Several years ago, I attended the funeral service for a friend and client.

I listened with intent as her younger brother told of their upbringing. She was the eldest child to be raised on a farm. It was tough times.

The winters were brutal. Money was scarce. There was neither running water nor inside plumbing. The Great Depression was over, and World War II had begun.

One year her father bought a few beef cows at auction. Unknown to her father, the cattle were diseased, and the disease was passed on to the remainder of his herd.

Every cow was destroyed. The outcome was my young teenaged friend watching the auctioneer selling all of her family possessions from the porch of the family home. Imagine how she felt and what she thought.

As we met over the years, she was very cautious about money.

I wanted her to look to the long term. I encouraged her to take advantage of the returns that were prevalent in the investment markets. Nearly at every turn, she disdained my attempts.

Now I have some insight as to why.

When it comes to money and investments, we may reflect the total of our experiences.

We will either react to correct the failings of our childhood or having none; we may make our mistakes and correct from there.

Without question, the Great Depression had an indelible imprint on those who suffered through it. Some that came after have created their depression-like experiences.

Many years ago, I read a fascinating book entitled “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. The third agreement is “Don’t Make Assumptions.”

The problem with assumptions is that we believe they are the truth.

We are sure they are real. We make assumptions all the time. We make them about what others are doing. We make them about what others are saying or not saying.

We take from our assumptions and react. However, we commonly find that our assumptions were wrong and we have made decisions with false information.

My assumptions are created from my experience. They are not yours. You are not me, and I have no right to assume that I have a clear understanding of your feeling unless I ask and you tell me.

Assumptions are so dangerous when they are based on myth or poor information.

Without knowing the basis for strong feelings, we can do little to learn how to deal with the truth. Change is incredibly difficult in the best of circumstances, but change is nearly possible if the facts are unclear.

We need the light of truth to be certain we are accurate in our decision making. Decisions made from misinformation are often as wrong as the misinformation.

The way to keep from making assumptions is to ask questions. If I don’t understand, I should ask.

Understanding is the goal.

If I don’t ask, I will surely not know.

Tom and John Mills are registered investment advisers and certified financial planners. Reach them at 254-0155, MillsWealth.com. Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Strategic Wealth Advisors Group (SWAG), a registered investment adviser.

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