It is a pretty tough thing when you are sitting down with a client, and the conversation ends in tears. It happens more often than you might think.
On the latest occasion I was talking to a new client about what they were trying to achieve and why they had come to see us for advice. As is usually the case I started with “Why are you here?”. The lady concerned was of Italian parentage, lived in Melbourne, was in her late twenties and said she wanted to put plans in place to save up for a home deposit.
I went about gathering some more information, so got a rough idea of where she stood now, what her income and living costs were, how she was going at handling her finances, did she have any credit card issues etc. usual sort of stuff. It was then time to look more closely at her goals and objectives, short medium and long term, and it was here that the “fun” began.
My client was well educated, intelligent, and was earning a significant salary for her age and experience. I asked her how much she thought she might need as a deposit, what her dream house looked like, what sort of time horizon she had for achieving this goal. As she became increasingly withdrawn from the conversation, I could tell something was not quite right.
The tears began to flow when I told her that it seemed quite possible that she could achieve her goal in the time frame she was looking at, and that we just needed to put some structure around her finances to achieve what she wanted. As you can imagine I was a bit puzzled at her reaction, after all I had demonstrated that her goal was achievable, that she could have what she told me she wanted.
“I hoped you would tell me I couldn’t get there” she said, “I don’t really want a house”.
It turns out my client is very happy living in rented accommodation around Lygon Street, an area which she (and I) know she will not be able to afford to buy property in. She loves her current lifestyle, but felt that buying her own home was what was expected of her as an adult. Her mother in particular was putting significant pressure on her to settle down, buy a house, (and no doubt find and marry a nice Italian boy and have lots of bambini) There have been a number of arguments about the issue, and in the end she had succumbed and come to see me.
Your goals, your dreams, your aspirations are entirely yours. Weight of expectation from those around you should not have any bearing on them, they are an important part of who you are, and are really no-on else’s business. After passing over a box of tissues, I explained this to my client and asked if it was OK to talk this through, and explained my view of goal setting. Not everyone wants to own a home (and have the associated mortgage), not everyone wants to have a family, not everyone wants a backyard, or for that matter a car (this lady doesn’t have one).
We started again in discussing what she wanted to achieve, and it was quite simple really
- She felt that she was wasting the opportunity of her significant income, and was spending more than she should on stuff she didn’t need.
- She wanted to accumulate a reserve to give her some financial security.
- She wanted to feel more like an adult when it came to her finances. Whilst a home was not what she wanted now, she recognised that working towards “something” was important.
- In the medium term she wanted to leave her current employment and go on an extended overseas working holiday – to anywhere but Italy.
The strategies for achieving all of this which we have put in place are quite similar to what we might put in place in order to save for a home deposit, but for this client it was not about the mechanics, it was about the REASON.
Note to self, never assume you know what a person’s goals are, even if they tell you, they might be telling someone else’s story.
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