Dancing is Like Magic

Last night I watched the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance and was delighted to have my favorite dancer be crowned ‘America’s Favorite Dancer’.  About a month or so ago, I took notice of Jeanine Mason’s talent and her continuing improvement on the show.  She certainly has talent and to be frank, I am a true believer that those that can dance at the level seen on the show are something awfully close to magic.

The reason I believe something as absurd as this is that it is far beyond my capabilities to dance in any way other than horribly.  In fact, I won’t dance at all…at least not without a dozen or more cocktails in the bloodstream.  Ultimately, I enjoy and revere dance for the simple fact that it is an endeavor that I shall never master or even perform reasonably well for an average guy.

Beyond this, SYTYCD is an exercise not in one’s ability to dance in one particular style, but to be able to perform at a high level across a wide swath of styles.  Ms. Mason demonstrated herself to be more than able to perform any task that was given to her.  For many, she was the Dark Horse that just kept coming until finally she won the title.

But was this really magic?  Is it natural born talent that some will be able to dance at this levels and others, like me, not so much?  Obviously the answer is no.

Often when I have met with clients, friends, or colleagues, they too believed that what I did was some sort of magic.  Sometimes it’s walking someone throught the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and reducing their tax burden by thousands, other times it’s setting up an estate plan that would eliminate estate taxes, but in all cases, it’s simply being able to do what others cannot.

The quiet truth is that we all admire when others can do something we believe important that we ourselves cannot.  For me, it’s dance.  For my clients, it’s financial planning.

Fortunately, you don’t need an ounce of talent to become a master of your finances.  You need only what anyone needs to become a magician at what they do–time, work, and patience.

See, the back story with Jeanine Mason is that she wasn’t born to dance.  In fact, she admits that there were many times when she wanted to quit dancing altogether, but her mother pushed her through.  She didn’t start dancing last year, but as a child.  She put in thousands of hours at the dance studio, worked hard when she was there, and stayed with it until the ultimate payoff last night.

Often times, I’m amazed that we have financial planners today.  Really, money is as essential as language or mathematics, but somehow we ignore the study of it with many never truly understanding the major money issues, let alone the subtle nuances of our financial system.  It is this fact that we as a nation do not put in the time needed to study our finances; we don’t work hard enough at maximizing our financial position; and we certainly don’t have the patience to position ourselves responsibly.  In short, we seem to ignore financial education, hate working hard on our money (keep in mind, this is NOT the same as working to earn an income), and ultimately lack the patience to sustain the activities that lead to financial success.

So what do we end up with?  A lot of broken financial homes and the appearance that those who succeed somehow possess magic powers–otherwise, how could they possibly have become wealthy?

Let’s face reality for a moment.  Most of us with our finances are just like me when it comes to dance–never have, never will.  With this reality in mind, what is one supposed to do?  I mean, we all want financial security at some level, but how do we put in the time, work, and patience to actually achieve this worthy goal?

Simple.  Technology.

Just as things like the microwave have made us better cooks than the average housewife of the 17th century, we are seeing new innovations in technology that can deliver the magic that we need at a fraction of the cost.

Think about it.  What would it cost to have a personal chef?  A lot, right?  What does it cost to use a microwave?  Not much.  In both cases, you can satisfy your hunger and while a personal chef is going to deliver a better meal, you don’t need the best, you just need good enough.

This is where financial services technology is going–satisfying a need by delivering ‘good enough’.  Most of us don’t need, nor can we afford a $200 an hour financial planning wizard, but what if you could get that kind of advice delivered at say $10 a month?  Would you want to check it out?  Would it make your life better?  Of course it would.

Over the next five years, there will be more independent financial sites like Mint, Thrive, Wesabe, and Quicken that will be delivering more technology to make money mastery seem less like magic and more like a simple non-issue….the way it should be.  Ultimately, financial services technology aims to make you more productive with your time and smarter about the management of your money.

For now, most of these solutions focus on budgeting and cash management, but over time, they will evolve to be much broader solutions.  Five years from now, I fully expect this technology to blossom to the point that many out there will think, “Man, I love my finance website; it’s like magic”.  And let’s face it.  Everyone loves magic.