Grace Groner1 was a hundred years old when she died leaving an estate of seven million dollars. A humble secretary, she never married and lived modestly, investing some of her income into the stock market for eighty years. She never sold a stock, re-invested all dividends, never worried about booms and crashes, she just kept investing, consistently. She had no particular interest in stocks and shares, she just knew they went up in the long term. And that was her secret: by investing consistently and leaving her money alone, no matter what, she became a millionaire. She understood the power of compound interest and resisted any temptation to interfere with its beneficence2.

Unlike Richard Fuscone3, a bond trader with Merrill Lynch, who was talented, knowledgeable and privileged. He was a star trader and having made a fortune, he struck out on his own creating Dover Investments in 2002. Already a millionaire, he borrowed 12m dollars in 2005 to expand his 8m dollar home … it all went wrong from that point. He declared himself bankrupt, with debts exceeding his assets in 2010. Fuscone did one deal too many. Whilst he knew all there was to know about money and investment, his knowledge combined with his actions were his undoing.

There is no other field – the law, medicine, science – where someone with limited information can outdo an experienced, knowledgeable professional so completely. But with money and investment it’s our behaviour, not our knowledge, that makes a crucial difference.

Barely 1 in 5 of us takes advice from a financial professional. I’m amazed it’s that many, given the litany of scandals and scams foisted on an increasingly sceptical public.  For those of us willing to take the leap, our hands firmly clasped around our cheque book, many end up feeling that a visit to a financial adviser is only slightly preferable to seeing a dentist. Both seem to involve a degree of pain and, on occasion, an unwelcome dose of recrimination. We know that sweet drinks and not flossing4 regularly is bad for our teeth, just as we know that not funding our pension adequately and not bothering to budget, is going to hurt us in the end. Avoidance is a brilliant strategy… until it isn’t.

To varying degrees there’s a little Grace and Richard in all of us and most of us are ashamed when we are more Richard than Grace, so we keep quiet and hope it will go away. It never does of course and we tell ourselves stories to make sense of our madness: I’m no good with money, I’ll get round to it when the kids go to school/ leave school / leave college / when I’m forty / fifty / when I’ve paid off the car loan / mortgage / when I earn more money / when I inherit from my parents. Add your own version…

What most of us fear is being judged5. How come I earn a good salary and have credit card debt at forty? How come I still have a mortgage and less than fifty grand in my pension at sixty? Why do I go into my overdraft every single month? Why am I still working full time at sixty -five with little hope of retirement? Add your own story…

We judge ourselves harshly and are terrified of what others will think of us if we tell them the awful truth. We think a financial adviser is just going to laugh at us, so we remain silent, suffering and doing nothing. Stuck.

What if we know we are safe? What if we know that the person we choose to talk to is not going to judge us? What if, instead of being told what to do by ‘a professional’, we are offered guidance and information to help us find our own way?

A man falls down a deep hole and can’t get out, he is trapped. A doctor walks by and the man asks for help. The doctor throws down a prescription and walks on. Later a priest walks past, says a prayer and also walks on.

Eventually another man comes by and the man in the hole asks him for help, getting desperate by now. The man jumps down into the hole.

“Are you crazy? Now we’re both in the hole.”

 The man looks at him for a moment then says,
“Don’t worry I’ve been in a hole like this before, I know a way out. We can do this together.”

 As a financial coach, I have no products to sell, only myself; no agenda to pursue, only yours; no judgment to make, only compassion. As a financial coach, I help you to clarify your goals and give you the tools to achieve them. I will listen and collaborate, will facilitate and hold you accountable. Perhaps most important, I can help you to work out what is going on with you and your money, and enable you to make the changes you want, so that you can direct your energy to the things in your life that really matter. If you would like to be more like Grace, than Richard, in your retirement, act now to make a real difference. 
With thanks and acknowledgement to Morgan Housel for his paper, The Psychology of Money, published by the Collaborative Fund, 2018.
‘Secret Millionaire donates fortune to Lake Forest College’ Chicago Tribune, 5th March 2010.

1  ‘Secret Millionaire donates fortune to Lake Forest College’ Chicago Tribune, 5th March 2010.
2 Describing his investment process the great Warren Buffet said, “The hallmark of our investment process is benign neglect, bordering on sloth.”
3 The Tale of the 8m ‘Bargain’ House in Greenwich, New York Times, January 25th 2014
4 The late great Zig Ziglar used to say, “Only floss the teeth you want to keep.”
5 “When perfectionism is driving us, shame is riding shotgun, and fear is that annoying backseat driver.” Brené Brown