I’m very careful with my money, but everything about it is not clear as crystal. Every year around January, questions I have to ask about taxes, income, claims and reporting. Later, around September, I do my business finances and re-configure my rates (I work on the school’s calendar year). I wake up and my mind is spinning: Am I paying enough on my principal? What the heck is an escrow account and what goes under warranty? Despite researching the heck out of things, I still end up wrestling with questions.
There’s the anonymity of forums but there’s a vagueness about them that resists comfort. I can call professionals, but there’s this tricky thing about not wanting to give free advice. I can study personal finance guru’s publications at the library, but the advice is for anyone, everyone, and I still have questions on how it pertains to me. And it’s taboo as all get out to walk next door and dump my financial queries on neighbors, who will probably end up judging me and straining our relationship.
What’s the answer? A phone call away. I keep my financial mentor on speed dial. Whether she knows it or not, she’s an important part of my learning curve for my financial comfort. Everything from stamps to taxes, she’s probably got the answer. She’s the first line of defense between me and financial disaster, or at least financial incomprehensibility.
Just what does a financial mentor provide? Despite and because of other aspects of our relationship, it turns out that there are eight characteristics of our relationship that has evolved her into my mentor.
Trust: Blabbing, gossip and unadulterated sharing of information is completely absent from the relationship. Advice is honest, answers straightforward, and the instance of “I don’t know” is readily employed when necessary.
Peace of mind: You are doing the right thing, or a good thing, or a reasonable thing. It’s nice to hear someone say that in a world where peers are pulling this way and commerce is pulling that way and the economy is pulling whichever way it is pulling that day.
A reflection: You are not doing the right thing, and your mistake can lead to insecurity or a major hitch in your budget. The way you see it and the way it appears, despite your opinion of appearances. The motto may be “I don’t care what the Jones’ think,” but they may be right.
Opinionated advice: Exploring what to do about a given situation with another is better than brooding over it alone. Choices, options, and a fair discussion of consequences of each choice are the building blocks of a good decision.
A jumping-off point: Not everybody knows the answer, but may have a better idea of where to look. Even if I know my mentor doesn’t know, I can just call and ask to find out what steps she would take. If I don’t like the results, I call her back and ask for a second opinion.
The answer: Sometimes it’s just as sample as Q and A. What is…This is…Thank you, goodbye. I would expect this type of service from tax professionals or bankers. You never know what people happen to be experts at.
An example: Someone who doesn’t mind being observed in their habits, and is comfortable enough in those habits not be self-conscious about them with you. Not that I’d do every thing her way, but it’s good to see the experience that some ways work and others don’t.
Space: Choices are made, and disagreements about those choices are allowed. No prying, digging, snooping, scolding, harping, or any other abrasive behavior. Even if we spend hours together exploring all the discussions above, I know I’m not her, and she knows she’s not me, and in this manner we agree to disagree. And I will always come back if I need help.
If you don’t have a financial mentor, it is possible that the above qualities are present in other aspects of a friendship you already have, like about romantic relationships, school, or religion. If they aren’t, maybe they can be explored. In many cases, all it takes is one question to open the door to a long, lasting, and fulfilling relationship. You never know what answers are in someone else’s experiences, or whose experiences can hold answers for you.
Image courtesy of arielmeow