I do not believe that any professional can tell you, with any degree of certainty, what the future holds. There, I said it. Does this mean that when it comes to wealth accumulation and plotting a course for our economic future that we should shun working with professionals? The short answer is no. Working with qualified professionals has the potential to be quite useful.
Now, I apologize for what I am about to write. Not because what I am about to write is untrue or meant to insult. No. I apologize because what I am about to write is jarring. Heck, it jars me just to think about it.
The world can be a mean and nasty place. The world is filled with uncertainty. To quote from Robert Burn’s famous poem, To a Mouse, written back in 1786, “In proving foresight may be vain: The best laid schemes o' mice an' men Gang aft a-gley …” You may know this verse as “the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray.”
As some of you may know, I got my start in the financial services industry back in 1995. A few years later I became a professional firefighter. I was drawn to each arena – financial services and firefighting – out of a desire to help people. I suppose that is something that is fundamentally in my nature. I have been on this dual career track for close to two decades now. Interestingly, one endeavor informs the other.
When I was a kid, I went through a period of time when I felt bullied and picked on. At that time, I played football. I was on my junior high school team. The thing of it is, I was one of the youngest on the team, by as much as 2 or 3 years, and so when I got bullied it was tough to fight back.
Well, let me correct that. When I got picked on and pushed around, I just did not like fighting back. It sounds bad when I write it, but it was true. Who knows why? Maybe it was because I am the youngest of 9 children and as the baby, I had it relatively easy up to that point; I don’t know.
I’ll tell you this though, if a friend of mine was ever picked on or bullied, I was always – and I mean always – the first one to jump to his defense. I dove in head first to protect my friends, without ever thinking what would happen to me. I suppose it is just my nature. Oh, and on behalf of my friends I could actually fight like a badger.
When I was 14, I began training in boxing with one of my best friends. At that time he was already an accomplished amateur boxer and would go on to become the NJ State Super Middleweight Champion as a professional. Before long, I was more than capable of defending myself. In fact, I found that many of my past tormentors no longer seemed eager to test me. Go figure. Training and preparation have an interesting way of bending the odds to our favor.
When September 11th, 2001 came, I had been a firefighter for about 2 years. Bayonne, where I work as a firefighter, is just across the Hudson River from lower Manhattan. I remember the morning of 9/11. It was an amazing day to be alive. A great summer was drawing to a close, the weather was as perfect as could be and my life was going well. And then the World Trade Center in New York City was attacked. The Pentagon was attacked. Jets had been hijacked and turned into missiles.
On September 12th, a group of firefighters from my department got together and decided to go into Manhattan to help sift through the rubble of the Trade Center – ground zero – to look for survivors. I was part of that group. It is important for me to say, I was no hero. I just wanted to help like so many others. Hopefully, I thought, we might find some people who were still alive, trapped under the rubble.
From New Jersey, we crossed the Bayonne Bridge into Staten Island. From “the Island”, as it is known to its residents, we took a ferry into NYC. Back then, every day was greeted with the certainty of the sun rising in the east, setting in the west and the sight of the Twin Towers, the World Trade Center, standing as stalwart testaments to our stability and societal progress. Now, the sun shone, but the Twin Towers were gone.
We ended up working in that steaming hole in the ground for 3 days. It was rubble upon rubble. The air was thick with dust. We dug and searched and coughed. On day 2 at ground zero, a rescue dog ambled past me, nosed around in the shattered fragments of this apocalypse and began to pull at something. “Hey, I think someone still might be …” Before I could finish my thought/hope that a survivor was being found, the dog pulled out a slab of wrinkled flesh. In no particular hurry, it wolfed it down and walked on.
I was transfixed. I, along with my public safety colleagues, had been digging and searching for victims. For a moment, there was a glimmer of hope that we might see someone saved. But it was just a piece of someone; a sliver of a person who, on the morning of 9/11, got up and left home, fully expecting to be back with his or her loved ones by evening. The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray indeed. We didn’t even have time to save that piece of someone – a life cut short, an ignoble death ending in the belly of a dog. If you are finding this hard to believe, I understand. If didn’t see it happen in broad daylight, with my own eyes, I probably wouldn’t believe it myself.
I am currently a captain in my fire department. I am also an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician.) I have seen a lot over the years, much of it tragic. Frequently, we are called upon to go to someone’s home for a medical emergency. The scenario goes something like this:
“Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Aunt Mary, my sister etc. was sitting right here on the couch watching TV. They were fine. Then they just slumped. I couldn’t get them to answer. They stopped breathing. Please do something!!!” We are, too often, at the scene of someone who has passed away. Understandably and with rare exception, the person who called us is hysterically crying and practically hyperventilating. It is a sad, sad scene.
Once the family member has calmed somewhat, a comment usually follows that goes something like this, “We were just out walking in the park this morning.” Or, “we were just talking about what we were going to do together on Sunday. He was fine. I don’t understand what happened.”
Folks, we like to live in our bubble, ignoring some of the harsh realities of life. We try to ignore the all too real possibilities of illness, accidents, disabilities, death and outliving our money. Instead, almost all of us, except for those few lucid souls who have seen the truth and become financially sober, live in a world where we attempt to crowd out the tough parts of life with overconsuming. We eat too much and we buy too much. Our crammed basements and garages are often a testament to that.
We have been sold a bill of goods telling us we are rich when we are simply upper middle class at best. We buy luxury vehicles when basic, nice, late model vehicles would suit us right down to the ground. We buy watches and handbags and suits and televisions that just a few decades ago would have been the exclusive province of the truly wealthy. What is true wealth, financially speaking? In my mind it is a state where our assets work so well for us that even if we did not work, we would not have to worry about our economic future. How many people do you know who are really in that position?
Life is beautiful and wondrous and amazing. Life is filled with incredible experiences and good times. But life, like bullies, can also be mean and nasty if we do not train and prepare.
We do not know what tomorrow holds. But we do know that if we get off the meaningless consumer merry-go-round and develop some financial sanity, that we can develop a sound plan for our financial future that can help protect us against the unexpected. We can build wealth without sacrificing our current lifestyle, as long as we are willing to see things for what they are.
I hope I did not upset anyone. That is not my goal. I just want to help. Please consider developing a financial plan that will help keep you happy, not just now but in the future. This plan should not make you feel pinched. On the contrary, it will help to alleviate fears about the future and fill you with a sense of purpose and wellbeing.
Plan. Then take action. You might consider working with a qualified financial professional to help you.
Scott R. McGimpsey December, 11th 2017
This material was prepared by Scott McGimpsey and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources, however, we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Neither Summit Brokerage Services Inc. nor Scott McGimpsey is engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professionally services. If such assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal, state, or municipal tax penalty. Moreover, a diversified portfolio does not assure a profit or assure protection against loss in a declining market. UNIFIED PLANNING GROUP is an independent firm with securities offered through Summit Brokerage Services Inc., Member FINRA, SIPC