Financial Planner No Dummy

woman-with-moneyLife on the edge does not lend itself to saving money. My husband and I have learned this the hard way. Now we’re catching up financially, and things have seemed rosy lately. No worries.

Until last night.

The ill-fated and much-delayed financial planning meeting left us so stressed we were tearing at each other’s throats on the way there, and quiet and moody afterward. Talk about a buzz kill.

I thought we were doing pretty well. I did. Paying off those pesky student loans, the even peskier credit cards. Only have one car payment, though my husband keeps threatening to buy another Mustang. (The vroom vroom factor is big with men, I know, I know.) We had plenty of extra money after all the bills were paid to stash in savings, or put extra down on the mortgage imagesCA00AB3Cprincipal. Life was grand.

The financial planner was polite. Friendly. Engaging. She plopped both elbows on our carefully filled out, extensive financial questionnaire and told us she wanted to know more about us personally before we dug into our financials. I thought, well, how cool, this is not going to be so bad. She told us her job was to give us options, that’s all. Options. Then she smiled at us. Instantly, our best, closest, most concerned friend in the world. She was there to help, she said.

I am so naïve.

hoops-yoyo.jpgWe had a few planned questions: 1) How much money can you make after you opt to take social security and not lose it in penalties? 2) How can we retire in ten years or less and still trot the globe enjoying life, and 3) How do we keep our assets out of probate and horrific taxation as it’s passed along?

We were there for two hours, our eyes widening in shock with each revelation.

By the time we left her office, a faintly Victorian, floral affair in an aging, but well-maintained building, we were numb. Our throat-tearing issues took second place to the larger, looming issues marching across the pages of the spiral-bound booklets she gave us.

We have steeled ourselves to adapt to a few hard-core takeaways: 1) DO NOT PAY OFF THE HOUSE! DOuntitled (4) NOT EVER PAY OFF THE HOUSE, THIS IS OUTDATED THINKING! Money needs to work for you, she said, what good does your money do tied up in a dusty, old house? Keep the deduction, use the extra money you are throwing at principal to WORK! If you’re not working, then your MONEY MUST WORK FOR YOU! 2) JIM AND I COULD DIE TOMORROW! MAYBE SOONER! WHAT THEN? I REPEAT, THEN WHAT?! My husband and I looked at each other in confusion. We hadn’t planned on dying anytime soon, and it was gruesomely uncomfortable to think about, but hey, this chick was into uber-reality and like it or not, we were along for the ride. We listened to several sad tales of people weeping, sobbing as they sat in her tidy conference room at the polished-to-perfection conference table. Did we want to end up like that? Did we? Her acorn-colored, intense, black-rimmed eyes impaled us.

After the meeting, we felt appropriately chastised, but somehow comforted, too. We liked her. We felt hugged and safe when she said she’d work her magic with the numbers, create a plan, and we’d schedule a second meeting.

There was just one little sticky issue.

stock-market-bear-and-bull1.png“We’re different from other investment firms,” she’d said brightly. “You know, most firms charge a fee for each transaction.” Her gaze was gentle, a caress. “But we handle this a better way. We charge a one-time fee up front, then you never have to worry about it again!” A smile covered half her face. A three-karat diamond surrounded by a crush of lesser-karat brethren winked at us from her hand.

I’d looked at Jim. He’d looked at me. We shrugged, silently assuring each other we’d think about her fee when the time came. We were so busy being grateful we were not having an imminent stroke or a heart attack that her fee was the least of our concerns.

Do you think she planned it like that?


  1. You go girl! Just talked to my co. benefits counselor to see WHEN I’m eligible for retirement and HOW MUCH I could expect–so I can compare to what I’m making now. OUCH!

  2. These “planners” always amaze me….and of course they are paid very well for every dollar they talk you out of to “invest”, whether you make any money or not. I can see “never pay off your mortgage (which leaves more money for investing)” makes sense to a financial advisor since they want to you to have more money to invest. They definitely are in the business of talking you out of your money. However, take a look at your amortization schedule on the mortgage and compare with the amount you can “invest”. Makes no sense to drop money in an investment with no guaranteed income and no insurance against loss when you’re still yet paying all that interest on your home. Kinda negates the whole portfolio thing. Taking the deduction only makes sense when you have no way to pay off the mortgage. At least its some consolation for the debt, but in reality very little. If your investment “performs” like she will lead you to believe (which is a joke when they can’t predict the stock market any better than you can), you “might” end up with a pile of money, a house still with a mortgage, all the interest you’ve paid keeping mortgage, and taxes on that income as you draw from your investments. In my opinion, not paying off the mortgage only makes sense if you don’t intend to stay there when you retire. I’m still reeling from losing half of my retirement when the stock market crashed, so I’m not too keen on their b.s. I was one of the lucky ones….at least I didn’t lose it all, but when that happened, I moved what was left to banks. Won’t make a fortune on it, but at least its FDIC insured. But then, my mortage is paid off 🙂

  3. Hilarious! Yes, she is well paid to plan it that way. I think you and Jim are doing fabulous with your budget. But I did know the info about not paying off the house. You can always have a life insurance policy in place to cover the house, if you don’t already have one. Love your story!

    • Can you gals point me to some documentation on the “don’t pay off the mortgage” deal?–my hubby is old school and puts payoff as the top priority–whereas I have been burned badly by a crooked financial counselor and am wary of investments.

      • Betsy, she pointed out that if all the money is tied up in the house, and there’s not a pension or a huge pot of money somewhere, then where is the money that is supposed to be garnering interest while one is sitting in the paid-off house? It doesn’t apply to people that have a big pot of money or a pension. I’m still of the opinion that I want to pay extra on the mortgage, but maybe I’ll steal a little out to toss at investments, too, when we figure out where the heck we’re gonna put it. She wants us to invest in annuities, and as far as my son, the reverse mortgage expert, is concerned, that is NOT a good way to go. He said his firm won’t even do a loan if the people do not sign a document saying they will NEVER invest in an annuity.

  4. Oh THAT pitch sounds familiar. Did I ever tell you about the financial planner that ripped half a town of people (including doctors, dentists, scientists, and judges)? And the 10+ year battle with the IRS over the “tax shelters” the planner recommended?

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