Machu Picchu and Financial Life Planning

Contributed by Lewis J. Walker, CFP®

At some point in your career as you searched for a position, you were told you needed an “elevator speech.” That’s a 30-60 second statement explaining who you are and why you should be hired or engaged during the short time you are in an elevator as you ride from the ground floor to the top with someone key to your quest. But can you truly describe “you” in short pithy lines that get to the essence of who you are and the value you bring to the table in the right role?

A good friend, Mitch Anthony, author of  The New Retirementality: Planning Your Life and Living Your Any Age You Want (4th edition; Wiley, 2014), advises that “unique value” cannot be articulated in “a 40-word lexicon.”  If you really want to describe what you do in your line of work or role in life, start with the words, “What I do is kind of like...”

In relating what an experienced financial advisor can do for you in seeking counsel about financial planning matters, recognize that life is a series of journeys. Whether you call them goals, objectives, possibilities, aspirations, or challenges, you are desiring to transition from one place to another, one reality to a new reality. As with any journey, money plays a role, but it’s the journey that’s key. What role might a financial planner play in the planning for and the execution of the journey, and what happens when you get there? How might experience, knowledge, and capabilities support you in achieving your financial life planning objectives? Consider a travel metaphor. What role might an advisor and advisory team play?

What I do is kind of like...a guide walking with you on the Inca Trail in Peru, on the way to Machu Picchu. The 26 mile hiking trail is an ancient route popular with trekkers and sightseers, offering majestic mountain scenery, lush cloud forest, subtropical jungle, and a stunning mix of Inca paving stones, ruins, and tunnels. The trail ends at Machu Picchu, the mysterious Lost City of the Incas.

Consider Machu Picchu as a metaphor for any goal, any challenge or quest important to you. Many clients and readers know that I am an experienced and adventurous traveler. Periodically someone will ask, "Have you  been to Machu Picchu?"  My answer, “Yes, I have!” spurs a deeper discussion.

Machu Picchu may not be on your bucket list, but substitute "hike to the Lost City" for any goal. Recognize that the comprehensive financial planning process may be envisioned in seeing me as a guide, a facilitator who knows the terrain, a resource delineating various options for achieving your objective.

As we walk surrounded by dramatic wonders, you are reflective, happy to have the guidance of someone who has walked the trail many times before. It’s comforting to have a person with experience who knows not only the history of the trail and your destination, but also the potential dangers and hazards of the rocky terrain, as well as details that could be missed by the untrained eye.

It is useful to know that as your guide I understand your desire to reach and experience your destination, helping you to discern and clarify the richness of your experience. We have talked about your goal and planned for the best alternative for reaching your destination. We have assembled the resources needed. Now you are on your way. We are discussing again what you want to experience on arrival, your expectations.

As we progress we strategize possibilities beyond Machu Picchu. What's next? How does this journey fit into the bigger picture relative to your life’s meaning and purpose?

You are comforted knowing that I and my team have the resources to help if something unexpected comes up, a rockslide or some other situation that requires a detour, change of plans, alternate route. Before we departed, we knew your background and level of experience. We were assured that you had the capability and fortitude to undertake the journey. We knew you could weather thunderstorms, wind, and other factors that we could not control. Setbacks are always a possibility and we want to have the flexibility and capability to deal with them.

Our desire is for you to say at the end of the journey, “What a great trip!” We both want to know that we enjoyed the experience together and look forward to planning for what is next.

Where would you like to go? What is the money for?

Lewis Walker is a financial planning and investment strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603.  Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of  SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group.  Past performance is not a guarantee of future financial results.

Empowering the Independent Financial Advisor – SFA