could retire comfortably had always done this one thing. It wasn’t making a great pick in the stock market, or work for a company that provided lots of profitable stock options, or winning the lottery.
Although all of those things happened for clients of mine – that wasn’t the issue that made their retirement possible and comfortable. It wasn’t a big inheritance, or founding a dot com mega story. It was much more simple, much more predictable, and totally under their control. They saved money – consistently, constantly and in the face of every life event that could have stopped them.
That is not very glamorous – doesn’t make for a best-selling book. It isn’t the magic pill we all hear the radio ads promise. But it’s true. The best part is, you know it’s true. That gets us back to Dory. The message she is fond of repeating is “just keep swimming.”
We could spend words, thousands of them, giving examples of the power of compound interest. Or showing you the time value of money and saving. My company’s website is among thousands that contain financial calculators so you can prove it to yourself. But you’ve already seen them. Like I said – you know that it’s true.
Then what’s missing? Why over the last 40 years has the percentage of Americans being able to retire comfortably (about 10 percent) not grown. The brokerage houses have spent hundreds of millions to scare, educate, and cajole you. Information about this has never been more available; DIY and full service options never more plentiful.
The only answer I can come up with is that it’s intimidating, confusing, and scary – and we aren’t committed enough to the end result to overcome that fear. Let me offer the simple plan to overcome the fear and commit: Just Keep Swimming. Pick a target, dive in and start toward it. Start saving, or increase your savings, today.
It won’t look like you’re much closer the first couple years. Just keep swimming. All those mathematical rules will kick in and work for you. Just keep swimming. The pile will grow and start to get bigger all on its own. Just keep swimming.
We’ll get more specific in future columns – come back and learn more. But if you never do, you’ll make a world of difference in your future financial success if you’ll just get off your dorsal, and start. Just keep swimming.
Chris Basom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org