The Language Barrier – Learning to Talk the Talk is One Key to a Successful Retirement Plan

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where people around you were speaking a language that you couldn’t understand – no matter how hard you tried? It can leave you feeling frustrated, confused and vulnerable to being taken advantage of. I know, I’ve been there!

Several months ago, Trish and I had an opportunity to go on a trip to Mexico for a few days. Needless to say, we were really excited! We spent most of our time there at the resort, but after realizing that I’d left my sunglasses at home, we decided to take one afternoon and go to a local marina (hoping to find a deal.) We asked someone at the resort where to go, got the name of a safe, local place and were escorted to a cab. The staff member told the cab driver where we were going and we were off!

After we’d been riding in silence for ten minutes or so, I finally asked the cab driver how much longer we had until we got there. I could see his eyes looking at us in the rear view mirror, but there was no response. “How much more time ‘til we get there?” I asked. “Closes at eleven,” he said. “How far is it?” I asked. Our driver simply lifted his hands, shrugged his shoulders, smiled and sped on to what I hoped was the right destination. Perhaps we’ve watched too many movies, but it’s safe to say at this point, we were uncomfortable and unsure whether or not we’d reach the destination we’d set out for when we left.

We had a plan and knew where we wanted to go, but we’d gotten a guide that didn’t speak our language and we didn’t speak his – it wasn’t a pleasant experience. After several more uncomfortable minutes and unsuccessful communication attempts (Siri was no help, by the way,) we arrived at the marina safe and sound – but not before learning an important lesson: if you’re headed out on a journey, make sure you understand the native language!

For lots of people, talking about finance and investments can feel like being in the back of that cab – they know where they want to go (or at least have a general idea,) but they don’t understand the language that’s being spoken around them. Most high schools and colleges don’t offer courses on personal finance and financial reporters and writers use words that may as well be a foreign language. It doesn’t have to be that way.

There are lots of online resources that you can use to brush up on your financial knowledge. In some cases, your company retirement plan may offer resources or you can take an online course. As financial advisors, part of our job is to educate clients to make sure they understand their options (whether that’s options for investing, borrowing or insurance,) but it’s important to make sure that everyone is speaking the same language.

Whether you’re retired or planning for it at some point in the future, fact is, you’re already in the cab. Question is: are you riding with a guide who speaks a language that you understand? If not or if you’re unsure, you have two choices – learn their language or find a guide that speaks yours. Your destination is waiting, and it’s probably time to invest the time to feel comfortable that you’ll get there.

Over the years, we’ve seen lots of people struggle with the fact that they’ve never been taught the basic terms of personal finance, so we developed a simple resource. You can download our complimentary guide, “50 Financial Terms for Real People” here and can start speaking the language of money more clearly today.


About Chip Munn

Managing Partner, SWS Senior Wealth Advisor, RJFS Chip is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Clemson University, where he earned a degree in education and was selected as an Academic All American by USA Today. He began his career in finance as a financial consultant with Wheat First Union in 1998. He specializes in retirement and education planning and the transfer of wealth among generations. Chip lives in Florence with his family. Follow Chip on LinkedIn.