This past weekend I was participating in an advanced sailing class where we were learning how to raise a spinnaker, those colorful pluming sails that completely surround the front of the sailboat. We were in Boston Harbor, where sailing can be challenging with the wind blocked or redirected by buildings and freighters. But today it was Mother Nature who wasn’t cooperating.
Now raising a spinnaker for the first time feels complicated. It has many more sheets and lines, requires care in exactly where they are placed and has its own private boom. Even releasing the spinnaker is a controlled, planned process. Our instructor was barking orders to the four of us in our respective tasks but our helmsman was missing his cues. As the wind shifted abruptly, things began to quickly spin out of control. The sail burned through our instructors fingers and nearly completely off the boat while our boom swung in an accidental jibe, fortunately just as I ducked into the deck below. But our helmsman wasn’t so lucky taking in on the head and requiring a few stitches.
I thought to myself, coordinating our financial lives can seem very much like raising a spinnaker….placing sheets and lines very carefully and letting things unfold in a controlled, knowledgeable fashion. I also thought how, absent that, a single event such as an illness or accident, can cause our finances to quickly spin out of control. So who is helping you raise your spinnaker? Michael Kitces, a financial writer I greatly admire, states quite clearly the characteristics of a good financial advisor in this article. Read it and ask yourself if your advisor is providing you the central guidance you need to avoid disaster.