Carl Richards: Financial Plan Is Family Plan

HUNT VALLEY, Md. ( MainStreet) -- This is the last in a series that has featured guest posts from some of the most prolific bloggers and authors in the realm of money and life today. If you missed any, I encourage you to revisit the wisdom Derek Sivers, Chris Guillebeau and J.D. Roth shared with us. And we complete this series of superstars with the person I believe has taken the most unique approach to enhancing our understanding of personal finance -- certainly the most artistic!

Carl Richards is a financial planner, blogger and the founder of the elusive Secret Society of Real Financial Planners. Armed with a Sharpie and card stock, Carl used his limited artistic skills to communicate some of the more complex and profound truths of financial planning and investing to clients with simple sketches. His building body of work at BehaviorGap.com got more notice than he expected, and he was invited to become a regular contributor to The New York Times. In January, Portfolio/Penguin is set to publish Carl's first book, Behavior Gap: Simple Ways to Stop Doing Dumb Things With Money.

Thankfully, I've also had the privilege of getting to know Carl, and through that relationship I can certify beyond any doubt that his means, methods and message are not merely a smokescreen for attracting followers or selling books, but based on the foundational values upon which he grounds his life at work and home. He's been kind enough to share a sketch and a few words with us.

Carl Richards writes: It seems like making important financial decisions should be easy. After all, it's just simple math, right? We've all been taught that one plus one equals two. Consequently, we often think the process of making good financial decisions is as simple as plugging a few numbers into a spreadsheet or an online calculator. After hitting enter, we'll have the answer.

The problem, of course, is that it doesn't seem to be that simple. Making good financial decisions requires that we consider the implications of those decisions within the context of our lives. My life and your life do not look the same; therefore, they don't fit into a spreadsheet.

What may be a good financial decision for me may be a disaster for you and vice versa. In my day job as a financial planner, I'm often asked by friends or people in the media, "What are you telling your clients to do now?" I find myself becoming increasingly agitated by that question. Because of course the answer is, "It depends on the client you're referring to," since the answer will be as unique as their situation.