If you’ve ever wondered what your financial advisors do with their free-time, here’s your answer: Google geeky things like this. This happens to be one of my favorite things to look at each year. It gives us an indication as to where we are from a financial literacy perspective. This year’s list was very interesting. It proved one thing we always say…It’s not always about getting an answer. It’s about getting the right question to ask. So, here is the 2020 list with, or course, a KFS twist…
#1…How much is my house worth? Why would this be one of the most Googled questions in 2020? We know no one is moving into the city during COVID-19. So, my guess: they need cash! This was a tough year on a lot of households and cash-out refinancing is one of the cheapest ways to get it. This is especially so since we hit all-time low mortgage rates this year. The question, though, should be: What should my plan be to put me back on track with my life and retirement goals? Refinancing may be a great thing for you, but it can also cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars if you don’t use it wisely.
#2…What is Bitcoin? The simple answer is an all-digital currency that has no financial or government backing. Like all new products and companies, there is a lot of risk. Supply and demand drive the price of Bitcoin just like anything else. However, the underlying question is: Should you own Bitcoin? The answer, like many things in our business, is, “It depends.” Why should you own anything? What you own should reflect your unique situation, future and goals, family dynamics, and feelings about risk.
#3…How to write a check? Okay, after I picked my jaw off of the floor, this was a real “Aha!” Most of us learned how to balance a checkbook and keep track of our cash flow while doing so. This is not the primary method any longer - and provides proof that digital is not always better. Money psychology will tell you that it is important to handle money in order to understand its value. And a digital, bottom line statement doesn’t teach anything. This is one case in which old school methods might pay off since the real question should be…How do I create a budget?
#4…How much house can I afford? This question became even more pressing in 2020. The conventional wisdom approach to the answer could cause you to take a hard look at your other goals and/or lifestyle. This one requires a series of questions. What are my goals in life (now and in the future)? What is the priority of these goals? What will it take to fund these goals? Now, how much house can I afford?
#5…Where is my tax refund? Uncle Sam is the savings account for 37.5 million people. Did you know he pays you a whopping 0% interest on that savings? This is one of the single worst habits for Americans a whole. It is a tell-tell sign that we don’t keep a budget and we don’t plan ahead. Try a new question in 2021: Where should I be putting my extra tax savings each month in order to boost my financial picture?
World War II General George S. Patton stated, “If everyone’s thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.” In 2021, let’s make a goal. Let’s admit that most of the time we don’t even know the question to ask and we need to seek advice to gain it. Maybe this way we will all be thinking.