Moms and Money: Buy Yourself the Best Gift of All - True Peace of Mind

December 2011

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  • At the start of each holiday season, Neiman Marcus publishes its Christmas Book, a splashy catalogue of breathtaking fantasy gifts. Among the eye-popping goodies in this year’s edition are a hand-built $250,000 Hacker-Craft speedboat and a $45,000 black rubber Tom Burr ping pong table, “which also doubles as a contemporary work of art.”

    Neiman Marcus probably doesn’t expect to sell many—or any—of these extravagant gifts. But the retailer does garner a lot of publicity and gets consumers thinking about gifts, giving and the idea of indulging.

    I have a wonderful idea for a gift, one you won’t find in any catalogue. What I’m proposing, however, will give you more satisfaction than owning both a speedboat and a ping pong table. This holiday season, give yourself and your family the gift of a sound financial future. If you’vebeen neglecting your long-range financial goals, now is the right time to give yourself the gift of peace of mind.

    Schedule an appointment with a financial planner to set and review your assets, debts, investments and strategies for saving for college, buying a home, retiring and vacationing. But don’t do it now. Yes, you heard that right.

    Book your appointment for late January, when the holiday buzz has waned and you’re looking at the fresh slate of a new year. That’s a great time to focus on your finances and goals.

    “Focusing” usually means scheduling at least two meetings of one to two hours each. That’s the amount of time a planner will need to gather detailed information from you and your partner, if you have one, and learn about your dreams, goals and challenges. She’ll then analyze yourinformation and present your plan to you in detail, answer your questions and arrange follow-up meetings to help you stay on track.

    A financial planner will transform disparate paperwork—paystubs, ATM receipts, donation records—into a bigger, clearer picture that will tell you where your money comes from and exactly where it goes.

    To help your planner do that, you’ll need to devote between one and three hours to gathering a list of your expenses and income. Believe it or not, this is another gift you’ll be giving yourself. Organizing your financial materials in January gives you a leg up on tax preparations you’d need to do anyway.

    Another gift that comes out of a financial planning session is better, clearer communication with your partner about your financial goals. Couples are more likely to discuss their next vacation than their financial fears, dreams, worries and plans. Fewer still commit their goals to writingand regularly review their progress toward them.

    A financial planner can provide the structure and nonjudgmental support to help you articulate and achieve your goals. He can also help you answer questions like “Where would you like to be?” and “What are you willing to do to get there?”

    While the folks at Neiman Marcus have no trouble valuing a custom Ferrari at $395,000, they’d be hard-pressed to put a price tag on peace of mind. It is truly priceless.

    Knowing you have an emergency fund available to carry you through a layoff, home emergency or family crisis is an invaluable comfort. A financial planner can help you determine the right amount and financial vehicle for your cash fund as well as guide you in recovering from afinancial setback.

    Planners can also give you peace of mind by helping you make sure you have the proper life insurance, disability insurance and liability insurance to protect what you have from potentially catastrophic risks.

    Expect to pay several hundred to a few thousand dollars for a thorough plan from a financial planning professional. Some planners charge based on a percentage of your investment assets (usually about 1%) or sell financial products that earn them a commission. These planners may offer discounted or free financial planning services to their clients.

    I’m not going to even try to argue that a financial planning package is sexier or more fun than a sleek Ferrari or a speedboat. But for serenity and a significant impact on your life, your children’s lives and your future, it’s truly the most important gift you can give.

  • by Emilie Goldman, a Certified Financial Analyst (CFA) and Certified Financial Planner® (CFP), is the owner of Tamarind Financial Planning ( She lives in San Carlos with her husband, kids; ages 12, 8, and 3, and a hermit crab.