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Financial Fitne$$ for Life An Interview with Susan Valentine

We all have to deal with money; however, the approach we take to it can make a huge difference. Susan Valentine, a financial services professional with MassMutual, is dedicated to educating woman about financial planning, often by planning entertaining events where women can learn while enjoying an evening out. Here she shares with us a new perspective for our relationship with money.

What do you mean by ‘financial fitness’?

This concept actually came to me when I attended a recent Girls, Gals and Gurus conference.

The speaker was describing the various things one needs to achieve physical fitness: attitude, behavior, knowledge, discipline, determination, patience and belief. Suddenly it clicked. We need all the same things to achieve financial fitness. And like physical fitness, ‘financial fitness’ is a lifetime exercise. Our needs and concerns today are not the same as they were five years ago, nor will they be the same five to ten years from today. Our exercise program will change but those behavioral elements of ‘financial fitness’ will not.

So how do you help people get financially fit?

This fitness program starts with your dreams and, then, your goals. And I have to say, for many people these are not the same. They do not think they can really achieve their dreams, so they make goals that fall short. So I look to reset those goals first.

I then often ask people to envision themselves at 85. What do they want that to look like? Where would they want to be? From here I walk them backward to where they are now. What did they experience along that journey? Like most paths, sometimes is it smooth, but then there are the hills, and the bridges we go over, or under, or sometimes around.

After that visionary walk, we start to look at how we will create and then exercise those dollars so they will be agile enough to handle the “what ifs” and still experience what they envisioned for their life at 85.

What do you see as the biggest concerns people have regarding their financial world right now?

There are four that are on the top of most people’s list:

• Kids college education

• Outliving their money

• Being close to retirement and wondering how to take care of aging parents

• Protecting assets if they ever need nursing care

We are all looking at a ‘new retirement’ world. We will live longer. We may fall ill. We will be taking care of our parents, and we may be supporting children with grandchildren who are back home again. We need to face these challenges— and sooner than later.

It sounds as if many of us need to reimagine the way we view money. Would you agree?

Yes. Most of us need to develop a new relationship with our money. Too often, money is a source of negativity, stress and exhaustion, and that creates a feeling of being trapped and unable to do what we are meant to do. It should not be a need/hate relationship. It needs to be a loving relationship. Yes, it is okay to love money. Money allows us to have wonderful experiences in life; it allows the buying of gifts, the making of a donation, the taking of someone to dinner.

Money is time. It allows you time to experience what life has to offer. Money serves you if you love, and love drives what you do. Understanding and believing this simple truth will allow people to develop ways to earn more money, and to care for it well.

Susan Valentine is a financial services professional. She primarily works with helping women as well as families with children with special needs in creating sound financial plans. Her office is located at 380 Broadway, Newburgh. She can be reached by calling 728-1289 or emailing svalentine@financialguide.com.

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