Jill Schlesinger
CBS MoneyWatch
Lessons from Molly and Kristine: Fear and Courage


I recently was fortunate enough to meet two extraordinary women, Molly Davis and Kristine Van Raden, authors (“Letters to our Daughters”) and public speakers who present seminars called, “The Matters that Matter” (for more information, go to their web site, http://www.mattersthatmatter.com/), which is intended to help people “clarify the things that matter most.” Over the next three days, I will attempt to apply some of Molly and Kristine’s messages to your financial life.
They began with an examination of fear and the power that this emotion has in our lives. I could not help but think about the clients who have told me that fear has been a major contributor to numerous financial problems that have arisen in their lives. There is the overall fear of dealing with finances (“I hate money stuff”); the fear that prevents taking action in our portfolios (“What if I sell ABC stock and then it goes up?”); and the fear of not dealing with the scary topics of death and illness (“I can’t even talk about drafting a will because that means I have to imagine not being with my kids”).
In each case, fear becomes immobilizing, a way of ignoring some of the core financial issues of your life. But what if you could take specific steps towards tackling some of your financial fears? The three steps described in the “Matters that Matter” include: identifying your fear, gathering information about the topic and then taking one step closer towards where you want to go.
So let’s break that process down and apply it to the first of the three financial fears. I find that most people actually know that they have fear around financial issues. But if you do not know it, one clue to understanding your fear is when you find yourself continuing the same behavior and are frustrated by the outcome. Once you realize that it’s fear that’s holding you back (not your spouse or your parents!) you might start to dig around and find out how to build your own financial plan (there are a myriad of resources on line to do this) or start researching financial planning firms in your area – make sure that the firm and the professional is registered as an investment advisor so that he or she acts as a fiduciary on your behalf. Then, the one step to take to bring you closer to conquering your overall money fear is to complete an online mini-plan or schedule a meeting with the planner.
You can take yourself through this process in almost any area of your financial life. For investment management, it may mean that you have to admit that you may not be the best person to manage your own portfolio. After all, if your fear of “missing out” prevents you from properly diversifying your portfolio, it may be time to interview a dispassionate professional, who has the resources and expertise to do the job. Likewise, if the idea of drafting a will makes you anxious, start to ask a few friends for the name of a good estate attorney and schedule a meeting. You will likely find that once a well-versed professional is there to guide you, the next set of decisions is easier to make. After all, as Molly and Kristine say, we’re not going to eliminate fear, but we need to acknowledge it and then step over it.