How training a dog can teach you how not settle on mediocre investments or estate planning documents

I almost gave up on my dog, Jack. Our beautiful six-month old golden retriever was not house broken, nor was he crate trained. He would walk and pee without even noticing. In the past, prior to having two children and raising them to their current ages of 10 and 12, my wife Gina and I would just say, ‘we can deal with it’. We would then not deal with it, and just settle for a ‘dog centric’ family, where we were rushing around to spoil our dog. Our prior dogs “ruled the roost”. Not anymore, something happened in our lives during 2008 – we grew up. No longer will we settle for mediocrity… just good enough is not good enough!

We hired a dog trainer (2 times so far) to teach the family how to properly train a dog. We also set a deadline; if we do not see improvement by a certain date then we will try something else. We made the decision to not give up, and work through and over all obstacles. We hired an expert and looked for measurable improvement.

In a perfect world, dogs, children, investments, estate-planning documents, should come with instructional manuals. They do not. The following lessons are ‘relearned’ when raising a dog or realigning your investment portfolio:

  1. Never lose your temper, just make adjustments in how you handle things.
  2. Delegate care to the whole family. Open conversation is required so that resentment among family does not build up.
  3. Once a decision is made, it needs to be fully embraced. Changing a pattern in yourself is hard; having your whole family behind you makes it more manageable.
  4. The work is not always fun, watching the result can be amazing.
  5. Remember you are the custodian of you money, your dog, and your family. Live up to the standards you should set.
  6. Expect to make mistakes, just try to learn and not repeat the same mistakes.
  7. Hire experts to make good decisions. Educate yourself.

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