The Mirage of Security
by Lisa Toews-Daugherty
I’m an avid reader and generally have about three books going at any one time – an “educational” book, a book of fiction, and a romance novel (happy endings people - always!). I read because I find that the ideas that books contain can truly change my way of thinking and give me that nugget of truth that I can apply across all parts of my life.
I just finished a spiritual book entitled “Between the Dark and the Daylight” by Joan Chittister. The book is about the contradictions, paradoxes and ambiguities of life and how to find peace and contentment. She has a whole chapter entitled “The Mirage of Security.”
“Security is a fragile thing,” she begins. “Security, at least in the form of money, is meant to provide us with options in difficult times and, of course, it does. But it does other things as well, that too often become as much a burden as a blessing. Obsession with financial security can blind us to the joy of the present or block us from daring a less financially attractive future. There is a point at which security makes change difficult…”
In financial planning terms, I might say that obsession with financial security can lead to poor financial decisions. A singular, paramount focus on security can make us distrust the planning process, shoot holes in the plan, doubt the assumptions, question the results. Sometimes, the bigger the nest egg we’ve accumulated, the more fearful we are of losing it. It feels like there is more at stake, more to lose. Every investment looks risky. Every plan has a flaw. Every change has no guarantee. So we ruminate and stress over every financial decision to the point of inaction. We just freeze. We. Just. Cannot. See. Past. The. Risk. Yet without risk, there is no real return. Cash may keep your $1 equal to $1, but that $1 will have less purchasing power in 10 years than it does today. Its security is an illusion, a mirage.
The events of the current pandemic have only underscored how quickly our sense of financial security can be shattered by events completely outside of our control. We want our clients to have financial security. Of course we do! And we develop plans to make that happen long term, in good times and in bad. But it’s in uncertain times like now when our clients often find that the biggest value in working with an expert is not about investment selection. It’s about having someone point to the horizon and say, “There, that’s our goal. Don’t lose sight of it in the mirage before you.” We are being forced to change. Let’s take in the new normal, adjust, and continue to move towards the goal with purpose not fear.