As a child, I spent my summers on the North Fork of Eastern Long Island in the home my grandparents built on Hashamomuck Pond. On that beautiful body of water I learned to fish, crab, clam and water-ski. I can only describe the time I spent there in a single word: idyllic. One experience conjures an image that I will forever carry with me: throwing a smooth, white stone into that glass-like pond. The result was an extraordinary, seemingly infinite series of concentric rings of potential and wonder.
Would You Hold It Near, as It Were Your Own?
As I have grown older, the imagery has been refined. The stone is no longer just a stone, but a decision point. The ripples are ramifications, some short term in nature, others more enduring. Whether we recognize it or not, we all spend hours each day throwing stones into our proverbial ponds. Sometimes we throw pebbles that represent short-term decisions akin to “Where do I want to go to dinner tonight?” while other stones are much larger, representing larger questions such as “Where is my child going to attend college?”. And here’s the thing; the size of the stones are quite critical as they are the genesis of the ensuing ripples. That is to say, each stone cast yields a commensurate ripple.
There is a Road, No Simple Highway
For a moment, take a step back and reflect upon the stones you have thrown throughout your life. A stone thrown for where you decided to go college, another thrown for the career you chose to pursue. Stones thrown for important decisions such as marriage/partnership and children and eldercare for your parents; the list is endless. All of these stones have consequences, whether they be positive or negative. For me, my personal path has resulted in both the good and bad ripples, but the journey has defined who I have become as a man, father, husband, and as a financial advisor.
That Path Is for Your Steps Alone
The metaphor of the stone and its ripple have proven to especially hold true with financial planning. As we move throughout life, it is incredibly important to understand and ultimately coordinate our planning. In my 20-plus years as a planner, my experience has shown that most individuals have constructed their financial goals and plans in a piecemeal fashion. By the time we reach our 40’s, most of us have thrown quite a few financial stones without much thought given to the ripples of consequence that they create. Most people probably have an accountant, an outdated estate plan, a variety of investment-related accounts and perhaps a little life insurance that was purchased along the way. These may all be fine on their own, but a lack of coordination and understanding of the ramifications of certain financial decisions have substantial consequences many simply are not aware of.
That is why it is so pivotal to understand the size of your stone and to think about how widespread and important the subsequent ripples are. Being confident in one’s decision and anticipating the repercussions of such a decision is an essential aspect of not only financial stability, but for true and measured growth in your financial goals.
As you hold your own personal stone at the water's edge today, think of the ripple that this next stone will generate. Think of the far-reaching impact of your decisions. How will that stone cast today impact you, your loved ones and those causes you care most deeply about?
Songwriters: Jerome J. Garcia / Robert C. Hunter
Ripple lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group