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Mundane Money Matters Matter
It was a Thursday afternoon at an upscale Dunkin' Donuts in Northern Virginia. Bright and mod, the place looked more like a yuppie coffee shop for tech start-up masterminds than a hangout for cartoon cops. But I didn't have my laptop and I wasn't meeting with an angel investor. My fiancé and I were meeting with a financial planner. At this very romantic stage in our seven-year relationship, we were about to discuss 529s for our hypothetical children and retirement plans we'd need in four decades. (Naturally, I was drinking a large Dunkaccino to prepare for this adult affair. It was Dunkalicious.)
My fiancé and I arrived early, making nervous small talk while we waited. Neither one of could believe what grownups we were. Statistically, we should be cursing ourselves for going to art school and being un- or underemployed. We should be broke. We should be working at this Dunkin' Donuts—if we were lucky. But even in college, we tried to be entrepreneurial. Today we pinch our pennies until they blush and we hoard most of our money. I don't know what his excuse is, but my heritage accounts for my frugality. The Scots are notoriously cheap and Central Americans are notoriously poor. I don't even buy clothes anymore. I just wait for my sisters to tire of theirs. Of course, just because you're great at not spending money doesn't mean you're great at managing your savings and investments and thinking about long-term dealios.
I learned of the planner because an old classmate had started working with him. She saw on Facebook that I was getting married and asked if I'd be interested in a free consultation. I couldn't say I was interested, but I knew it had to be done. After all, we've all read over and over that money is the leading cause of divorce in this country. Couples disagree over how it should be spent or saved or invested and resent each other for it. Maybe it would be simpler if we could all have a household system of piggy banks, coin jars, and mattress-stuffing, and the stock market didn't exist, but our country's greater financial system isn't built like that.
The consultant asked us many questions we could answer and many more we couldn't (at least without further research and reflection). It was like playing 20 Questions, except that he probably had about 200 questions, there was no right answer, and nobody won anything. He congratulated us for having decent salaries, healthy savings, and zero debt from college. We only had to worry about a car loan with a reasonable payment plan. But we were living within our means. Going down our monthly budget, he asked what we usually spent on entertainment. We laughed. Apart from me occasionally traveling, we don't spend much. We take walks and take photos. We watch movies at home.
“Wait,” the planner said slowly, his face cracking into a smile, “Is this a date?”
My fiancé shrugged his shoulders and grinned. “Well, I did buy her coffee.”
If it hadn't been for the whole meeting with a financial planner thing, it definitely would've qualified as a date.
Overall, the meeting went well. The planner answered our questions without any judgment or condescension. He was friendly and made terms and concepts easy to understand.
Even if you aren't lucky cheapskates like my fiancé and me, I recommend meeting with a financial planner, especially if you can find one your friends and family like. No matter your current economic situation—savings or no savings, debt or no debt, investments or no investments—a good planner will help you do exactly what his or her name implies: plan.
#Real #MoneyMatters #FinancialPlanning #GrowingUp #Adulthood #LifeSavings #LifePlans #Marriage #StockMarket
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