Your Personal Board of Directors

Real life has been a whirlwind recently. It sometimes takes me and Kim a while to make a decision, but once we do decide, we shift into high gear. So, after nine months of discussing the idea and another month of actual planning, we’ve spent the past ten days in a mad rush to prep our home for sale.

This morning, the listing for our condo went live.

View from our condo

Buying and selling real estate can be a complicated process. For one, it’s a major financial move — often the highest-dollar move the average person will make in her lifetime. For another, there are tons of legal considerations. Plus, there are always psychological and emotional issues to consider — even when you’re doing your best to make rational decisions like a money boss.

Fortunately, we have a Portland-area real-estate agent we trust. Andi — a former personal finance blogger — helped me buy this place in 2013. Since then, Kim and I have become friends with her and her husband. Andi knows us. She drinks beer with us. She reads Money Boss. She understands what we value. She understands our motivations and goals.

Because of this, she’s not only able to help guide our hunt for a not-so-big house, but also to give us good advice about how to sell the condo. With her aid, we set up a series of checklists to guide our preparation. She tells us what to do when. She also does a great job of managing my neurotic tendencies during the process. We feel confident that Andi is “on our team”.

Your Personal Board of Directors

Andi isn’t the only person on my financial team. Over the past 25 years, I’ve built a small group of trusted advisors. If I’m the money boss — both the CEO and the CFO of JD, Inc. — then these folks are like my board of directors. They have specialized knowledge that I don’t. They help me make (and keep) more money.

Here are the other experts who sit on the board of directors for JD, Inc.:

My accountant

I’ve known my accountant for 25 years. He’s married to one of my best friends from high school. He was one of the first people to believe in Get Rich Slowly as a business, and he helped me sell the site in 2009. Now he’s a cheerleader for Money Boss. I often say that I trust my accountant more than I trust myself, and I’m not joking. He’s not shy to let me know when he thinks I’m making foolish financial decisions. Most of all, he helps me navigate the murky, shark-infested waters of the U.S. tax code.

My “secret” assistant

The second of the two people I trust more than I trust myself is my friend Michael. He’s a career counselor at a nearby college, but in his spare time he has helped behind the scenes at my various blogging projects. And while I don’t turn to him specifically for financial advice, I do value his input on my personal life. Being a money boss requires mastering more than just dollars and cents — and that’s where Michael comes in.

My attorney

Most of us don’t need a lawyer very often, but when we do need one, it’s vital they give you solid advice. My attorney was my best friend in grade school. We don’t see each other nearly as we used to, but it’s still comforting to know that he’s familiar with my history — and with my plans for the future. Like my accountant, my attorney assisted in the sale of Get Rich Slowly. He’s worked with other members of my family. I’m grateful to have him as a resource.

My investment advisor

While the first four folks I listed are personal friends, my investment advisor is a complete stranger. As such, I don’t trust his advice nearly as much. He doesn’t know me and my needs. Still, he’s much more knowledgable about saving and investing than I am, so I find it useful to consult him, especially before big financial decisions.

My mentors

For the past decade, I’ve listened to the advice of the man I call my real millionaire next door. This frugal former shop teacher invested his way to wealth, and he’s generously shared his advice with me (and others). Plus, there are other folks I count as mentors, from a woman who makes her living as a real-estate investor to a guy who teachers at a local MBA program. When I need guidance, I look to one or more of these people.

My colleagues

I’ve been lucky to meet some amazing people during eleven years of writing about personal finance. They’re smart businesspeople. They’re great with money. There’s Jim Wang, for instance, who writes at Wallet Hacks. Jim is one of the sharpest entrepreneurs I’ve ever met; his advice is like gold. (Plus, he likes whisky as much as I do!) Or there’s Pete Adeney, better known as Mr. Money Mustache, who constantly challenges me to spend less and live a more optimized life. Or Jim Collins, who writes a great blog about investing and shares a secret dark soul like my own. Or Kathleen, my officemate, who’s one part of the team at Stacking Benjamins. I’m an old-school blogger; Kathleen is a new-school blogger. I learn tons from her.

My partner

Kim is a vital part of my personal board of directors. She’s naturally more frugal than I am. She’s more resourceful. She’s also keenly perceptive, and able to help me spot areas where I could develop better habits. (When I was married, Kris filled this position — and I still sometimes seek her advice!)

Your personal board of directors might look different. Maybe you don’t need an accountant or an attorney (although you probably do). Maybe your mother and father are a valuable part of your team. (And it’s unlikely that you have a group of bloggers giving you advice about what to do with your life!)

