Under the Influence – You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

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By Shawndi Purselley, CFP®, CDFA®, Owner and Co-Founder, Wealth Advisor

I am living proof that an old dog can be taught new tricks.  I know some will say 47 years old is not really old, and I would agree.  However, I learned to do two activities that I definitely should have learned in my youth.   

I did not grow up snow skiing.  I tried once in my twenties and had an unfortunate meeting right in the mouth with my ski pole.  In the end, I was rewarded with a busted lip (I probably needed stitches but I refused to go to the hospital).  In my forties, my family began taking annual trips with our children to snow ski.  I decided to try to pick this sport up again.  It was not easy for me, but I kept trying.  I was a bit afraid each time due to my earlier “incident.”  At age 42, once again I found myself on the injured list with a torn ACL due to a fall on the ski slopes.   I skied for two more seasons after surgery before deciding to hang my skis up for good.

In the summers of 2018 and 2019, I learned to wake surf behind a boat.  It took me two summers and a private instructor, but I was determined to show my kids that I could surf just as good as them.   I could have easily given up, especially after 2 years.  But I had made up my mind and was determined to make it work.  Now it is something I rather enjoy doing.

My point is that it is never too late to do something new or different and it is absolutely NEVER too late to learn a new behavior.  I believe we are heavily conditioned and influenced by watching relatives, friends, social media or even from our own previous bad decisions.  Behavioral finance suggests that we have biases that affect our financial behavior as it relates to investments and money issues. Behavioral bias is potentially the wrong way to make decisions and could result in damaging behaviors usually caused by erroneous information, experiences or past decisions.  How do we overcome things we have been psychologically influenced to accept or reject?   Rational behavior is regarded as one’s ability to utilize a decision-making process that is based on ration to make choices that result in an optimal outcome.  After taking the fall on skis in my twenties, I had a huge bias against ever skiing again.  However, I utilized the rational part of my brain to overcome my fears and decided to try again.  I developed a plan for learning to ski.   I took a few professional lessons and started on slopes that more accurately fit my skill set.

Overconfidence in our own knowledge, intelligence and decision making skills can impair judgment or impede our ability to make rational decisions.  I did not successfully learn to ski or wake surf until I really started listening to my instructors and really training my brain and my body to do something different than it has always done.  By submitting to the fact that my way was clearly not working, I was able to accept professional help.  It is the same with finances.  Until one begins to allow help and advice from a professional, one’s bias may continue to impede the road to financial security and a sound retirement plan.

Most people I talk to have their own philosophy about how and why they have managed money the way they have all their lives.  It can be difficult to be told there might be a different way to do things.  Our well-established bias can be very hard to change.  Sometimes people believe their financial situation is “too far gone” or hopeless so they just stop trying to get on track with their finances or retirement planning.  One other bias I see frequently is that people believe they are more prepared financially for the future than they actually are.   I like to encourage my clients to learn a new way of looking at their behaviors and try to learn to be more rational with their money.  Education is the key to letting unhealthy biases go.  Seeing a professional can help this as well.  In my situation, after two years of trying to wake surf, I decided to hire a professional instructor.  Wouldn’t you know it, I was surfing by the end of day one with the instructor. Why?  Because he taught me a different way to maneuver in the water and on the board.  I had to “let go” of my unhealthy pattern in the water and allow him to educate me on a better way to accomplish my goal.

There is no better time than now to sit down with a financial professional to help you take a look at how you are managing your financial life and future.  I encourage you to come sit down with one of our advisors for a one-hour no-cost meeting.  At least give yourself a chance to possibly learn something new!

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