It is pumpkin carving time at The Schulz house. My youngest daughter is old enough to carve on her own and the other night we prepared for the annual ritual with craft paper on the kitchen table and all of our carving tools at the ready. G has a plan and it is a cat, drawn out on a piece of paper exactly how she wants it to look. She starts with the left eye, carefully outlining on the pumpkin what she has drawn but it does not come out as planned on the round, orange sculpted surface. Frustrated, she starts over on the other side.
If you are a parent with Halloween experience, you already know the rest of the story. On the verge of giving up completely, she asks for my assistance. At this point, there are marks, cuts, and holes for the eyes, nose, and mouth but they are not what she intended or close to completion.
“What if we square off the eyes a little, instead of this arch here. It will be easier with the tools we have.” She tentatively allows me to make some cuts that clean up the look of the cats eyes. Then we move to the nose and mouth. Now working together, collaboratively, we take turns carving around some of the original work. I suggest we add a creepy scar on the cats cheek that was not part of the original plan at all. G thinks the scar should have stitches. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? I know the right technique for making great scar stitches so I teach her how to do it and she finishes it out on her own.
Finally, there is the original eye on the back of the pumpkin that we decide to deal with. I suggest we carve a big winding tail to hide the mistake. G is thinking more 3D so we end up with a stick as the cats tail that brings the project to a very satisfactory completion.
I believe carving a pumpkin can be compared to the financial planning process. Many times we know what we want our financial future to look like, but we are unfamiliar with the tools, processes, and techniques needed to translate the plan into action and results.
Like the oddly-shaped surface of a pumpkin, real life can be a tough medium. It takes ongoing creative collaboration between client and adviser to plan, implement, and complete long term financial goals. It is tempting for both clients and advisers to opt out of the collaborative process, but if we do it usually ends in frustration.
Working together over several years, a client and their adviser can create an amazingly successful financial future that could not have been foreseen at the beginning of the engagement.
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