I have bird feeders that I regularly fill. Annoyingly I had to refill a feeder in just three days. I couldn’t believe how fast those birds went through the seed. Then I realized that I was putting the mix out for the birds to eat and getting frustrated by them eating it! I wanted the birds to come to the feeder, but on my own timetable. I realized that each of us does something like this with any number of things.

Some of our clients who are good savers, are terrible spenders. The point of saving is to eventually spend it. Why fill the feeders if you don’t want the birds to eat? For savers, establishing rules around “legitimate” spending will make life easier. For example, give yourself permission to spend on things where your pleasure lasts. This may be experiences that you continue to talk about like a concert or a trip. Most savers never go overboard, they just never practice spending.

One client gave their child a credit card and complains constantly about the money they spend. Did you want the bird to fly past the feeder? If you have expectations around how your child should use the credit card, communicate it to them. Then administer the rules. Creating boundaries enhances the relationship, it doesn’t detract from it.

I am not a big timeshare fan, but I have had some clients attend presentations with no intention of buying the timeshare that they now own. While this has worked out nicely for a few clients, many wonder how it happened. This is the bird filling its own feeder.

Here’s a hint — if you don’t want to buy something, don’t go shopping. In life, temptations don’t make us bad, they allow us to choose well. In financial planning, temptations leave us with a timeshare.

It is important to be intentional about what you want. For example, people tend to discount their future calendars. If someone called to set up a meeting in the next couple of weeks, we may say that we’re too busy. If they want to meet four months from now, we say yes because we don’t value the future in the same way we value today. But when those future meetings roll around, you realize you have far too many birds at the feeder. The best strategy is to pause and reflect. If the meeting is going to be a waste of your time, it will be a waste of everyone’s time. You are better off setting them up with someone else or turning it into a short phone meeting.

I have changed my feeder attitude and it has helped me in adjusting some other behaviors.

Spend your life wisely.


Ross Levin is the chief executive and founder of Accredited Investors Wealth Management in Edina.