Mr. Miyagi to Daniel-son: “"We make sacred pact. I promise teach karate to you, you promise learn. I say. You do. No questions."
--From the movie “Karate Kid”
This past weekend I watched one of my favorite 80s movies -- The Karate Kid.
When our naive Daniel-son meets Mr Miyagi to teach him karate, Mr Miyagi forces him to do seemingly mundane chores like waxing cars, painting his house, and sanding floors.
After weeks of grueling physical labor, Daniel-son gets frustrated because he doesn’t understand the relationship between those tasks and karate.
In one of the best scenes of the movie, he then confronts his teacher, challenges him, and threatens to quit, claiming he hasn’t learned anything.
In that scene Miyagi shows him how those repetitive movements apply to karate and that he was training him all along.
This kind of teaching method applies to your personal finances and investments -- as long as you’ve got the right personal financial trainer.
To be a successful long term investor and to take control of your personal finances, you must change your mindset.
If you manage your investments by yourself, you must perform certain uncomfortable tasks and slug through them no matter what, and you must do it in an emotionless way. Examples include:
Realizing that you’re not as smart of an investor as you think
Cutting your personal expenses so you can save more
Dumping loser investments that you never should have bought in the first place but which you’ve held for long periods of time
Firing your financial advisor who isn’t providing advice in your best interests or whose investment philosophy makes no sense
Sticking to an investment plan no matter what happens to your retirement portfolio
Pouring through your tax return to make sure your accountant hasn’t made mistakes
Making sure you’ve got an insurance plan and estate plan even though this may be one of the most boring exercises after a grueling workweek
For most physicians these tasks are so painful that you’re better off outsourcing them to a personal financial trainer, but you’ve got to find the right person.
That person must act kind of like “Mr. Miyagi” on the financial planning and investing side.
Your financial advisor must force discipline on you and hold you accountable for your actions not just collect the fee you’re paying him.
He should also be willing to fire you should you not comply.
He must impose restrictions on certain aspects of your finances and push you further than you could go on your own.
He must give you the no BS, cut-to-the-chase, brutal truth about the steps you need to take to achieve your financial goals -- whether you like to hear it or not.
And then he must force you to implement his recommendations.
All of this is done not to embarass you like Daniel-son, but instead it’s for your own good.
It’s to help you succeed.
“I say. You do. No questions.”
Making work optional involves some sacrifice -- something only a very few percentage of physicians are willing to do.
If you’re managing your finances and investments by yourself, be honest and think about whether you’re really taking the sometimes painful steps necessary to get results.
Or are you just sliding by status quo without getting anywhere?
And if you’ve hired a financial advisor, is he challenging you?
Is he forcing you to take the road less traveled?
If you’re not getting anywhere on your own, or if your financial advisor isn’t acting like your financial “Mr. Miyagi”, then you might be stuck being the naive Daniel-son for a long time.
If you’re ready to buckle up for a change, start right here:
I promise I won’t make you wash my car (though it needs a good vacuuming) or paint my house (though it probably needs a fresh coat).
Setu Mazumdar, MD, CFP®