Advice from the Cheshire Cat

With my daughter, I have had the opportunity to rediscover many classic children’s tales, but recently one scene in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland resonated with me in an unexpected way. As the story goes, one day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire-Cat sitting in a tree.

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where —”said  Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“—so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

From an early age, my father attempted to instill in me the importance of goal setting, but well into my twenties I continued to flounder through life without much purpose. It is true that the idle mind is the devil’s workshop, and over time I realized that setting goals provided the meaning and focus I needed to excel, in both my personal and professional lives.

There is no better illustration of the shortcomings of traditional financial advice than how Wall Street promotes investment performance monitoring.  Economic-minded individuals take comfort in all things numerical, but while numbers are necessary to measure progress, taken in isolation they disclose little to nothing about an investor’s success. Thus it has become commonly accepted wisdom that we must compare our numbers to other people’s numbers and to arbitrarily defined indices in order to derive meaning from the figures printed on our investment statements.

But have these comparisons really provided any insight into how well we are meeting our financial goals? Indeed, the desire to beat an index has become so ingrained that, for many people, it has completely replaced thoughtful, long-term planning.

We can see the evidence of this in one of the latest television commercials from a well-known brokerage house. It features a cartoon image of a disgruntled man frustrated with the economic conditions of the world around him. He complains about how he just wants practical advice and for people to stop talking with him about far-fetched dreams like owning a vineyard.  In other words, the corporate marketing executives are convinced the average investor has conceded that the economy is so bad that any life dreams they had should just be tossed out of the window.

I would be very disheartened if I believed we had regressed so far as a society. My life goals are my goals, and no external factors are going to prevent me from reaching them, including the economy. I retain hope that many Americans feel exactly the same way.

Of all the characters Alice confronted in Carroll’s Wonderland, consider that the Cheshire-Cat was the only one who actually listened to her. Perhaps Carroll was trying to help us understand the value of having a deeper purpose in our short life journey.

If you want someone that has not given up on the art of a dream and is truly willing to listen to your most passionate life goals, we are always here to help. If you are willing to settle for simply getting “somewhere,” then I agree with the Chesire-Cat that “it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

Your trusted guide and friend,

Brad F Fortier, CFP®

Certified Estate Planner™
President, Fortier Financial