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VOICES FROM THE INDUSTRY: Why smart business people neglect their own finances

September 25, 2006

Over the past eight years, they've moved their home office to a new commercial space, grown their staff to eight full-time employees, and recently acquired an account that means hiring more staff.

All the while, they've been busy raising three sons and juggling soccer, music lessons and Cub Scouts.

Sadly, Margie's mother died and left Margie an inheritance-not enough to make her instantly wealthy, but enough that she needed financial advice.

After having their assets reviewed, Margie and Jerry found they were not fully funding their retirement account, and hadn't contributed to their children's statesponsored college tuition plan over the past four years.

Margie cut back on contributions at that time because they were experiencing a cash-flow problem. She realized she needed to get their investments back on track, but she just never got around to it.

Common situation

Margie and Jerry's situation is not unusual. Entrepreneurs understand the importance of saving for long-term financial goals-yet personal finances takes a back seat when it comes to driving the business.

They know it's important to revisit their portfolio periodically and reallocate investments as needed. But they don't act and the money sits.

They are more apt to seek financial advice when there's a sudden increase in cash flow, like a big product order or sale of their business, and they're looking for investment help.

These are smart, savvy people. They hold master's, engineering or law degrees. They've built their business, or expanded their practice or franchise under challenging circumstances, often at great personal expense. They're at a stage where they no longer have to reinvest the money back into the business or juggle to pay vendors. They know they should do a better job at managing their investments, but there's the notion of, "I'll get around to it"-and then the next big order comes in.

The result is their money is sitting in money markets or in under-performing investments.

The best way to regain control is to make your finances a priority-whether you choose to manage your portfolio yourself or let a financial professional do it for you.

Getting started

If you decide to go it alone, that means finding a partner who can provide lowcost, quality tools and research so you can make the best decisions possible. For those who have not reviewed their portfolio in the past six months, you should seek professional help. You have worked too hard for your money to sit idle.

If you've intended to do it yourself, but haven't, or recognize you could use some help, here are some suggestions:

Admit that you don't have the time, and just let go. This is often the toughest part for entrepreneurs who are used to being in charge. Sure, you can do it yourself, but why? You pay your accountant and lawyer for their services. Go to a financial advisor and put your efforts into growing your business.

Treat it like any other client meeting. Once you've decided to go to a financial advisor, make the appointment-even if it's six months from now. Between now and then you'll find an excuse to cancel, so treat it like a client meeting and resist the temptation to reschedule.

Give yourself a holiday present. Since the holidays are slow for many business owners, it can be a good opportunity for you (and your spouse) to meet with a financial advisor. Reward yourself for having the good sense of making personal finance a priority-by delegating it to somebody else.



Dunker is the branch manager of the Indianapolis TD Ameritrade branch. Views expressed here are the writer's.
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