Learning How to Trust the Process, Step by Step

I wanted to skip steps and I didn’t even know it.

Recently, I inherited some money, and I’ve struggled to figure out what to do with it. I’ve been caught between wanting a new, more luxurious lifestyle, and wanting the money to grow and provide an income for me in retirement. Should I invest in the stock markets? Should I buy property? Should I start a business? Or, maybe I’ll travel the world, and a whole new set of doors will open up to my potential future of fulfillment. As soon as I got the money, I wanted a new wardrobe, a new car, and better teeth, but I was afraid to spend without a plan. I had analysis paralysis.

After many conversations with my trusted advisor, I decided to open a business. I put together a budget and planned to invest the rest of the money in stocks. In my mind, if I didn’t get all of the cash allocated and locked in, I’d spend it frivolously on clothes, travel, and self-improvement. I’d been told (mostly by my male friends) that it was silly to leave a lump of money in a bank account earning less than 1% when I could have it earning big dollars for me in “the market.” It made me feel a bit panicky, like I was falling behind. Yet, I was further ahead financially than I’d ever been in my life!

When I put my stock investment plan in front of my advisor, her facial expression told me everything. She peered at me through squinted eyes, from under a knitted brow, and asked why. I sputtered out the typical responses: I had time to leave the money invested for at least ten years, I had a budget to cover my other needs so I wasn’t tying up all of my liquidity, and I wanted to build a portfolio to help me live comfortably in retirement. She nodded and listened politely as I spoke, but the squinty face remained. I could tell I wasn’t making any headway.

“Aren’t you starting a new business?” she asked, slowly, as if the answer to her facial expression was contained in that question.

“Yes, but I have all the start-up fees covered in the budget, so that piece is well-funded.”

More nodding, still squinting, she replied, “Maybe you should wait, and get the business going before you tie up the rest of the money. You never know what might happen. Once you’re making money, then we can come back to investing in the markets.”

“I was frustrated. I felt like I was being held back. Besides, look at all those rich people… they didn’t get wealthy by sitting on the sidelines and playing it safe, right? Right?”

Was I ever wrong! I am so glad I listened to professional advice instead of coffee-shop talk. Three weeks before my business was set to launch, Covid-19 landed on our shores and everything changed. I had to cancel the workshops I had planned and return the tuition money to my new clients. The funds I had spent on marketing and promotion were lost. That piece of start-up capital will need to be replaced, as I’ll have to begin again when businesses are able to open for gatherings. I also lost the income I had hoped to be making. I am so thankful I did not invest all of my money in stocks. I’d have to pull some of it out now, when the market is down, just to keep going with my “foolproof” plan.

I’ve learned so much through this process, but the biggest takeaway is almost counter-intuitive to what many of us believe about making money grow: it’s OK to go slow.

“It’s OK to take your time and really figure out where you want to go, and how to get there safely, smartly, and successfully.”