July 06, 2017

“You have to live on 24 hours of time.
Out of it you have to spin health,
pleasure, money, content, respect
and the evolution of your immortal
soul. Its right use…is a matter of
the highest urgency.”

Arnold Bennett, “How to Live on 24 Hours a Day”

How much of our time is spent merely existing instead of living?

This was the question posed by Arnold Bennett in his 1910 book “On Living.” Bennett, a novelist and magazine editor, concluded that the Industrial Revolution had resulted in a life so dominated by the rigidly structured demands of business and earning a living, that it left very little time for enjoying the supposed benefits of innovation and greater wealth. Sound familiar?

The Tyranny of the “Have-tos

Here’s a simple self-assessment of the time in your life. It can be done in your head, but there might be value in putting the answers on a sheet of paper or the electronic device of your choosing.

  • Make a list of the “have-tos in your life, i.e., the things you must do on a regular basis to keep yourself alive and well. Have-tos might include eating, sleeping, working, paying taxes, etc. Earning a living is likely your ultimate have-to, because what you earn determines what you eat, where you live, and how the other have-tos are addressed.
  • Make another list of the “ought-tos.” These are things you don’t have to do, but know would be to your benefit if you did them. Ought-tos might be things like getting in shape, acquiring a new job skill, saving for retirement.
  • If you can, think of your “want-tos.” These are items that you’d like to develop or experience because, in the words of psychologist Abraham Maslow, you see them as part of your self-actualization, of becoming all you were meant to be. Maybe it’s the work you’d do if money wasn’t an issue, or your “bucket list” of experiences.
  • Finally, make a list of distractions or diversions, things you do to relieve the stress of all the have-tos and ought-tos that get in the way of never getting around to the want-tos. It’s going out with friends, watching the game on TV, hitting the nearby casino, or doing the Sunday crossword.

If you’re like many Americans, your assessment will show a time-consuming list of have-tos, a number of ought-tos that you’re trying to address, and some distractions that give you just enough relief to keep you hoping you might, one day, find the time and resources for your want-tos.

You might also conclude you are wasting a lot of time. It’s easy to look at your distractions and say, “If I didn’t blow two hours watching Robin Williams’ stand-up routines on YouTube, I could have…” and insert an item from your ought-to or want-to list.

But even if we eliminated all wasted time, most of us still couldn’t get to our want-tos, and maybe not even all of our ought-tos. Here’s why: There are only 24 hours in a day, and have-tos can be very demanding. Furthermore, the idea that we can be productive every waking moment is a myth; we need diversions. Experts say the typical employee works only three hours in an eight-hour shift; the rest is filled by distractions, like reading e-mails, gossiping with co-workers, etc. With greater discipline, you perhaps could rescue a few distracted hours, but not enough to satisfy the ought-tos and want-tos.

Successful time management is not about devoting more hours to more activity. Rather, it is primarily about becoming more efficient with our time, often by leveraging someone else’s time and expertise.

A proven way to be more time-efficient is to get professional assistance, especially for help with your ought-tos. These professionals are individuals who are willing to make your ought-tos their have-tos. They add knowledge, assist in execution, and focus your efforts so that your ought-tos get done – in less time. But how many of us proactively use professionals for anything?


Benefits of Professional Assistance in Personal Finance

As an example, consider the ought-to of personal finances. Managing your financial affairs is a big ought-to; there is a lot to know, and a lot to manage. Unless you’re part of that (very) small percentage of Americans who considers managing their finances a want-to, it can be hard to find the time and energy to do the job on your own. Yet if you don’t have mastery over your finances, it dramatically lessens your chances of being able to pursue your want-tos – for lack of time and money. For most households, personal finance is an ought-to that begs for some specialized assistance. Done right, professional assistance can deliver substantial time-related efficiencies:


Transactional Efficiency: When financial professionals perform services (like tax return preparation or legal documentation) or provide products (like insurance and investments), their expertise ideally results in a more efficient and effective financial life for the consumer; things get done quickly and correctly. This frees up time not only today, but in the future; if it’s done right the first time, it shouldn’t have to be done again later.


Strategic Efficiency: Financial efficiency isn’t just about transactions. It’s also about getting them to fit together to accomplish your larger objectives. In a 2008 white paper, CFP Thomas Warschauer listed six aspects of personal finance that benefit from professional input:

  • Emergency fund management
  • Debt management
  • Insurable risk reduction
  • Investment risk control
  • Goal assessment
  • Tax and estate assessment

Financial professionals can integrate these disparate pieces into a cohesive whole by helping you decide on your priorities and determine the strategies you will use to achieve them.

Making Professional Assistance Work for You

In many ways, seeking assistance from a professional is similar to enlisting the services of an executive coach. A January 2009 Harvard Business Review article, “Ingredients of a Successful Coaching Relationship,” identifies the critical factor for successful collaboration: Is the individual highly-motivated to change? If so, the HBR says there is a good chance coaching will be effective. Conversely, “Blamers, victims, and individuals with iron-clad belief systems don’t change.” Professional assistance is a waste of time if you’re uncoachable.

Another key factor highlighted in the article was the necessity of good chemistry between the individual and the coach: “The right match is absolutely key to the success of a coaching experience. Without it, the trust required for optimal executive performance will not develop…Do not engage a coach on the basis of reputation or experience without making sure that the fit is right.” To continue the sports metaphor, there are many game plans for personal finance. You need to find the coach, or coaches, that can help you win the game you want to play.

This Is All About Time

It’s understandable that many interactions with financial professionals focus on money. As a result, consumers often miss the idea that effective financial management is ultimately time management; it gives you more time – and money – to pursue your want-tos, the things that are most important to you.

It is no exaggeration to say that most consumers under-utilize the services of financial professionals. They don’t take advantage of the variety of efficiency “extras” many professionals offer, often on a complementary or discounted basis. It might be an app that aggregates and updates your accounts in real time, preferred access to other professionals, or just the wisdom that comes from years of seeing the “next big thing” come and go.

Time is a fixed element in life. You can’t buy a longer day to get everything done, you can only be maximally efficient with today’s minutes. So, when you consider the breadth of issues involved, and the accompanying details, making personal finance a do-it-yourself project seems incredibly inefficient.

If you are really motivated to change the way you spend your time, it may be time to get serious about professional assistance. 

This newsletter is prepared by an independent third party for distribution by your Representative(s). Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal or investment advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed reliable, please note that individual situations can vary, therefore the information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice. Links to other sites are for your convenience in locating related information and services. The Representative(s) does not maintain these other sites and has no control over the organizations that maintain the sites or the information, products or services these organizations provide. The Representative(s) expressly disclaims any responsibility for the content, the accuracy of the information or the quality of products or services provided by the organizations that maintain these sites. The Representative(s) does not recommend or endorse these organizations or their products or services in any way. We have not reviewed or approved the above referenced publications nor recommend or endorse them in any way.      

Lifetime Financial Growth, LLC is an Agency of The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America® (Guardian), New York, NY. Securities products and advisory services offered through Park Avenue Securities LLC (PAS), member FINRA, SIPC. PAS is an indirect, wholly-owned subsidiary of Guardian. Lifetime Financial Growth is not an affiliate or subsidiary of PAS or Guardian. © Copyright 2017   2017-41381   Exp. 6/2019