The Harp Player

In Income Planning, Investment Management, Retirement Thinking, The Insider by Adam Cufr

I’m not much of an orchestra guy. I say that to preempt any thoughts you may develop that I’m a sophisticated, cultured fella. I love drums and that means I don’t normally spend a lot of time listening to orchestral music. That is, until my daughter began to play in the school orchestra.

Nora, my third oldest daughter, chose to play the harp. It’s a beautiful instrument to listen to and to look at. It’s subtle, elegant, sublime. And those aren’t words generally associated with the drum set, hence my curiosity and confusion for the harp. Why would someone choose to play an instrument that is barely audible among all of the other instruments in the ensemble? Wouldn’t you prefer for all your hard work to be heard loud and clear? “Nora, were drums…not available that day?”

A number of years ago, there was a local financial advisor who was brash and brazen, loud and proud. He had a radio show, a big financial column in the paper, lots of steak dinner seminars, and seemingly, a very successful business. I admit that I was envious of him. I wish I’d been gifted with more of what he had. I wish I was more brash and brazen, more loud and more proud. Until one day…it all came crashing down. After a very odd and intense physical altercation with another person, it was discovered that he was a lot of hat and no cattle. The newspaper column had been filled with plagiarized material and it was determined that he wasn’t often acting in the best interest of his clients. It didn’t end well.

My guess is that, like me, you probably aren’t often the most brash and brazen person in the room. If you were, you probably wouldn’t read these articles. If you’ve had a career outside the home or served your family inside the home, you probably wished you’d been more confident and outspoken from time to time. After all, it seems that those people get the big promotions as well as the accolades and awards. You probably felt like the harp player far more than you’d like to admit. You blended in while others were playing out. I suppose the lesson is this: while we need people to be loud and hit the big notes, there’s magic in the subtlety and elegance.

On a financial planning note, if you’re wondering if your plan is too boring or too safe, you may be at risk of becoming restless. Thinking that others are ‘killing it’ and making huge returns while you’re comparatively just marching along can become a dangerous threat to your financial health. I’ve seen this cause otherwise responsible people to take odd and unhealthy risks in order to be like those other people who “certainly must be doing better than us.” Be careful, it’s a trap. Hot tips, illiquid investments, and sketchy business opportunities seem to find those who’ve become restless. Too often, those other people have to swing for the fences and hit it big precisely because they weren’t as prudent and steady as they secretly wished they’d been. In other words, they wish they were more like you.

If you’re the loud and proud type, then keep being you. Sure, a big band needs those trumpet players hitting the crazy high notes. But if you’re a harp player, or a bassoon player, that’s great too. Because when the brazen and brash falter – or at least need to take a breather – you’ll be there adding depth, texture, and richness in a way those noisemakers can’t.

Since I’m actually more harp player than I care to admit, I often wonder if I’m communicating as often with you as you’d like. I tend to want to give you more space rather than bludgeon you with loud, less than harpy noise. If we can be of service to you right now, will you please tell us? Simply hit reply to this message and let me know how I can help you. These are very unique times and I’d love to know that you’re feeling good with your planning.

So, for a moment, be less harp player and more noisemaker and let me know how you’re doing. We’d love the opportunity to serve you.

All the best,

Adam Cufr, RICP®