The Gift You Give Yourself
“If it wasn’t for the mist we could see your home across the bay,” said Gatsby. “You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.”
The Great Gatsby‘s green light is a well-known image in American literature. In the novel, the light can be seen from the home of Jay Gatsby, a newly wealthy young man hoping to impress his long-time love, Daisy, with his riotous parties and opulent wealth. Ultimately, Gatsby realizes Daisy’s love can’t be bought—and his efforts to win her over have tragic results. Daisy, like that hovering green light, remains just out of his reach.
Despite his advantages, Jay Gatsby finds himself yearning for something his money cannot buy: the reassurance and acceptance of another person. Without that acceptance, Gatsby feels trapped in an incomplete life. Although the story of The Great Gatsby is a fictional and dramatic one, we often find that our clients are looking for a similar kind of reassurance and acceptance…
Wealth Doesn’t Always Equal Freedom
We often receive calls from clients seeking our counsel on even seemingly minor purchases—not because they are unsure if they can afford the item, but because they are looking for affirmation. They aren’t looking for a math whiz to pull out a calculator and punch some numbers. What they really want to know is, “Is this the right way for me to spend my money?” They worry that they “shouldn’t” make a purchase that feels important to them because it may appear “silly” to others.
Our culture propagates a lot of myths that wealth means freedom. The truth, however, is that many wealthy people feel far from free, especially when it comes to judgment. They worry about how they look, what they own, what their friends and family think—even what their advisor thinks!
When facing these worries, we would all benefit from the power of self-acceptance, a key component of reaching Maslow’s stage of “self-actualization.” In this case, self-acceptance allows us to become free from the worry of how someone else would judge our spending decisions. It empowers us to embrace genuine passion for things that we love or are important to us. It gives us confidence in our decisions, rather than diminishing our desires as “frivolous,” “silly,” and, ultimately, “wrong”.
Am I Doing This Right?
Self-acceptance sounds similar to self-esteem, but there’s an important difference. Self-acceptance means accepting every aspect of ourselves—not just the traits we already feel good about, but even those aspects we want to improve. Self-acceptance is, therefore, unconditional. It is not something you earn because of your goodness; it is something you give to yourself, free of any qualification. We can recognize our weaknesses and still fully accept ourselves.
When you practice self-acceptance, you can take stock of where you are and move forward from that point, rather than trying to ignore the parts of yourself that you fear are bad, unworthy, or odd. By accepting who you are and where you are, you can then more easily determine where you want to go, rather than always looking over our shoulders to wonder, “Is this really the right path?”
Put plainly, they often seem burdened by this nagging uncertainty: “Am I doing this right?”
There Is No Scorecard
First and foremost, remember that advisors aren’t keeping a scorecard where they judge their clients against some ideal standard. Just as there is no perfectly executed investment portfolio, there also is no “perfect” financial plan. And no one, not even the most disciplined (or dull) people, go through life practicing “perfect” money behaviors. Everyone is simply on their own unique and distinct path.
Second, a lot of curveballs will come your way over the years, and the best-laid plans can and do get derailed. The loss of a business partnership, the sudden death of a spouse, a surprise medical diagnosis, or an adult child who fails to launch. We create financial plans to withstand these unpredictable, yet unavoidable, life events. That’s our job.
Your own journey will likely be different than what you envisioned in earlier years. But in our decades of experience, we’ve found that clients who find fulfillment—even those with a different trajectory—are those who practice self-acceptance even during turbulent times. They accept their new reality, and they accept their feelings, good and bad, about that new reality. Those who try to stifle their disappointments or resentments often cling to their old path or get lost worrying about what others think of their situation.
Calculators and Curiosity
This is the part of financial planning that can’t be found in calculators or planning spreadsheets. If clients don’t share with us their values, their wants, their dreams, then we can’t create a plan that will bring them true fulfillment.
So, at Truepoint, we’ve created a system that encourages clients to share this kind of information with us from the beginning. We start not with bank statements and account balances, but with a series of questions that may not seem related to finances. But these questions allow us to get to know our clients much more deeply, much more quickly, so we can begin the work of creating their customized financial plan. Most importantly, it ensures that their financial plan aligns with what they actually want, not what they think they should want.
As our client relationships grow over many years, we continue to emphasize the importance of acceptance. When our clients ask questions, we respond with openness and curiosity to get to the bottom of what’s truly driving their concerns. Our clients who want our perspective on seemingly small purchases don’t need to know how much money they have. They need someone to understand that they feel unsure of whether the purchase is right for them. We cultivate a judgment-free relationship with our clients so that they always feel comfortable coming to us, even with the “smallest” questions. We’ve found that questions that initially seem small are sometimes the most important ones.
At Truepoint, we understand that we cannot expect our clients to practice self-acceptance if they feel that we do not accept them. When clients know they can pick up the phone without judgment, that’s when we can create and carry out a truly customized plan, one designed not only to bring financial success but also a feeling of fulfillment.
You deserve a customized financial plan, but more importantly, you deserve to feel that you’re on the right path for you. The Truepoint approach implements both calculators and curiosity, but it’s your commitment to the journey that allows us to work together to discover and chart the right path for you into deeper fulfillment.