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?

More about...Administration

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