Job Pressure

Then there is the question of job pressure. Most businessmen - particularly corporate executives - operate in an atmosphere of emotional pressure. Indeed, emotional pressure, however trite that may sound, is a built-in part of the system. It is one of the screw-cans of oil that makes the system work. And despite what some junior executives and middle managers think of the men at the top, the pressures of business don't let up an iota as a man climbs higher on the ladder.

The truth is that the first-rate manager in business, from the junior with his bushy tail to the middle man with his tail down to the chief executive officer, is not under stress by pure chance or misfortune. He asks for it. He needs it, as a point of honour. He even needs it to do his best work. What is more, he needs it for happiness, if he's a true executive type. If he cannot handle pressure, he is a square peg in the wrong office.

The point? The point is that the weight of business pressure forces most men to let their own personal affairs slide. "Businessmen are so honestly devoted to the company," says London Accountant Arthur Brown, "that they lack the energy for their own finances." Brown spends much of his time advising high-income men about their taxes and long-range personal planning. He adds: "The neglect is so widespread, it is almost part of being an executive, it seems."

There also is a marriage pattern that trips up quite a few executives and professional types. It stems from early housekeeping days. A lot of young junior executives, for instance, intent on forging ahead in business, get into the easy habit of turning over all of their bill-paying chores to their wives. Many eventually turn over their pay-checks, too. And finally, for some, the whole domestic collar routine winds up in feminine hands. This often breaks the back of a man's natural yen to labour with his own finances, tax returns, and other pound-and-doughnut chores. After a while such a man gets psychologically out of tune with the whole idea of self-management. His wife will see that the bills get paid, but she's hardly planning-minded.

But psychology aside, there is another very practical reason why a man may sidestep his own affairs. It's the false notion that really top-grade planning takes high-powered advice, and that this type of counselling - if available at all - costs a considerable outlay of cash each year. It's something that is reserved for the £50,000 or £100,000 man. This is nonsense.

The basics of long-range estate and financial planning, and year-to-year pound planning, for the most part can be gleaned by reading and digesting a few chapters in a website. A Washington, D.C., tax solicitor and Accountant says this: "There is no mysterious package of magic that will cut your taxes, conserve your income, create your estate plan, streamline your insurance, shave your expenses, and put eggs in your beer. Rich people get that way just by adding together a number of small points that make good common sense - and they add them up one at a time." The small points, he notes, can be summed up in a few pages that cost no more than a fifth of bourbon.

Moreover, the cost of executing a personal affairs "plan" is no heavy burden. An initial review and auditing (the starting point) will cost £300 to £1,000 at the hands of a skilled professional. It can even be done on a self-help basis, if one is determined to set his house in order. A man in the £25,000 to £50,000 income range, for example, might figure that £6 a week or about £300 a year, will pay for the management of his own personal business - including the filing of the 1040 tax return in April. The first year the chore is undertaken, the cost of hiring professional help might be higher (maybe £500 instead of £300); but then the outlay levels off, and £6 a week, on average, is a reasonable projection. The top £1,000 level will be reached only by higher-income men who insist on hiring senior people in Accountant offices and law firms.

Senior people are not needed; in fact, there are advantages in using younger men who are ambitious to develop new clients, who have the time and energy needed for small accounts - and who will be around to do the work in later years.

The tax adviser you hire most likely will save you at least 50% of the £300 to £500 laid out for the year for professional help. If he is good, and if you have been as remiss as most people in handling your taxes, your savings will amount to much more. With a good 1040 man, there is efficiency in draining every drop of benefit from the tax laws, not distortion or flimflam. If the tax man can save you enough to pay for general personal business advice and planning, then you are a long step ahead of the game and your planning costs nothing.

Convincing people of this takes hard sell, notes a Reading solicitor. "But once they are sold, they'll usually stay close to the whole idea."

In terms of time, one hour a week for personal business planning usually will do the job, and the carrying out of the plan will involve little more than signing a few papers. The difficulty is, most busy executives and professionals spend five minutes on the planning chore, instead of an hour.

Even the junior executive on a modest income can manage to squeeze out the cost of professional planning, once he realizes the benefits. He can do it for as little as £2 or £3 a week, without sacrificing the purchase of a new bikini for his bride - when he learns that, by smart planning, he will be able to afford two new bikinis next year!

If a junior man can afford to acquire professional personal planning, so can the higher bracket man who has been around 15 or 20 years longer.

To clear a point: It isn't only the £25,000 man who tends to sidestep his own financial and related planning. The habit hits £50,000-and-up people, too. There's many a senior executive who persistently fails to do this basic job. Sometimes he is a man who has stepped up into higher income rapidly, without too much pausing for breath. It is a case of having the income and not knowing quite how to handle it.

In a word, it takes a bit of practice to own money and property - just as it does to earn it.

Joint Ownership: Often An Attractive Snare

The Annual Physical Exam.

Despite all the justified propaganda in favour of the yearly health check, and the fact that most large and medium-sized companies offer their executives this service gratis, only around 40% of businessmen and professionals in the £30,000-plus income range take the trouble to have thorough exams each year. Here is a rule of thumb offered by a leading physician who specializes in the annual physical: "Of every 100 men over age 40 who have executive-level incomes," he says, "one-third have exams every year, one-third every three to five years, and one-third get the 'physical' only when hospitalized or warned by their physicians. For them, it is sometimes too late."

Why do so many businessmen,... see: The Annual Physical Exam.