It’s Not Like Going to the Dentist

I talk about human nature a lot in here. I must, because, if your goal is to help people improve their overall financial health — as mine is — then your route lies through at least one human being, and that human being is chock-full of human nature.

Most often the context in which human nature comes up involves slack-cutting, with healthy doses of forgiveness and thankfulness (t’is the season!) thrown in for good measure. The slack-cutting comes about from the difficulty with which many of us approach the endeavoring involved in explicitly and actively seeking to improve our overall financial health, as human nature makes many of us less powerful in this endeavoring than we are in many of our other endeavorings. Because it just so happens that, for many of us, there’s just something about crawling up inside our financial lives that makes us not want to do it, as in, I just don’t wanna.

So it’s a slack-cutting — with a good, end-oriented purpose — we do go.

*  *  *

The conversation goes something like this:

You have a car, right?

And you wash it, yes?

How often? Once a month? And how long does that take? Half an hour each time maybe? 

So you spend something like a half-dozen hours each year washing your car, right?

And it’s not like you accidentally get the car washed, is it? You have to go out and do it, don’t’ch’ya? So all-told that’s six hours per year of you going out there and getting it done, either in your driveway or at a car wash, yah?

And how much time do you spend doing the equivalent thing with your financial life — taking care of it and maintaining it and such?

Hmmm . . . so is your car more important to you than your financial life?

Yea . . . I didn’t think so . . . 

*  *  *

And then the forgiveness comes from understanding that the person who takes better care of his or her car than his or her financial life is simply human and not entirely culpable for acting in that way, while the thankfulness comes from knowing that that very same human-ness can be turned, in just the right way, into a force for good rather than a force for non-good — turned back against itself, so to speak, to become an agent of change and doing rather than an agent of non-change and non-doing.

Everyone’s human nature can, then, at the right time and in the right hands, be re-directed in the financial health realm from inertia of rest into inertia of motion. 

And from all that comes another layer of thankfulness and marveling, from knowing that we are all, in the aggregate, such amazing, wonderful, adaptable, changeable, improvable human being creatures.

*  *  *

And then the follow up:

. . .  And is that car more important to you than your child’s education? [or retirement, as appropriate]


Yea, I didn’t think so about that one, either.

*  *  *

Many jokes are told about how we all hate to go to the dentist; we English-speaking-idiom-generators have also had our way with it, as in I’d rather have a tooth pulled than . . . [name your unpleasantness].

Clearly there are exceptions (some folks — me for instance — like having their teeth cleaned). But, in general, if you want to describe something as being terrifically unpleasant, you might well describe it as being like going to the dentist.

Dentists have done a truly wonderful job of getting many of us to take good care of our teeth; we FPers should take notice of how excellent a job they’ve done (and have you ever noticed how our teeth healthcare system works wonderfully when stacked up against our rest-of-body healthcare system?). But they’ve *not* done a great job of curtailing the linguistic and cognitive pairing of going to the dentist with no fun at all.

*  *  *

Now, I can’t speak for all financial planners and all financial clients out there, but I most assuredly can speak for myself and for my clients, and can tell you that, once they step into a financial planning process with me, just about all of my clients find the process to be quite enjoyable.

This initially surprised me to no end, especially when clients told me, as we ended meetings that focused on spending (the good, the bad and the ugly, with usually not much of the former) that they’d really had fun. The word fun, in particular, caught me by surprise; I was not expecting that. Y’all mean to tell me that talking about how to smarten up the spending part of your financial life is fun?

Since then, though, I’ve seen, time and time again, clients having fun at that meeting, as well as all the other meetings we have.

So it turns out that, fairly often, it’s just plain ol’ fun.

 *  *  *

Fun comes in lots of forms. The fun of doing your financial planning is not like the fun of watching the newest blockbuster Hollywood movie or the fun of a beautiful day at the park with your favorite people. And it’s nothing like the apparent fun had by a dog, tongue a waggin’, head out the window, goin’ down that long lonesome highway.

Rather, for many folks, as they first enter into the financial planning process, it’s the fun of taking a load off — the fun of un-burdening, of finally being in action. That first step — the first step when, often after months or even years of wanting to be in action but instead suffering from complete and utter inaction, someone says, Yes, I’m in, let’s do this — is a particularly happy/fun moment. It can be fleeting as well, though, so in my practice I do my best to highlight that moment for each client, to allow the client to better remember it months and years later, when good pats-on-one’s-own-back have been well-earned. Modern feoffing, you can call it. So there’s a big Big BIG victory upfront, and all that happened was that someone — you, maybe — decided to begin.

It’s also the fun of realizing that the power-to-accomplish that accompanies you into so many other parts of your life need not be a stranger in the financial part of your life, and, in fact, can come right on in and be right handy in there.

For couples, it’s also the fun of doing something very couple’y, very much about long-term love and growing old together; it’s a fun romance of a sort of thing. And, when wee ones are involved, it’s also way about them, and that really brings home to roost the fun and the significance and the taking-care-o’-my-own-and-can’t-wait-to-see-what-they-will-soon-become feeling, n’est ce pas?

And it’s also fun born out of a darker side, as, for belly-of-the-beasters, it’s also the fun of finally crawling up into the belly of the beast that is their financial life and starting the process of taking it by the horns to corral it into submission.

For just about everyone, it’s also the fun of realizing that it’s not at all complicated (or at least need not be complicated) and not at all mysterious. So it’s fun going through the demystification journey, and it’s fun getting to the place where you have your arms around the whole thing, and double-fun knowing that you can keep them there for good, as in this is a cinch.

*  *  *

And what kind of fun might it be for you?

It’s hard to say ahead of time, but the odds are good that you will find financial planning — either on your own or with a guide — to be good ol’, plain ol’ fun of some sort or another.

And not at all like going to the dentist.


About 1200 words — about a twelve-minute read max, sans linked-to content



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