Note: The board of directors for You, Inc. isn’t a static thing. People will come and go with time. That’s okay. The key is to identify the folks you trust more when it comes to your money (and your life), and to seek their advice when you have important decisions to make.

Trust — but Verify

I’m grateful to have assembled my personal board of directors — even if these folks don’t realize that’s what I consider them! I’m the boss of this operation, but they’re valued advisors. All the same, I want to finish with a word of caution: Nobody cares more about your money than you do. And nobody else is as tuned into your goals and values as you are.

Ultimately, you are the boss of you. You should make your own decisions; don’t let others make them for you. You should never blindly accept a recommendation from your accountant, real-estate agent, or attorney. Listen to their counsel, but do your own research so that you can make the choice that’s best for you.

Here’s a real-life example from the sale of our condo: Based on her research, Andi suggested that we list our home for sale at $519,000, which would put it on par with the place next door that sold in November. Kim and I listened to her advice, but ultimately chose to list our unit at $497,000 based on a variety of factors.

  • We’re concerned that the Portland housing market is beginning to soften.
  • There are two units in our building that have remained unsold for weeks because they’re asking too much.
  • We want to keep the list price under $500,000 in order to fall within filters on Redfin and Zillow.
  • We want to get as many people in to view the condo as possible in the hopes we spark a bidding war.
  • We want to get cash for a new place sooner rather than later. (If we were taking out a mortgage on our next place, things might be different. But we need to make a cash offer.)

When I consult my personal board of directors, I listen closely to what they tell me — and why. But I don’t always heed their advice. Sometimes after considering what they’ve had to tell me, I make a different decisions.

I’m especially cautious of advice from advisors I don’t know personally. Andi knows me and my goals, so I trust her more than my home inspector, for instance. (I think my home inspector is great, and I always seek him out, but we’ve only met twice over the past fifteen years.) But there are very, very few people — only two, in fact — that I can truly say that I trust more than myself.

Who is on your personal board of directors? Who do you consider the most important advisors for You, Inc.? How do you decide who to trust? What advice do you have for those folks who might not yet have built this kind of inner circle?

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There are 19 comments to "Your Personal Board of Directors".

  1. Beth says 29 April 2017 at 04:42

    I really like this mindset and this article is really timely for me! I think the personal finance sphere is a little too focussed on DIY sometimes. I’ve realized in the past year that I would benefit from the help of an investment advisor, yet part of me still thinks that’s a weakness – that I should be able to manage it all myself.

    But this approach flips my thinking. Consider: The leaders I admire most are the ones who surround themselves with experts – and actually listen to those experts and delegate. Not the ones who micromanage and feel they should do it all, who don’t trust anyone but themselves. (I’ve worked for both kinds).

    This explains so much.

  2. Fire_at_45 says 29 April 2017 at 13:04

    I used to think that way about having a financial adviser. I was too busy raising a family and working a stressful job to worry about everything. Now I feel like I was taken. It wasn’t awful like some experience I just think my portfolio wasn’t diversified and I was paying a hefty fee for the service.

    It does pay to have a realtor you can trust. The last place I sold I think the realtor showed the place 30 times and gave us honest and helpful advise on the value of the property.

    Best of luck with the sale!

    • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says 02 May 2017 at 18:07

      My husband and I also had a great realtor who helped guide us through the process. Sometimes I can’t imagine how we would have managed to buy our current home at such a good price without her!

  3. PDX says 29 April 2017 at 14:26

    I think you’re right that the Portland market is softening a bit, from what I have seen. Your condo is beautiful and the photos look nice, so hopefully you will get that bidding war. The HOA fee is a killer, though. I ran the Zillow mortgage calculator, and someone buying this with 20% down and a 30-year fixed rate mortgage would be paying almost $3,000 a month once you factor in the property taxes and HOA. That’s pretty steep for a 1500-sf condo!

    Nonetheless, you stand to make a pretty tidy profit after only 4 years of ownership, so I think you’re making the right decision by selling now.

  4. jlcollinsnh says 29 April 2017 at 16:10

    I am honored to have made the cut!

  5. JB says 29 April 2017 at 23:33

    JD, that’s a pretty good Board of Directors you have there.

    If you don’t mind me asking, who is your “Devil’s Advocate” or “10th Man” (from the movie World War Z)?

