There has never been anyone quite like Benjamin Franklin.
He was a renowned polymath and was the nation's leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat and, yes, ladies man during his lifetime. A lifetime that spanned before and after the creation of the United States of America, which he had a lot to do with as well.
We know a lot about how Franklin lived his day-to-day life thanks to the publication of his “Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” (a must-read, along with Walter Isaacson's “Benjamin Franklin: An American Life,” for any student of history or fan of amazing people). He was very concerned with being an upstanding virtuous citizen who does good in the world, and set out to live by a set of 13 virtues (temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquility, chastity and humility).
One of Franklin's daily morning practices was to reflect on the following question:
"What good shall I do today?"
His answers helped him set the tone for his day, guide his decision making, and ultimately help him to live as virtuously as possible.
As advisors, we often ask ourselves the same question.
At times we have to be careful about focusing too much of our time on the market, asset allocation, security selection, macroeconomics and other topics that take our attention away from where we can do the most good: helping our clients achieve their wealth planning goals and answering their most critical questions. Those questions usually have nothing to do picking the “best” investment and everything to do with achieving peace of mind knowing they are on track to achieving their financial planning goals.
A recent blog post by Tony Isola of Ritholtz Wealth Management highlights a number of critical client questions that advisors can help answer:
• How long do I need to work so my money won’t run out?
• What would be considered a “safe” withdrawal percentage from my funds?
• When should I take Social Security, and what strategy should I use?
• Do I need long-term care insurance?
• Now that I am retired, should I invest my money differently?
• How much will Medicare cost and what programs should I enroll in?
• Can I afford to give cash to family members; and if I can, how much?
• Have I updated all my beneficiaries and picked the right people to take over my finances to make the best decisions regarding my health if I cannot?
• What am I going to do all day if my retirement is fully funded?
• Should I take a cash balance or turn my funds into an annuity from my workplace retirement plan?
• Do I own too much of my company’s stock?
• Will my plan still work if we have another “Great Recession?”
• When should I start taking money from my tax-deferred accounts, and how will this affect my taxes?
Of course there are many more. And, of course, we hope that there will be many more days for us to attempt to do good for our clients!