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 principal. 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.
We 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! DO NOT EVER PAY OFF THE HOUSE, THIS IS OUTDATED THINKING!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.
“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?