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Jonathan's Thoughts

Egos Are Expensive

by Jonathan Greeson on 11/08/17

A person would rather struggle than ask for help.  It sounds crazy, right?  If you think about it, you’ll realize that we all do it to some point.  I learned a long time ago that it’s ok to ask for help.  Having a disability means I need help with everything.  Things would get pretty messy if I was too stubborn to ask for help when I needed to use the bathroom.

Independence is important and my family would tell you that I am extremely stubborn as well, but I do realize when I need help.  I believe that is the key…to realize we need help and trust the advice of a professional.  When we are sick, we go to the doctor, but when we aren’t sure about what to do financially, we stay silent.  Silence can be disastrous when you’re in quick sand.  Do you just sit there and wait to sink or do you call for help?  Financial trouble is just like quick sand in that, regardless of what you try, you can’t get on top of it without help.

I remember when I was a child we were not allowed to ask others about money.  It was considered rude and it was just something that “you didn’t do.”  I still think that is a good policy because we shouldn’t treat a person any differently regardless of how much money they make.  Plus, we live in an ultra-competitive society and nothing good can come out of comparing salaries among friends. 

However, I believe we have gone too far in our efforts not to discuss our financial situation.  Why?  Because our wallet is directly connected to our ego.  It is a boost to our pride when we have money.  That’s ok because money allows us to feed our families and chase our dreams.  We feel successful because our wallet is full and our needs are met.  What happens when we have a bad month?  A bad quarter?  A bad year?

Naturally, we feel inferior when we struggle.  Our coworkers do the exact same job, so we probably make the same amount, but they seem to be doing so much better.  How can they have money when ours runs out?  We continue going through life with our secret struggle because we’re afraid of what people will say.  The credit card debt continues to mount because we have to keep up appearances that everything is fine in our life.  When we start skipping payments or only paying the minimum, interest and late fees accumulate.  Silence is actually forcing us to give money away!  Our ego or pride becomes a very high and unnecessary expense.

Instead of throwing money away, doesn’t it make sense to have a financial planner help you manage your money?  Everything is confidential just like when you go to the doctor with an illness.  I would be glad to check your financial health.  Stop suffering in the shadows and let me help you.  Make an appointment today!

What is Financial Planning?

by Jonathan Greeson on 10/11/17

I may have done a blog on this subject before, but I’m going to continue coming back to it throughout my career because I think it is extremely important.  Financial Services is a tough and very regulated industry because there are so many definitions of a financial advisor.  Basically, the term financial advisor suggests the idea that the person will have your best interests in mind when they suggest their different services.  The advisor should absolutely do this, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. 

Due to pressures and incentives over the years, the industry has become a sales job.  It always has been to a point, but it’s sad when an advisor talks a person into a small life insurance policy just because they don’t want to make the meeting a waste of their time.  The commission drives them instead of actually helping the client.  It doesn’t make the salesman a bad person.  They have a family to feed just like the rest of us.  I’ve been in interviews with these big firms and you can feel the pressure the advisors are under to produce. 

What’s the solution?  Stop being a financial advisor and become a financial planner!  Yes, it’s the exact same job.  You have to recruit prospects and get them to become clients for a commission or a fee, but as a planner, your emphasis is on helping the client reach a clearly-defined goal.  Not only on getting the commission.  Commissions will come as you do good work.

That’s what financial planning is to me.  The client’s goal is what matters.  Money is the tool that helps us reach the goal.  The “small” client can become the “big” client if they stick with you and work toward their goals.  Then you can actually develop a relationship with the client and their family.  Larger firms have forgotten this, but it’s the foundation on which an independent advisor (like myself) builds his business.

When I first meet a client, I give them a piece of paper on which they write their goals.  Depending on the service they purchase from me, these goals can be one year or 30 years from now when they retire.  I don’t mean a numerical goal, such as $1 million, but an actual goal like going back to school or buying a dream home.    

We have to make the goals realistic, but I am all for chasing dreams.  As I told a client recently, I’m the guy who started a wheelchair hockey program in Eastern North Carolina and it lasted for 15 years.  My team traveled all over the US and Canada playing hockey in wheelchairs…sounds kind of like a far-fetched goal doesn’t it?  So why should you be afraid to share your goal with me?  I won’t laugh.  I actually want to see you achieve the dream!  Of course, you’ll still have to do the work.  I can only help you with the path, but I’m glad to join you on the journey!

