When Walter Wisniewski became a concert pianist, he could recall the long hours of practice, the missed notes and the nervousness at his first recital. He may not have been aware of the exact moment that his notes turned into music, but he knew that a transition had occurred as his fingers developed a special touch, and each chord brought the music to life. It was the music in his heart that transmitted instructions to his fingers so that music flowed dynamically into the lives of his audience.
Some people might be surprised to learn that a concert pianist would choose to become a financial planner. However, research shows a strong correlation between the study of music and mathematical abilities. In addition, research also shows that the study of music actually increases the IQ. The reason could be that musicians develop a lot of self-discipline and are, therefore, successful in most activities they try.
Although these correlations exist between music and other academic subjects, the metaphorical comparisons can be carried further. The metaphorical steps of a music student’s progression from beginner to composer can be applied to financial planning. Just as a musician makes the music flow and come alive, the financial investor creates the same living, breathing process that makes money flow.
Learning Your Instrument
As musicians begin learning the technique of their instruments, their notes may sound dull and awkward. The beginner has difficulty placing his or her fingers in the exact position to play the correct notes. Rhythm is sacrificed, and songs are hard to recognize.
Likewise, in learning financial planning, the student must learn the various types of investments. There are both short-term and long-term investments from which to choose, and some are safe while others are risky. There are safe investments like bank CDs and government bonds. Stocks and corporate bonds involve risk, and the investor needs to study various stocks to determine the trends. Real estate is normally a safe investment, but there are risks involved. The only way to become comfortable with these investments is to study the markets and determine the trends.
Just as the music student must overcome the fear of bad notes, the financial-planning student must overcome the fear of making bad investments. As confidence is gained, the planner begins to lose fear of investing because he or she feels comfortable analyzing trends and making decisions.
I recognized the metaphor in my own financial planning as I feared taking a chance on risky investments. I knew that investments with greater risks offered greater returns, but they also offered the greatest losses. Like the beginning musician, I was afraid to make mistakes.
Making the Music Harmonious
Although the beginner may be comfortable making decisions, the financial planner should establish financial goals with the aid of an advisor. The advisor may be considered a conductor who is responsible for creating the best music. Although the beginning planner is aware of the desired financial goals, the advisor is familiar with the investments that will achieve the goals. The music becomes harmonious when the conductor and the musicians are on the same page.
Regardless of how proficient musicians become, they can always use additional coaching from other professionals. Likewise, financial planners can gain information from other financial planners.
Expressing the Music
After mastering the instrument, the musician begins playing the instrument with expression. Notes are no longer notes. Instead, they become individual sounds that are given life by the touch of the Master’s hand.
Likewise, the financial planner begins expressing what is in his heart into his investment. His investments become living, breathing things that he has created. Although the investments are the same as they were when he or she was a beginner, the confidence and pleasure of creating gives the financial planner joy and fulfillment. It is the same type of joy that the musician finds as he plays his instrument.
The metaphorical comparison of expressing the music is very appropriate. Every musician reaches the time when notes become music. That point for the financial planner is reached when he or she learns to balance investments so that a positive return is earned despite the investments that lose money. I recall when I reached that point in my financial planning, and discovered the orchestra was playing in tune with a perfect balance.
Writing Your Own Symphony
After learning the instrument and turning notes into music, the musician may become a composer. Continuing the metaphorical comparisons, the financial planner is prepared to create his or her own portfolio. As a composer, the musician must consider every aspect of the song. Melody, harmony and rhythm must be coordinated so that the music flows as a living, breathing creation.
The metaphorical comparison of writing your own symphony and comparing music flow with cash flow is excellent. When you consider the flow of music, you hear one note or chord sounded at the precise time. When you consider cash flow, you need enough cash to pay your debts at any given time. If you have a surplus of cash, you should invest it. If you have a shortage of cash, you will need to borrow money to pay that debt.
The flow of music is the perfect metaphor for the financial planner who orchestrates cash flow. Short-term investments are planned to pay bills that will be due in one year. Long term investments are made for retirement. Each investment is made for a specific purpose so that it meets the cash needs for a specific time.
Walter Wisniewski has uniquely applied the metaphorical comparisons of music to financial planning. It is the natural progression of growth from beginner to expert, but it offers additional values not found in other financial planning.
The method is practical as it metaphorically explains the steps to needed to become secure in planning. It builds confidence in planning, but, I believe its real value is in bringing financial planning to life.