Does a guide improve your experience?
If I were to go to an art gallery with my friend John Scollard, I would get a great deal more from the tour. John is an artist and is curious about almost everything related to that skill. Art reflects the mind of the artist and deciding that I like or don’t like a piece misses important things. John knows why Picasso’s Blue Period ended and why the Rose period began.
The art makes more sense if you know more. Our lives are like that too. Consider Socrates.
“The life which is unexamined is not worth living.”
Examination of one’s life leads to better goals, more efficient achievement, more fulfilling relationships, and greater joy. It is hard to do it by yourself though.
Sometimes there must be a guide. Not to tell you where to go or what to do or what to believe but rather to offer insights from outside your experience. Things that may take years for you to acquire by experience. The idea of examining your life does not preclude help.
Museums and art galleries and zoos sometimes provide a “Docent”. Someone with deep knowledge of the subject matter. Docent is derived from the Latin docere meaning to teach, to instruct, to point out. Life needs someone to point out.
I like Jackson Pollock paintings and I cannot say why. They just make me feel good. Most people think their three-year-olds do similar work and maybe they do. This one, Number 5, sold for $140 million in 2006. Keep the kid’s work.
Pollock stopped naming pictures at one point because he thought the names added nothing. “…look passively and try to receive what the painting has to offer and not bring a subject matter or preconceived idea of what they are to be looking for”
Coming to art with preconceived ideas is apparently not a wise move.
Amateurs lack most of the mental skills and some of the craft skills that the skilled professional artist takes for granted. It is near impossible to be a highly skilled amateur. No one has the time.
So then, in another vein, why do people insist on doing their own financial planning?
There is no single good answer, but the media indirectly teaches people that it is easy. It must be easy because so many writers think that you would have far more money if you paid nothing for management and advice. They would be right if you could get the same answer without advice or management. That is an unrealistic assumption. Similar in some ways to the idea that your toddler is a budding Jackson Pollack.
If you do not wish to engage the services of a financial planner, engage a docent. A guide. Someone who can provide insight and help you avoid the obvious pitfalls.
Most financial things are more subtle than they appear and few people spend enough time at it to discover the subtleties.
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Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.