Selling to Friends

by Jonathan Greeson on 08/25/17

One of the many challenges and joys about being an independent financial adviser is that I have to do my own sales training.  Sure, FormulaFolios has many training videos and their stuff is extremely helpful, but I need to learn how to sell.  As we know through social media, all of our friends have the side hustle job, so everyone sells something.  If we break it down, every industry does selling on some level, but how do you become a successful salesman?

For example, how do I approach someone about my services?  When I get rejected, how far should I push the person to change their mind?  When do I just give up on a person because they’re wasting my time?  On behalf of all salesman, please do not give us false hope.  While I don’t really understand why anyone would say NO to my services, sometimes it’s actually the best answer.  Time is valuable for everyone, so if you’re never going to buy, kindly let the salesman move on.

I started reading books on selling because I came to a hard truth:  Everyone needs my service, but if I wait for them to come to me, I’ll starve!  That did hurt my pride and I felt like a failure, but the truth is that all businesses face the same problem.  Have you looked at the retail sector lately?  Yikes!

I learned a lot after reading the books, but I was hoping for a magical, easy fix to get more clients than I could handle.  Unfortunately, there isn’t one.  However, I found great hope as I learned all salesmen go through peaks and valleys in their careers.  They succeed because they look past rejection.  A 30% success rate stinks when you get 3 commitments out of 10 attempts, but it’s awesome to get 300 commitments out of 1000 attempts.

However, one “tip” I’ll never agree with is the idea that you shouldn’t sell to friends.  Sure, if you’re selling a crappy product and ripping people off, then please don’t sell to your friends.  Actually don’t sell to anyone because you’re giving all other salesmen a bad reputation and most people aren’t fans of us anyway.

On the other hand, if you’re selling a product that can help improve someone’s life, then aren’t you obligated to offer it to you friends?  That’s how I feel about Financial Planning.  Money is one of the top causes of stress in the world today.  My services are all about using money as a tool to achieve your goals.  If that can lower the stress in a friend’s life, shouldn’t I offer the service to them?

It brings me pure joy to watch a client follow a plan and go from being in debt to opening an investment account.  Yes, I get a fee, but the greatest reward is that it gives me a chance to be a good friend and help someone.  I would love the opportunity to help you as well!

Working From Home

by Jonathan Greeson on 07/27/16

One of the statements you often hear in the investment world is “spotting a trend.”  Some may think it only relates to a stock chart with all the ups and downs of company’s share price, but as with many skills in the financial world, finding trends is also important in the “real” world.  Social media has become a great tool for spotting trends because you can see what types of clothes people are buying, where they are eating, if they are getting or losing jobs, and many more things.  Social media gives us the one thing that all the math and government reports cannot give; a chance to look into the mind of the consumer.  However, this blog is not about the power of social media, but it is about a trend I have noticed through social media…working from home.

We all have friends that sell makeup, cookware, storage boxes, jewelry, diet supplements, etc., but in the past 8 months, it seems like this trend has exploded!  My Facebook newsfeed has gone from family pictures and fun announcements to the market from Disney’s Aladdin!  All I see is buy this, join this, or promote this.  I never thought I would say this, but I actually miss the “my child used the potty” announcements.  Before I get push back from my friends doing these businesses, let me be clear:  I am extremely proud of you for doing this and making extra money.  You should be very proud of your success and I wish you the best.

However, I have 2 concerns.  First, for those that haven’t started selling anything, please understand that these businesses are designed to be supplemental income at first.  Yes, there are many people who are successful and sell Avon or whatever as their full time job, but there are many more who realize this isn’t the job they hoped it would be.  Usually, the ones that are successful have a spouse with steady income and health insurance, so they can afford to give the time needed to build a business. 

I look at these programs like investing in that a person should never invest until they are already financially stable to a point.  For example, if you have $2,000 in credit card debt and $100 in your savings, I can promise you that investing that $100 will not give you the huge return you see in movies.  There are actually very good odds you will lose that $100.  In the same case, you have a high risk of loss if you spend your last $100 on a starter kit for product sales.  You may make a fortune, but part of my job is to help my clients understand risk and there are risks to starting these programs.  Granted you all aren’t my clients, but you are my friends and I’m still going to look out for your best interests.

