Thursday, March 19, 2009

Find something else to worry about

My recent meetings with clients and acquaintances are reminders of the worries many people have about the economy and its impact on their personal finances. There’s more worrying going on than anything I’ve witnessed in my 30 year career as an advisor to individuals and businesses about financial and tax matters.

Several years ago I attended a workshop with a psychologist guest speaker. He said something interesting that still resonates in my mind to this day, that worrying is a form of excess greed. I approached him after the seminar and asked him to clarify what he meant by his statement. He said it was based on his experience counseling affluent people and the worries they had about maintaining their economic wealth.

There’s another facet of worrying that’s often not obvious to the worrier. While personality may drive the worrier, so are its learned aspects. When I catch clients knee deep in worry mania, I’ll ask who taught them how to worry, their mother or father. I’m always amazed at the swiftness of their reply that it was one or the other but not typically both parents. Rarely will they respond that it was neither.

More often than not, I find that the worries my clients bring to a meeting are imaginary rather than real, like the image of the boogie-man a young child has in the darkness of the night after viewing a Frankenstein or Dracula movie.

So whether it’s a form of excess greed, personality or learned behavior, the truth of the matter is the worries are real in a person’s mind with all the emotion that tags along for the ride. As I sit across the desk in my face-to-face meeting with clients, with no personal emotion attached to their worries, it’s easy for me to be objective and poker face-like by assuring them that all is well and that all will be well.

Often, the departing counsel to clients who come to me with financial worries is simple – I tell them to trust in God, get to work, live a Spartan life, cultivate relationships with family and friends because that’s what’s most important, check back in a few years so I can tell them “I told you so”, and go find something else to worry about.

Pax Domini sit semper vobiscum

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