The BIG Gamble; can you really afford it?
March 19, 2012
by Brian Wolf

Where did you get your values? I got mine from my parents, in part, and perhaps my environment also. I was born in Iowa, and then raised in a small town in Minnesota. My values as an adult haven’t changed much over the years, but my perspective on life certainly has.

As a 27-year veteran of the financial services industry, I have witnessed thousands of people as they have struggled with their own perspectives on values, money, and the gambles of life. One of the truths that I’ve learned is that we are all gamblers. Life is just one big gamble after another.

The dictionary defines the word gamble as, “to stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance.” Well, guess what? Doesn’t this pretty much describe your life?

Today, I took a gamble on getting out of bed and heading to the shower. I understand that the bathroom is one of the most common places to fall and injure yourself. I’m glad to report that I made it out of the bathroom just fine. Then, of course, I had to gamble with the stairs, the breakfast I ate, and, “God be with me,” I made it through rush hour traffic without injury or a fatality.

Once I got to work, I was rewarded with a kiss from one of my biggest gambles of all . . . my wife. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love this gamble, but it’s still a big gamble. After all, I did commit to this marriage deal until “death do us part.”

As a financial planner, I’m always interested when people tell me that they’re not risk takers or they don’t like to gamble. I’m not sure if this means that they don’t like life, or if they just don’t understand how much of a gambler they really are.

When I was a little boy, I remember my father telling me that farmers were among the biggest gamblers of all. Who else would risk their entire life’s savings year after year on something as risky as, will it rain enough, or will the sun shine enough? I once had a farmer tell me that he puts $100,000 into the ground every year, and then hopes he sees his money back later that year. Talk about a gamble!

Most of life’s risks are simply a part of daily life, and we can’t do anything about it. However, when it comes to your money and investing, the game changes. You now have control over being a risk taker or not a risk taker.

With so much risk involved in living already, I’m always encouraging people to evaluate their financial risks. Contrary to popular belief, you really can make a lot of money with non-risk investments. And if that’s true, in light of all the other risks you’re taking in life, why wouldn’t you at least want your investments to be safer?

Today, one of our investment clients asked me if I was going to look for mushrooms on my property. It occurred to me that looking for mushrooms is like looking for safe investments with great returns. If you go mushroom hunting with someone who knows where the mushrooms are, it’s relatively easy to find some mushrooms. It’s also easy to find safe investments with great returns if you’re looking with someone who knows what they’re doing.

In other words, for true success, make sure you have the right guide for either endeavor. In many of life’s gambles, you can afford to lose. Your retirement investments just aren’t one of them.

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