    I personally find it helpful when I’m making a big decision to have someone sanity check things for me.
    I explain my idea and they tell me things that can go wrong, problems I may not have thought about and try and poke holes in my plans.
    They’re not malicious, but they challenge my thinking and make me consider perspectives I may not have considered.

    Keep up the great work!

    • J.D. says 30 April 2017 at 08:47

      I find that different people play Devil’s Advocate at different times. It depends on the situation. But I agree — it’s important to have people that will push back on your choices, to make sure you’re thinking things through.

      • Shara G. says 30 April 2017 at 22:19

        I thought that’s why we were here ;p

        • J.D. says 01 May 2017 at 06:11

          Haha. Actually, that was my first inclination: my readers are the Devil’s Advocates! 🙂

  6. Fervent Finance says 30 April 2017 at 08:10

    Your condo looks awesome. I’m sure it’s hard to part with. Best of luck on your home search. I tend to in-source most of the items you listed, but definitely have a group of people I bounce different things off of from time to time, to make sure I’m not missing something obvious.

  7. Jim says 30 April 2017 at 17:31

    You’re very kind JD, I think of you as being on my board of directors too – though I’ve never thought of it that way. Love the idea!

  8. Eileen says 01 May 2017 at 05:41

    Very interesting approach to thinking about your ‘support’ system. You are fortunate to have so many trusted friends/associates around you.

    And as an aside, my husband was out of town this weekend and our son is not yet back from college for the summer, so I had a lawn to mow and some other yard tasks this weekend and was solo. As my mowing approached one hour, I was thinking “does JD know what he’s getting himself into”, LOL. Overall, I think I spent about 3-4 hours working in the yard, vegetable garden, planting deck plants, perennials, weeding and then cleaning up. I will say that knowing I was getting some exercise and catching up on 3 podcasts made me realize there are worse ways to spend 3 hours on a nice day. Good luck!

  9. Steve from Arkansas says 01 May 2017 at 08:50

    My wife graciously lets me be co-CEO with her. I don’t think I’m going to suggest to her that I’m the CEO and she’s a board member! Not unless she gives me a golden parachute when she fires me.

  10. Shara G. says 01 May 2017 at 09:36

    My approach is structured very differently. My husband and I are pretty much it. We don’t have an accountant or lawyer or too many subject matter experts we know, so we do our best to educate ourselves. I have found that the internet makes it possible to cut a lot of experts out of transactions because an actual expert is hard to come by.

    When I first purchased a house I hired a realtor and I am glad I did. When I sell a house I likely will as well. But that depends on how much time I have and if I know anyone I think will give me a few thousand dollars in value for the money. Because for is it isn’t about finding an expert, but finding someone to provide a service. Beyond that we might be looking for a teacher, but I haven’t found too many people who still understood a system better than I did even after I picked their brain.

    The closes I come to what you describe are a handful of older people I am friends with who have far more experience and wisdom. However they aren’t so much specific subject experts as much as people who have simply seen more and might have a different experience and perspective.

  11. Lisa says 01 May 2017 at 15:47

    Yes – no one cares more about your money (or even your life) than you do! A great board of directors is an awesome idea, just as long as their advice isn’t merely obeyed immediately. It’s always good to have different educated opinions on different goals.

  12. Ms. Frugal Asian Finance says 02 May 2017 at 18:05

    You have a beautiful condo! It’s great to know that you have a circle of people you trust. They seem to have amazing expertise.

    I consult my family and friends for a lot of the decisions I make in my life. But at the end of the money, I’ll be the one making the decision and being responsible for the outcomes.

  13. Kristen W says 03 May 2017 at 11:04

    This is going to be a sticky question, and I’m not actually asking for an answer. Just something to consider. Let me preface this by first saying that I’m female (it’s relevant). You bought a condo by yourself outright, you aren’t married, and you and your (wonderful, no doubt) partner are buying a new place. Is her name going to be on the title? If so, have you considered the legal implications? What happens if you later split up? Does she then have rights to half the value of the property? Is she contributing toward the purchase? As someone who knows it’s important to get the big financial items correct – this is a huge question- hopefully one you have considered. I don’t really doubt that you have, but it isn’t addressed here, so thought I would mention. “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Now hopefully no one flames me…

    • Lake Livin' says 12 May 2017 at 20:00

      I thought about this as well but was too chicken to bring it up.

  14. Ms. Montana says 18 May 2017 at 13:10

    Love the way you put it. I have different mentors for most areas of my life. There are always certain people that I learn from and help me grow. It is super helpful when I have big choices to make!

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