Monday, April 19, 2010

Financial evangelism: It's what we do

By Dan Danford, CRSP
Principal and CEO, Family Investment Center

Our Facebook Fan page describes what we do as “Family Finance Evangelism.” I guess that makes me a family finance evangelist!

What do we mean by that? Here’s what Wikipedia says about evangelism: “Evangelism refers to the practice of relaying information about a particular set of beliefs to others who do not hold those beliefs.”

Our particular set of beliefs:

• Financial success is a personal choice and responsibility.
• Financial success requires family savings.
• Financial success requires wise investment choices.
• Financial success is enhanced by a family stewardship team.

Many people share some of those beliefs. I’ve been working in this field since 1983 and my experience says that some is not good enough. Genuine financial success flows to people who share all of these beliefs. A few words about each one:

Personal choice and responsibility: We all know people who enjoy privilege of talent or birth. Most of us don’t. The amazing thing is that it doesn’t really matter much without a sense of personal responsibility. Alternately, we all know people of modest means who achieve remarkable success. Success is mostly a matter of choice.

Family savings: Distant family goals require money set aside today. If every dollar flowing into a home flows right back out again, it’s not there for education, retirement, or other crucial goals. Success requires regular and systematic savings.

Wise investment choices: There was a time when this wasn’t so important. Today, the time distance between saving to spending can last a half-century or more. Retirement dollars invested at 30 have to buy medicine when we are 90. Invest wisely to serve long-term family purposes.

Family stewardship team: Do-It-Yourself isn’t very helpful when there are 25,000 mutual funds, 6,000 stocks on the New York Stock Exchange, and the Tax Code runs 1,000+ pages. Is it really possible to know enough from CNBC or an occasional glance at the Wall Street Journal? Recruit a qualified team to help you succeed. (A pastor or elder might be helpful, too.)

Our role as investment advisors is to help people achieve pesonal and family objectives. We don’t know all the answers and we can’t predict the future. But we can help people discern the path most likely to help them achieve family goals. There is both art and science in what we do, but it’s all we do, for hundreds of families and clients.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary uses the phrase “militant or crusading zeal” in their definition of evangelism. That’s my point today. There are four key beliefs that are most likely to help people achieve family goals. I’m a Family Finance Evangelist. My zeal is to help people succeed. It takes four principle beliefs.

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