Replace financial cynicism with careful trust
Q: I had a really bad experience with a so-called financial advisor several years ago. Since then I’ve kept my affairs pretty simple and done everything I could for myself. Because of that man I really don’t trust anyone any more. The problem is that things are getting complicated enough where I do need some help. What’s the balance between being gullible and getting the help I need.
A: The word you are searching for is trust, and it’s something a bad person caused you to discard as too dangerous to handle when it comes to money.
When I was about five years old, I stuck a safety pin in an electrical socket and quickly discovered the conductivity of metal and the shocking power of electricity. I thought I would never go near a light socket again!
Until it got dark.
I discovered it’s hard to live in our modern world without electricity.
And it is just as difficult to navigate your way through your financial life without some level of trust. We trust the opposing traffic to stop when their traffic light turns red. We trust the food we buy from a grocery store to be fresh and free of harmful ingredients. We trust airline pilots to know how to take off and land jumbo jets.
So long as our system of mutual trust works fairly well, we’re fine.
But when it breaks down or disappoints us, we not only react…we may over-react. Our emotional pendulum swings from having a certain base-line level of trust in people and institutions, all the way to the other side, in which we claim to have no trust in any person or institution.
We become cynical. Financially cynical.
Trust comes in many forms. There is careful trust. Careful trust has been earned by repeated behavior that builds trust over time.
There is also careless trust. Careless trust is bestowed on a whim, by the naïve and is based on first impressions and wishful thinking. Careless trust is given in hopes of attaining convenience or a quick fix.
Con men and scam artists seem to have a nose for careless trust. They can smell it a mile away.
And once the bad guys have had their way with a carelessly trusting soul, that naïve person often swings from a predisposition of trust to an assumption of mistrust. They can become cynical.
Cynicism is born out of bad past experiences, which give rise to fear about future experiences.
Cynicism is a defense mechanism. It assumes everything and everyone will go wrong, therefore they’ll never be disappointed again.
Unfortunately, the moat built by the cynic to keep out the bad guys ends up keeping most good people out as well. You cut yourself off from ever being disappointed again, but you also cut yourself off from love. And help. And growth.
The remedy for careless trust is not cynicism. That’s like taking relational poison to kill the pain.
The remedy for careless trust is to learn how to trust carefully.
Careful trust does not assume everyone can be trusted, but believes there are at least a few out there that can be, and that they are worth the wait. Worth the search.
Thirty years ago, in describing the slowly thawing relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union, President Ronald Reagan adopted a Russian proverb, advising that both sides should, “Doveryai, no proveryai.” Trust, but verify.
Don’t give up on your search for an advisor you can trust. That person is out there. Keep looking. Then when you think you may have found him, don’t be afraid to ask for evidence.
Leave the cynicism behind. Learn to trust… slowly…carefully…and verify.
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