26 September 2023

What do jalapeños have to do with your financial plan?

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Shelley Leavitt Nadel* says every individual’s unique flavour preference can be used to understand our risk tolerance and capacity.

How do you feel about jalapeños? The last time I cooked with them, my fingers and lips burned for hours.

As a native Texan, you can imagine how embarrassing it is to have no tolerance for spicy food.

Thank goodness for cumin and garlic – undoubtedly the spice of life – which are staples in most of my cooking.

In contrast, my kids are connoisseurs of hot sauces from all over.

These differences are not a problem for the most part.

After all, variety IS the spice of life, and each one of us has our own unique spice tolerance.

If you’ve ever met with a financial advisor, undoubtedly she asked about your risk tolerance, which is generally recognised as a way to quantify your ability “to sleep at night” in volatile markets.

Sophisticated advisors will add another term – risk capacity – to ensure that the risk of loss in your investment portfolio does not exceed your ability to stay financially secure.

So, what do these two “tolerances” have in common? They both are unique to each of us.

Here are some ways to honour your uniqueness.

Keep it simple.

Food labels today can make even the most educated of us feel stupid.

What the heck is guar gum anyway? Processed foods are the biggest offenders when it comes to adding ingredients that come from the lab rather than from nature.

(Don’t believe me? Just read the label on boxed macaroni and cheese.)

For your finances, stay away from strategies that you cannot explain to your spouse or BFF.

Terms like Sharpe ratio, beta, and derivatives may sound important, but they will not help you make smart financial choices.

Most women are loath to admit that they don’t understand investing, so they default into either being too conservative or trusting someone else to make all the financial decisions.

Simply put, if your advisor uses jargon that makes you feel uneasy or sounds like another language, walk away and take your money with you.

You deserve better.

Be flexible and true to your personal tolerance.

Have you ever found a great recipe but disregarded it because of an ingredient you don’t like or can’t find in your area? Of course not.

Instead, you were flexible and came up with a substitute ingredient.

My favourite homemade BBQ sauce requires fresh chiles, but knowing my aversion to jalapeños, you can guess that I adjusted the recipe to fit my personal spice tolerance.

Financial flexibility is critical for long term success.

The investment strategies that worked in your 30s may come up short in retirement, and need to take longevity into consideration.

When presenting a financial plan to clients, we emphasize that it is a living, breathing document that should and will change constantly as they age.

Your financial priorities will shift over time and circumstance; the single 20-something’s needs are very different from those of the newly divorced mother of toddlers.

A strong financial plan has four core components: investments, savings, protection, and legacy.

Your long-term financial success will depend on keeping that strong core but being open and flexible when circumstances shift and opportunities present themselves.

Whether in your kitchen or with your financial advisor, celebrate your uniqueness and don’t hand over your “recipe for power” to anyone.

*Shelley Leavitt Nadel, CFP®, CLTC®, LUTCF is the principal Financial Advisor and owner of Financial Success Strategies, LLC. where she and her team offer comprehensive planning services to professional women and those who love them.

This article first appeared at forbes.com.

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