Financial Planner 43551

Trip To the Garden Center

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

I’m going to tell you about our trip to the garden center to get a plan for our home’s landscaping. With that in mind, I should start by confessing to you that I tried to convince my oldest daughter, Anna, who’s a very gifted writer, that I had a brilliant title for this article. She FIRMLY disagreed, then proceeded to laugh at me mercilessly. Do you want to hear it? Yes? Okay, here goes: The Root Word For Plant Is Plan. See what I did there? Root…Plant…Plan? Not only is ‘plan’ not a root word of plant, but she assured me that it’s just stupid and urged me to just go to bed and try again in the morning. Ah, it’s good to be loved and respected by your kids.

That said, I thought I’d share with you our landscaping challenges. After living in our current home for eight years, the time has come to freshen up our landscaping. This is not my forte, but my wife, Carie, knows a lot about plants. In fact, she has a depth of understanding that goes to the DNA level. She has a Master’s Degree in Plant Biology and actually cloned a plant gene that has her name on it. She’s legit. Carie knows how to care for plants in a way that very few people do; she’s a Master Gardener and an Ohio Volunteer Naturalist. But you know what? We rarely have the nicest looking landscaping in our neighborhood. I’ll even risk offending her by saying that we’re not even close to having the most manicured landscaping. Do you know why? Because she knows so much and loves to tinker with it so often, that it never gets finished or looks like it could. In fact, I can never add mulch because she’s always digging around in there.

Recently, I figured out why that is. In short, it lacks a cohesive design. We have a lot of beautiful cared-for plants but they’re just not playing nicely with each other. Even though Carie knows her plant stuff, she admittedly doesn’t have vision to see it all work together as a whole. As a result, our results are less than stellar, in spite of any plant expertise.

I see this fairly often when it comes to retirement planning. We’ve met with and worked with people who know a LOT about stocks, bonds, mutual funds, IRA tax rules, Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs), life insurance, and on and on. But when it comes to putting all of these pieces together into a plan that functions at a high level, it just doesn’t work as well as it could. Like a bunch of gorgeous, well-maintained plants that just don’t look like they belong together and are always being messed with, a bunch of financial investments and accounts do not make a plan. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to harm themselves financially when they get too clever.

Now, to address our landscaping challenges, we did what I suggest to others; we met with an expert who builds plans. In this case, she’s a landscape designer. She took an endless variety of plants, flowers, trees, soil types, and stone and built a plan for us that is both exciting and comforting. We don’t have to do the entire plan right away, but we can if we want. We can also grow into the plan knowing that it’s been well thought out and will save us time, money, and anxiety (arguing). Of course, that’s what we strive to do for retirees. We draw from the almost endless variety of financial tools available and meld those that are most appropriate into a single cohesive plan that works for you, in the wild.

I know we could continue playing trial-and-error with our landscaping, just as people can theoretically save some fees by building their own investment portfolio and retirement plan, but will it actually? Is it possible that having a beautifully planned garden will provide much more benefit than it cost? I’m voting yes because I know the peace that I felt when we left the garden center with a plan in-hand. I sincerely hope that’s how our retirement clients feel when they leave our office.

So maybe my catchy title for this article wasn’t as great as I thought, maybe Anna was right. But it’s possible she was wrong too. The Root Word For Plant Is PlanI like it, and until I hear from you otherwise, I’ll assume you like it too. Take that, Anna!

All the best,

Adam Cufr, RICP®


Adam Cufr, RICP® (Retirement Income Certified Professional®) is a financial advisor and founding principal of Fourth Dimension Financial Group, LLC providing personal finance and retirement planning services. Adam is a Columnist for Retirement Advisor Magazine. He is also a sought-after media commentator and thought leader. Adam was named one of The 20 Most Creative People In Insurance in 2015 and is a columnist for Retirement Advisor Magazine and the author of Off the Record – Secrets to Building a Successful Retirement and a Lasting Legacy.

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