By Byron R. Moore, CFP®
Originally posted in Gannett newspapers in Louisiana
Q: I am very embarrassed by my financial situation. I know I need help, but I’m just too humiliated to let anyone else see the mess I’ve made. Every time I pick up the phone to call someone I hang up. What do you suggest?
A: I love your honesty.
If you’ve never seen the 2011 film We Bought a Zoo, you’re in for a treat when you do. Matt Damon plays a young widowed father of two. In one scene, he is giving his young son advice on the utterly confusing and intimidating topic of females.
“It’s like you embarrass yourself if you say something, and you embarrass yourself if you don’t,” his son confesses about his failed attempts to engage the opposite sex. Can I get an “Amen,” gentlemen?
Smiling, the father reaches back into his own experience and says, “Sometimes, all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage…just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery…and I promise you, something great will come of it.”
It’s no different with you right now. You don’t need to fix yourself first, like the person who wants to lose weight before they go to Weight Watchers or floss their teeth sixteen times the day before their dental hygiene appointment.
You just need 20 seconds of insane courage to pick up the phone, introduce yourself and say, “I think I need the help of a financial planner and I wonder if you might be the one.”
Here are just a few things to remember that might make that call a little easier to make.
1. You are not the worst. I’m going to assume you’ve done some things we could all look back on and say, “Yep, that was just plain dumb.”
But so was pro football quarterback Vince Young, who started his football career in 2006, making over $60 million between his contract and endorsements. Sounds like you could get by on that, right? Not if you spend $5,000 a week at the Cheesecake Factory in Nashville, buy $600 shots of expensive booze for your posse and decide you like flying alone, so you buy out all the seats on a given flight. By 2014, Vince declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
2. You are not alone. I’ve seen a lot: five and six figures of credit card debt, out of control college debt, too much mortgage for your budget, no budget, nothing saved for retirement, 401K that hasn’t been reviewed since the first George Bush was president, spouse facing the need for long-term care with insufficient resources to pay for it…in each case, the individual or family thought their situation was uniquely terrible and probably beyond help.
3. If you can turn around, so can others. Unless you are very unusual, this is not just about you. You’ve got a spouse, family, children, relatives, friends or others you care about that will be impacted by your financial condition. In short, if you get better, so will they. They are either your dependents, will be impacted by your legacy or take their cues off your example.
I have a friend who has lost over 100 pounds through his diligent efforts at changing his diet and exercise habits. Not only does he look and feel great, but he’s a new husband and father, and has encouraged countless others by his example.
Who might gain courage to change if you do?
4. You can do this. You just can’t do it alone. If you could, you would have already done so. There is absolutely no shame and quite a bit of wisdom in seeking help. And here’s a new thought for you – when you get help, you may give it as well. See my final point…
5. Let someone help you. You may be helping them as well. Take your time when looking for a financial advisor or planner. No one planner is right for everyone. The one you’re looking for will respond to your story, empathize with your situation and take great pride and even joy in helping you. Sure you’ll have to pay them one way or the other, but being out of the ditch you’re in should be well worth it. And for the right advisor (the one that’s a good match for you), their greater compensation will be the joy of helping change someone’s life. Your life.
You don’t have to have the courage to take on the whole process by yourself. Just enough to make the first step. To make that call.
Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage.