What Are You Really Worth? The Answer Is Probably Not on a Balance Sheet

A man holds a child on his back while another man high-fives the child outdoors.

At Griffin Black, we spend a lot of time thinking about our clients’ accounts. After all, our clients expect us to guide their investment strategies in a way that enables them to build wealth. But the most important conversations we have with our clients often center on matters that don’t boil down to dollars and cents. In fact, we’ve written previously about the importance of integrating your financial planning with the core priorities in your life: your “why,” in Simon Sinek’s terms.

Another way of thinking about this is in terms of your “true net worth.” Honestly, most of us do this all the time, even if subconsciously. Rather than conceiving of a person’s value solely in terms of their financial bottom line, most of us form opinions of others in terms of what they do—or don’t do—to improve their communities and the lives of the people they care most about. Many of us had parents who, while they may not have been able to bequeath large sums of money to us, added incalculable value to our lives. They were valuable; they had “true net worth.”

This is why we spend a great deal of time learning about our clients: what they value; what causes they care about; what they spend most of their time thinking about; what kind of legacy they want to leave behind, either for their children or for some other worthy cause. The answers we get are as varied as the number of clients we talk with; everyone is different, and no two solutions we propose are exactly the same. And the important thing is, those solutions are about much more than which stocks or bonds to buy and when to sell. What matters most to a person should be integrated with all the most important aspects of their life—including their financial plan.

This also impacts how we help clients deal with uncertainty. On the financial side, we go to great lengths to learn how much and what type of risk clients are willing to accept in order to achieve the returns needed to meet their financial goals. All investments carry some element of risk, and it’s vital for us to understand the client’s level of risk tolerance in order to build a financial strategy that will work for them. But there are more types of risk in life than financial risk. As we go through life, we experience events that change our lives in profound ways: changes in marital status; career ups and downs; death of family members; and other circumstances that are typically unexpected but come with immense implications for the rest of our lives. Any financial plan that does not take into account the potential need for adjustment in reaction to such uncertainties is not going to be effective in the long term.

For these reasons, we employ financial science: advice and guidance based on verifiable data—evidence—that we can use to increase clients’ chances of successful outcomes over the long term. No, financial science doesn’t give us the ability to predict what the markets will do in any given time frame, but it does offer useful perspectives on which to base strategic decisions.

The bottom-line goal of all this is to deliver for our clients financial plans that integrate with what is most important in their lives. This reduces stress, provides a basis for confidence in the ultimate outcome, and frees up time to spend providing real value to the people and causes they care most about.

If you’d like to have a conversation with a fiduciary, professional financial advisor about your “true net worth,” please contact us.

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