I read lots of financial books, enjoy discussing various strategies, and can spend hours fiddling with spread sheets but there are certain aspects of finances I tend to steer away from. Why?
Though I try to get into reading about stocks and municipal bonds and financial things sometimes I just spend a couple of minutes and get antsy and walk away. Even if I try to plow through I tend to read the words and mentally go off to someplace more enjoyable. Most of us are like this. We tend to be specialists. Certain aspects of management are interesting and challenging and others are just plain uninteresting.
That's okay. That's why we need a team of counselors who are good at what they do from whom we can obtain the information we need to make good decisions. What we don't like is someone else's passion. These people can be anyone from a real estate agent, a banker, an investment counselor, a tax person, and most important to me have often been my closest friends who have been successful in the areas I am weak. The Internet and blogging has made this easier than ever before but is no substitute for the face to face contact we get from personal interaction. All combined together can give overall and specific ideas to help you along the way.
The most important things needed to maximize this information is your own attitude and reactions.
1. It is important first to ask yourself "how is this person being compensated?" Any individual who represents a profession or organization is being paid by someone. Their opinions will be influenced or directed by those that keep them in business.
2. Equally or even more important is to make sure we don't already have our minds made up before we seek advice. If we are just trying to bounce our ideas off someone else let them know up front. It is amazing how often we all ask questions when we already have the decision in our minds already. If we are just looking to have someone pick out the errors in our thinking that's good but don't waste the time of others if we are not going to listen to what they have to say. A t.v. commercial states this best when the woman asks the question "Do these pants make my butt look fat?" Poor husband that didn't realize she was not asking for an opinion but a compliment.
3. Identify their credentials or at least know what they are. Now you may think that I am suggesting that the more trained they are the better. Not necessarily. Let's say a person was trained in the Agricultural College of Socialized Farming. They will have different training than the man who tells you his experience comes from three generations of farming the family homestead. Each will have a different perspective that is the foundation of everything they will tell you. I'm not suggesting that everything they say should be thrown out, just that we should "consider the source" instead of just disregarding or soaking it all in.
Once you have carefully chosen your counselors check in with them occasionally. Remember that times and circumstances change and our information needs to be periodically updated.
Be willing to help and advise others in your area of specialty. Life is not (or should not be) all about getting. More importantly is what we can give.
What is your weakness? Know and acknowledge your areas where you have fallen short in the past or do not know the answers. These are the areas to seek out assistance. We all like to have people we agree with and share our strengths for it gives us a feeling of acceptance and camaraderie. Don't give these up but don't stop there. Find people who will challenge, stretch, and sometimes even offend you. These can often be the ones from whom we learn the most.
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