I recently watched a Swedish film by Ruben Ostlund called “Force Majeure” which had me squirming in my seat. Its the story of a family on a skiing holiday in the alps, who get caught up in an avalanche, which of course is merely symbolic of everything else that is going on in their lives. It’s a convincing story if somewhat realist and slow in pace. As someone that has only been skiing once (which I loved) but also knowing many people that have had fairly miserable and even tragic tales from the slopes, this film ended any thoughts I had about taking my family on a skiing holiday, even though I am well aware that it can be a wonderful experience.
I won’t spoil the story for you and it probably isn’t what you may expect of the story from simply using the words family, holiday, skiiing, avalanche. However this is an exhausting look at how stress is handled, magnified in the dynamic of a family holiday. In the film, the couple (Tomas and Lisa) seem much more willing to take risks and lead their two young children in a way that I simply wouldn’t even contemplate – because I think of them as being unsafe. However its deeper than that.. its also the risks people understand and assess (or not) on a much broader level. The nation that build Volvo’s (the safest cars?) flips the notion of risk on its head when reduced to the individual and relationships.
The film prompted much discussion and reflection, but with my my financial planner hat on, I tried to draw a few lessons. On the one hand, the setting of busy people carving out time to spend with their family and friends and enjoying “the good life” is some of the “stuff” that is talked about in a financial planning meeting… ie. how do you really want to spend your time? what do you value? what’s the purpose/reason for you working so hard? This is only part of the start of a conversation, which invariably lasts much longer than a single meeting…. after all we are discussing your life plans right?
In the design and implementation of a financial plan and experiencing the “process” I believe that many of our clients look for a sense of leadership and guidance, not in a patronising way, but one that reflects a weathered, seasoned expert that has been on the track getting people from A to B. I do not believe that they expect me to take shortcuts, go off-piste or compose a different version of reality to suit my perspective. There is far more to it than simply getting from A to B anyway… its the journey and your unique values and “milestones”.
Many of us were brought up to ask questions, but soon learned that to do so exposed a lack of knowledge. The peer pressure of school for many is more than sufficient to have the opposite effect to the one your teacher hoped for. For many this carries into adult life, not wishing to ask “dumb questions” for fear of being seen to appear foolish. I believe that there are no “dumb questions”… none of us knows everything. So in the perilous world of investing and planning a life (which doesn’t come with an instruction book) it is sensible to get a guide, someone that you can trust to help you with your journey. Even the best skiiers were taught and the very best still get coached.
The final sequence in the film reveals someone that is paid to take people from A to B yet appears to possess none or very few of the required practical skills, let alone social ones. As for me, I may have a different take on the risk of skiing, those of you that are skiiers may think I’m daft… that’s not really my point, but merely to highlight and understand the risks involved. Thats also partly what I do for clients – helping them to see the risks that they are really running, be that taking too much (or too little) investment risk, banking their future on the sale of their home/business, gaining an inheritance and so on… none of which is “wrong” provided that you know what you are getting into… its not a matter of “a different perception” but of seeing what is there. Just because I wouldn’t risk it, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t… but you may want to benefit from taking a moment or two to ensure that your thinking and assumptions are “solid” and that you aren’t standing on very thin ice… or hurtling down a mountain in the fog. So what are the risks you are running within your own financial planning? Why not begin a conversation with me to make your journey much more sure-footed.