Second, for those who are selling, as you probably already know, selling is hard!  While you may start off making a lot because the product is new and your friends want to try it, eventually that well dries up.  It’s not that your friends don’t want to support you, it’s that there are so many things pulling at our wallets each day.  So what do you do?  Plan for these rainy days!  If you had a great month where you made $5,000, save enough of it to survive the month where you don’t make a dime.  

I will be glad to create a plan with you where we can help you have success and stability.

Social Security

by Jonathan Greeson on 06/21/16

In the midst of all the political advertisements, I finally found one that I liked.  However, it wasn’t done by a candidate.  It was done by the AARP showing a donkey and elephant with one request: Please fix Social Security.  Like many things in Washington, I think this is a fairly easy fix, but certain groups will be disappointed.  While Social Security has many issues (especially with the antiquated disability rules), the greatest fear among my generation is that Social Security will not exist when we hit the Full Retirement Age (FRA).  Basically, we feel that we’re throwing money away when we pay Social Security and Medicare taxes each month as we’ll never get to use it.  We believe we could put that money in a retirement account instead of trusting the government to keep it.  As a financial adviser who would love to open these accounts, it pains me to say that I disagree.  Going back to my last blog’s discussion, we cannot guarantee that we will save this money.  We barely save for retirement now and the $10,000-$30,000 annual promise of Social Security is a great help as the middle-class millennial chases his/her retirement goals.  When you look at Social Security as part of your pursuit of financial independence, then you’ll feel better about your monthly contributions.  The key phrase here is “part of your pursuit” as Social Security was never meant to be our entire future; we still have to do our own financial planning.

So, how do we make sure that Social Security is still here 30 years from now?  I had a finance professor that said Social Security will always be here because the elderly and people with disabilities always vote.  If politicians want to keep their job, they won’t mess with Social Security, which is exactly why the problem is always talked about, but never fixed.  Sure, this fact offers a little reassurance because politicians want to keep their jobs, but it still doesn’t solve the problem of the Social Security funds running out!

The obvious first step is for the government to stop stealing from it.  I believe this problem is under control now, but we still need to keep an eye on it.  After all, it’s our money!

Second, Social Security needs to keep similar rules.  Step 3 will add new money to the Social Security Fund, so it will be important that certain rules, such as the max amount received per household, remain the same.  Of course, the amounts will continue to be adjusted for inflation.  These rules are vital with the new money because we don’t want politicians to get any new ideas for use of our money. 

Step 3 is “Insanely Simple” to quote the title of one of my favorite marketing books: Eliminate the Social Security tax limit on income.  Did you know that once you make over $118,500 (in 2015), you no longer have to pay Social Security taxes for that year?  Most middle class Americans don’t know this because we never reach the limit.  Therefore, eliminating this rule will not hurt the middle class at all.  In fact, it will actually help preserve their future because it will add to the Social Security fund.  Think about it; if all the celebrities paid Social Security taxes on their entire $10 million salary (for example) instead of only on the first $118,500, then shouldn’t that put the money we need in the Social Security fund?  It’s really not that complicated.

The wealthy may be disappointed, but I think they will find comfort in paying a tax that helps the future of their fellow man.  This is so different from income taxes that go to the whims of a politician.  This money goes to keeping a promise made to Americans years ago.  I have met a few pro athletes and celebrities over my life and I have never met anyone that didn’t appreciate their blessings and want to help their fellow man.  Of course, they didn’t want to just give everyone money to throw away, but they love helping fulfill a need in the community.  Preserving the Social Security promise is a need that can benefit all of us.  It’s not about the right or the left, it’s about the future of ALL Americans.

Again, Social Security is only a piece of your financial independence, so we need to start your financial plan as soon as possible.

Investment Advisory Services offered through Retirement Wealth Advisors, (RWA) a Registered Investment Advisor. Jonathan Greeson Financial Planning, Patriot Wealth Management, and RWA are not affiliated. Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision. 

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