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Carl Richards: Financial Plan Is Family Plan

Real financial planning happens at the intersection of your life and your money. The problem, of course, is that this intersection is an emotional place. I think this is a challenge because most of us were raised with the idea that money, sex, and politics are not things we discuss openly or in polite company.

Most of our parents felt like it was their job to protect us from the financial side of our families. We didn't talk about money at the dinner table, and chances are we didn't talk about money at all. Our parents' well-intentioned desire to protect their kids has left most of us ill-equipped to deal with the emotional issues that surround financial decisions and with the distinct belief that financial decisions can and should fit into a nice clean spreadsheet.

But they don't. Dreams, fears and our most cherished goals for our children don't fit into a spreadsheet. Often those things are what financial decisions are really about. It's not about finding the best investment; it's about asking ourselves why we're investing in the first place.

In light of this, how do we go about making good financial decisions? It starts with taking the time to get really clear about where we're trying to go and, maybe even more importantly, about why. So my suggestion is to stop watching Jim Cramer scream and put down the latest research report you got from the brokerage firm. Instead, take that time to have meaningful conversations with the people you love about money, your values as a family, and the kind of life you want to live together.

Tim Maurer writes: The subtitle of my first book was The Intersection of Money and Life, but I'm not sure I've seen anyone encapsulate it better. Many thanks, Carl!

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Tim Maurer, CFP, is vice president of Financial Consulate, based in Hunt Valley, Md., and a member of NAPFA, the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. He can also be found at

This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.
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