Snake Oil Still Doesn’t Work, But Discipline Will.

So often in life we want to find the easy way to attain a goal. Whether it is losing weight, getting more fit, or budgeting/managing money more successfully. Dating as far back as the 18th Century, and quite possibly much earlier, snake oil salesmen, and their like, have always been eager to prey on our collective human weakness of seeking a quick fix for difficult problems. The modern-day equivalent would include diet pills and investments with “guaranteed returns.” Unfortunately, there are no short cuts, nor easy ways to fix the problems that these modern-day snake oil products purport to solve.

Most of these problems do have simple solutions; that is not where the problem lies. The challenging part for most of us is finding the discipline to implement those solutions. If you want to lose weight, most of us know what is required to make that happen. Move your body and reduce your caloric intake. While that’s easy to state and understand, putting it into practice is much more difficult. 

Similarly, if your financial situation needs improvement, for many of us the solution likely needs to start with better budgeting. If you are spending more money than you should, relative to the money that is coming in, the simple solution is to reduce spending. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking about ways that you might be able to increase your income (the raise you think you should get at work, better investment returns, etc.), but those are, at best, only partially in your control. Reducing spending on non-essential items is entirely within our control. The process is not fun, and it can be quite challenging both to implement and to maintain, but the feeling of accomplishment as you begin to achieve success is unmistakable, not to mention the improvement in your financial health.

Whenever you try to create more discipline in your life, whether that is losing weight, handling money better, or anything else, the key is to find a sustainable way to make those changes. Finding the discipline to make difficult changes is highly personal, and different for each of us. The trick is to find what will motivate you to make the changes you desire and maintain them. If you can do that and begin to experience even small successes, that success will often take over and become the new motivation to help you maintain your new-found discipline. 

If you’re trying to improve your physical health, you might choose to hire a nutritionist or a personal trainer to educate you about the best way to achieve your goals, but also to serve as a motivator at least in the initial stages. Financial health has many similarities, and for many, it makes good sense to hire a financial advisor to help you determine your short-term and long-term goals, then come up with a detailed, written plan to achieve them. Once you have that plan, a financial advisor can help you maintain the motivation to successfully achieve it. 

A good financial advisor is not just a numbers person. Working with a financial advisor should be a collaboration, and, ideally a long-term relationship. Your advisor should not only understand your financial situation and goals, but also your larger life goals. They should also know you well enough to be able to help you find the motivation necessary to implement new discipline with respect to your financial health. Finding the right advisor is more than finding someone with the professional capability you expect. It is also about finding someone you trust at a gut level, and someone with whom you feel a connection. This is crucial to a successful and productive relationship, and it’s the reason why the tagline for Bernstein Financial Advisory is: Integrity. Loyalty. Trust.

John Bernstein