#TBT "Learning to Manage Your Portfolio When You Are 'It' In Life"

Nancy's guest column in The Clinton News in September of 1994:

I remember balmy nights growing up in Gulfport when our greatest pleasure was to play tag through dusk and into the night, and the fireflies were our only light.

We invented all kinds of variations of this wonderful game - like (heaven forbid, now) cigarette tag where you had to recite the name of a cigarette to get free. Of course, this was when cigarettes were still allowed to advertise on television, and we knew all the jingles by heart.

Then there was my favorite - freeze tag. As soon as the person who was "it" tagged you, you had to "freeze" and wait for someone else to race by and "unfreeze" you. Try staying frozen when a hundred hungry mosquitoes are nibbling at your ankles.

I never liked to be "it." "It" had to chase everyone else. "It" had to make sure the tagged ones didn't get away. And "it" never got a rest. You could certainly have more fun running away or just being frozen. But, somebody has to be "it" for the game to work. Nowadays, my "game" is to take care of myself and my family. I'm "it." I didn't count on being "it." That was really my husband's job, or at least, one we shared - like tag-team wresting.

At least you could trade off now and then. Most women don't think about the possibility of shouldering all the responsibility until they get the final tag, and they're "it."

Like the woman in her 50s or 60s who begins to look forward to the time when she and husband, George, can finally relax and enjoy the fruits of their labors. The children are long gone. The house is paid for. But, then she has to bury George. And the nice insurance man sends her check for her trouble.

At first glance, it appears George was worth more dead than alive, but every time she faces an empty house, an empty chair at the table, an empty bed, she knows she got the short end of the deal.

George used to take care of the money. He was the one who paid the bills, balanced the checkbook, met with the accountants and attorneys. That was the deal. But, she didn't count on this. Didn't count on being the only one to make these complicated decisions.

So she becomes like the tagged player in the freeze tag game, frozen with fear over having to manage all these details at this point in her life. But with all those mosquitoes buzzing around, staying frozen is no alternative. And how long can you run away?

You're it now, and the decisions you make about that insurance money and how you invest it will determine what you're able to do in years to come. I know it's overwhelming. I know because I have been there.

But, I also know there is a sensible way to do it that can actually give you the freedom to enjoy those things you've been looking forward to.

If it all seems too much for you to handle, get qualified and reputable help. Find someone who has your interest at heart, someone who can show you the possibilities, someone interested in seeing you achieve independence.

When looking for a financial adviser, ask how they make their money. Ask if they are commission salesmen or fee-only advisers.

I believe in using fee-only people because you avoid the conflicts that can arise when someone is tempted to push a product to generate a commission.

Consider having someone manage your funds on an ongoing basis, like having an attorney on retainer. With a fee-only person, this can be done very reasonably and can save you hours of headaches and paperwork. That person would also work with your accountant and lawyer in setting up estates and managing taxes.

Having someone manage your portfolio can give you some relief from the details. Just make sure that person understands your entire situation and has the ability to pull the whole picture together to fit your needs.

You didn't count on being "it," but when you're the only one left, you have little choice. Forget being frozen. Get moving. And forget running away. You can only go so far.

--Nancy Lottridge Anderson, Ph.D., CFA, September 15, 1994, The Clinton News

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