• Malissa Marshall, CFP®, EA

Feeling Stuck?

Updated: Jul 29

Dear friends, family, and colleagues, Greetings from Addison County, in the heart of the Green Mountains! Welcome to the inaugural issue of my monthly newsletter. My firm was successfully registered with the state of Vermont on February 28th, and I've spent a lot of time since then thinking about how to introduce both my firm as well as my approach toward financial planning. This newsletter represents attempt #1. I hope you find it thought-provoking! Above is a picture of our lovely falls on the Otter Creek, taken from the historic Marble Works in Middlebury. I take this image as a metaphor for why people struggle so much with their finances. Notice anything odd about the view, anything out of place?

How about now? Frequently, it seems, a tree gets stuck inexplicably, at an untenable angle, with water crashing all around it, and yet it will not budge. Does that sound familiar?

The topic this month is about feeling stuck in your financial life, whether from a new situation – a new baby, a new marriage, a new job – or from a situation that has long gone unattended – saving for your kids’ college tuition, investing your retirement account, or having too many goals to choose between – and you just feel a need to start over. You might feel life cascading relentlessly around you, and perhaps you are doing cartwheels down the middle of the road right along with it, but there is one issue at the center of it all that leaves you feeling paralyzed and vulnerable: stuck. So what do you do?

Financial planning, at the heart of it, is about making choices, which is both liberating and frightening. Liberating because it allows you to shut down all the noise from the media about how much you should be saving, which types of accounts you should be using, and what types of investments you should be putting your faith in. Frightening because the question comes back to you to answer for yourself – what do I want? Why are these goals important to me? Moving away from the idea of a magic number you can accumulate and then use to retire to a life of ease, instead ask yourself: when do I want to retire? What kind of retirement do I envision for myself? Or perhaps other questions are more relevant for you right now: how can I pay off my student loan debt and meet other financial priorities at the same time? How do I save for a house, and what does "affordable" mean? How should I think about saving for college, or otherwise supporting my children after high school so they can launch successfully into the world? However deeply you delve into these questions, reflecting on the why of them will provide deeper insights into your priorities and values, which will in turn provide the missing road map you need to make better financial decisions. Over the next two and a half months, I’ll offer a special one-on-one series called “Financial Boot Camp: Back-to-School Edition,” in which we dive into these questions and come up with a couple of tangible goals, analyze your current financial situation, and then develop a plan for how to implement your goals. The intention is to provide an introduction to the practice of financial planning for those who have limited time, and/or who might just want to start with one or two questions. You can sign up for a free initial consultation if you have additional questions or want to explore whether the series might be right for you. Otherwise, I’d be happy to hear from you if you have any questions you'd like me to address in the next newsletter, if you have any feedback you'd like to share, or if you just want to say hello!

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