Understanding The Importance of Financial Literacy
Financial education is in the DNA of Merriman Wealth Management. Paul Merriman recognized the importance of financial literacy when he founded the firm back in 1983. Now, 40 years later, it’s more important than ever to have access to trustworthy resources when it comes to financial planning. Since April is Financial Literacy Month, I thought I’d share some personal and professional stories highlighting how Merriman empowers our clients to live fully by providing peace of mind in their financial lives.
For myself, the path toward financial literacy started at a young age. I remember overhearing my parents discussing a 401(k). At the time, it was obvious this “complicated” investment account was a source of frustration, and getting answers proved to be overly complex. I knew then that I had to educate myself if I wanted to avoid those same frustrations later in life. I bought books on the stock market, studied modern portfolio theory as a teenager, and eventually earned a degree in economics. All these events led me on a path to becoming a financial planner, and I discovered that not only did I genuinely enjoy learning about these topics, but more importantly, I sincerely loved teaching others about how to take control of their financial future.
Fast forward to today, and I now have a family of my own. My wife and I have two beautiful daughters, and I constantly find ways to impart financial wisdom every chance I get. One such example I’m very proud of happened when my younger daughter, Emma, was born in 2019. At the time, my older daughter, Natalia, was interested in learning what I do for a living. I knew Natalia was a visual learner, so I did what any great teacher does: I broke open a new box of crayons and drafted a story with Natalia that teaches the basics of long-term investing! Natalia was so excited about our book that she asked if she could read it to her younger sister. This turned out to be a spark of inspiration because, after some careful searching, I realized there weren’t a lot of financial literacy books for young children. I then asked Natalia if we should publish the book so Emma could read our work over and over again. After a few more drafts and updates to our crayon illustrations, we published our first children’s book, Eddie and Hoppers Explain Investing in the Stock Market! This was the first time I could wear both my financial planner hat and my dad hat, and I couldn’t have been prouder.
Professionally speaking, I love what I do because I get to share my knowledge with my clients every day. The old saying, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” is why people reach out to a financial planner in the first place. The cash-flow blind spots for a soon-to-be retiree can be costly and might delay retirement for years. Or the knowledge gap in how to be tax-efficient might trip up a mid-career professional, which could cause them to pay more taxes than necessary. Quite often, these financial landmines are completely avoidable, and you just need a trusted financial professional to help map out the course.
Financial literacy is important for every stage of life. Whether you’re a mid-career professional trying to figure out what to do with an old 401(k) or are already retired and perplexed by how required minimum distributions (RMDs) work, it’s crucial to understand the financial implications of your choices. Just like compound interest, the earlier you start, the better the outcome. Here at Merriman, we have resources available through our blog, webinars, and eBooks that can help people make wise financial decisions at every stage of life.
Legacy of Financial Education
When I think of financial educators, at the top of my list is Paul Merriman. Paul’s retirement from wealth management did not stop his drive and passion for financial education. In the past, Paul was a familiar voice on the radio and PBS. Paul still creates valuable content through his blogs, podcasts, and books. Case in point: I personally believe Paul’s latest book, We’re Talking Millions!, should be required reading for every young adult. In addition to all the previously mentioned resources, Paul has created a curriculum at Western Washington University to teach the principles of financial literacy and investing to undergrads as an elective course, empowering the next generation to have financial wisdom. His drive and genuine love for teaching are inspiring to say the least.
There have been many changes in the world of wealth management over the past four decades, so I reached out to Paul to have a conversation about what has changed and what has stayed the same over the years. If you haven’t met Paul or heard him speak, it’s hard to convey in words his passion for financial literacy and education. He has a gift for teaching seemingly complex investing topics and finding a way for anyone to understand. One piece of wisdom that Paul shared with me is how crucial it is not to over-complicate retirement planning. He told me that a friend of his recently explained how to define retirement: “In retirement, we should not be doing anything we don’t like doing. That is a good definition of retirement.” In other words, retirement isn’t simply defined by the end of work. Retirement is better defined as reaching a point in life where work becomes optional.
The path to financial freedom is not a straight line; more often than not, it’s a journey filled with ups and downs. Through my experience as a wealth advisor and after my conversation with Paul, it’s clear to me that wealth management is more than just making wise investment decisions. Managing wealth involves ensuring all the puzzle pieces that make up a financial plan work together. Investing wisely is one piece of that puzzle, but it’s just as essential to make sure there is a plan to be efficient with taxes, put together a well-thought-out estate plan, and not forget to protect one’s wealth with the proper insurance. Here at Merriman, that’s precisely what we set out to do with all our clients. It starts with financial literacy, and through collaboration and education, our goal is to help the people we work with achieve their financial goals.
If you would like to learn more, click here to set up a time to meet with one of our wealth advisors.
Disclosure: All opinions expressed in this article are for general informational purposes and constitute the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of the report. These opinions are subject to change without notice and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual or on any specific security. The material has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, however Merriman cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of such information, and certain information presented here may have been condensed or summarized from its original source. Merriman does not provide tax, legal or accounting advice, and nothing contained in these materials should be taken as such.
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Alan loves coming to work every day to help successful people create a financial plan, so they can find more time to enjoy life. Taking the responsibility of retirement planning off his clients’ shoulders is something he takes very seriously, as he’s seen firsthand how big that burden can feel, especially when life throws you a curveball.
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