For most of my life, I have been a fairly liberal, loose-swinging person. I generally went against the mainstream and was comfortable seeking my own level and being relatively nonconformist. It served me quite well career wise.

Now with age, I have mellowed somewhat. I am still known to my grandchildren as “Crazy Poppy,” but I have definitely turned toward the right, not politically, but certainly from the financial/business standpoint. That may be the reason why my two superb financial advisors (and to be ethical, I can’t name them here but if you want to know, e-mail me) are basically of a conservative bent. They don’t take undue risk and this I find refreshing, especially when it comes to my money.

But what is interesting about this is what happened recently to me in Las Vegas. I was attending a major personal financial planning conference and knew most of the CPA/financial planners in attendance. I am also not a gambler so you won’t find me around the craps table or sitting down across from Doyle Brunson playing Texas Hold ‘Em.

Nope, I’m a slot machine guy but only up to $20. That’s my limit at the 25-cent machine.

So, what happens the other night? I sit down at one of those machines and plunk a quarter in the slot. The screens spin, I hear a ping, and now I am the winner of two quarters. It’s the start of an empire. I put another quarter in. Nothing. Okay, I put a third quarter in (note that I am playing one quarter at a time, not even using the three-quarter play suggested—I’m such a big gambler) and the screens spin, pause, and then not a ping but sheer chaos. Lights are flashing, numbers are spinning, people are hustling over (one guy already has a picture of the Brooklyn Bridge to sell me), and when the dust settles, I am staring at winnings of $173.25. From a quarter, mind you.

I realize that this is not exactly breaking the bank but still to someone like me, hey ….

Now, any bets as to what I did?

Well, I made an immediate decision. The next day I asked a dozen financial planners what they would have advised me to do. Out of 12, only four asked me first about myself: what kind of person I was, my philosophy about money--before rendering a suggestion. The other eight quickly and almost without a qualm recommended that inasmuch as I was just getting ready to play and had only exhausted about 60 seconds of my time and that a quarter is relatively nothing and that I couldn’t exactly buy a plasma TV with $173.25, would have urged me to play on, to see if I could make even more.

The four I mentioned who asked questions about me suggested that based upon my own philosophy at this stage of my life, that I should cash out…take the money and run.

Interestingly, that’s exactly what I did. I hit the cash out button instantly, took my winnings, and left the casino, never to return. I took my wife out for a big dinner with part of those winnings.

But that may be indicative of what’s been happening in the financial planning world. I think there may be too many people dispensing financial advice who don’t take the time to find out more about their clients, their goals, and their aspirations. It’s not so much as to what you’ve done in the past, or where you are even now, but what do you envision for the future. And that, to me, is the primary key.

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