How Long’s Your Grass?

I’ve been commuting to Melbourne a lot more lately, and my preferred method is the train. I’ll drive if need be, but hopping on the V-Line and taking that direct to Southern Cross is easier, faster and cheaper.

It also lets me properly enjoy the view.

It’s particularly nice for the first half an hour or so; speeding through green paddocks and past rolling hills and over deepish gullies.

This morning’s journey took us past two neighbouring and deeply different properties. Which got me thinking (because this is a financial adviser’s blog and I do love an analogy) about what made them so different.

It didn’t take me long to realise what it was.

It was the grass.

The Grass

Two properties, side-by-side.

Weatherboards, corrugated iron roof, comfortable porch buffer between us nosy outsiders and their interior.

A car each, modern but not new, parked near to the house, but away from the gums.

Similar homes, on similar land, with similar views and similar styles.

Except one had recently mown the block around the house while the other has tall, dry grass yellowing in the sun.

An Instinctive Reaction

Instinctively, the short-grassed house appeared more orderly to me. More organised, prouder, tidier, more together.

While the longer one looked unkempt, disorderly and, frankly, filled with snakes and unpleasantly rusty surprises!

Now, of course, there are plenty of reasons for why they looked this way – I’m making a snap judgment based on a 3-second fly-by, from nothing other than the length of their grass.

But that’s kind of the point.

Because seeing these two very similar, but instinctively different properties made me think about the people we work with – and those we never see.

Law(n) & Order*

Leaving my snap judgment unexamined for a moment, let’s say that my presumptions are accurate – that the residents of the short grass are more organised, houseproud and find comfort in things being orderly.

And that those living surrounded by the long grass aren’t – they have no issue with leaving things a little chaotic, a little risky, a little messy.

Which one do you identify with?

And how is that reflected in your financial arrangements?

Are you one of the organised? Clear with what you have, where it is and how it all fits? Everything has a place and a role to play?

When you think about your arrangements, do you feel:

  • In control?
  • Organised?
  • Confident?
  • Certain?

And, as you approach one of life’s big transitions, does it feel like your arrangements are moving away from that preference? That they’re becoming a little long, a little shaggy, almost uncomfortably so?

Or are they like our long-grass yard, filling you with feelings of:

  • Irritation
  • Frustration
  • Embarrassment
  • Confusion
  • Worry/Fear?

And, more importantly, if they’re making you uncomfortable – what are you going to do about it?

Slashing and Clashing

Because it’s this notion of discomfort with your arrangements that really matters. Short grass, long grass – that doesn’t matter. It only matters if your current situation is making you uncomfortable.

When your arrangements reflect your personality, you should feel calm about them.

If you’re a long-grass person – to coin a term! – and your grass is long, then things are aligned, and stress should be low.

You know what you’re dealing with and keeping it all orderly and tidy isn’t a priority – frankly, it sounds like a pain in the neck and more effort than it’s worth.

(Of course, this means you’re more likely to get surprised by something you stumble across next time you wade through it all – but that’s a tomorrow problem).

But if you’re a short-grass person, surrounded by long grass, that dissonance is going to cause stress and irritation. There’s going to be a clash, internally, that leaves you uncomfortable.

You’re going to look out the window and worry about what’s in the grass.

You might worry about the extra risk that comes with it all. The idea of unpleasant surprises springing out of the grass creates a low-level hum of concern in the back of your mind.

Maybe you’ll feel embarrassed about the state of the yard, worried about people might think, or how it looks. You might be one of the people that apologises to me for the state of their arrangements – concerned that I’m judging them (which, contrary to my snap lawn-based judgment – I’m not!).

You want things to be tidier.

You want them to be more orderly.

You want it to be easier to find things when you need them.

You want there to not be any nasty surprises next time you walk into the long grass of your financial arrangements.

But it’s not happening and it’s making you very uncomfortable.

The good news – that’s how we help!

Long Time Mower, First Time Blogger^

Let’s ride this metaphor all the way home.

A big part of our work with people going through these big transitions, particularly at the start, could be described as mowing the grass. (I’m saying this as the adult version of the 7-year-old kid that followed Dad around, begging to be allowed to push the mower).

We meet people, and they show us the unkempt grass of their current circumstances.

Shoeboxes of documents, piles of unopened envelopes, wrinkly ledgers and crumpled papers.

We take it all in, take a breath, and put our hands on our hips.

Then we look at them, smile, and say ‘well, let’s get started!’.

We grab the tools and tuck in.

How We Work

First things first – walk the yard to find the hidden nasties that might pop up when we hit it with the machines.

That unexpected and rusty debt in the corner.

The big rock of inexperience and worry.

The ankle-snapping hole of financial history.

And the sneaky dog turd of bad financial products.

We tidy them all up, moving them around, or hoofing them over the fence and out of the way.

A final pass with the big, strong garbage bag that we slowly fill with the detritus built up over the years.

Then, depending on how things are, it’s time for the power tools.

We’ve got the good ones too; the strong, reliable ones that power through everything. They sound like a swarm of helicopters, but they melt through the grass like a hot knife through butter.

It can take a while – it might take a few passes sometimes, slowly working down to the level you want.

Back and forth, over and over.

Catcher on, or off? That’s up to you – we’re happy to work with you to rake it all up afterwards so you can work through it all yourself. Or we can bag it all up and leave it all that much tidier for you.

Finally, into the edges.

Whipper snippers, like insurance, work great when they work great. But when they’re off, for whatever reason – how on earth that tap-and-release spindle thing works is beyond me – then we grit it out and get it done.

(Let us patiently ‘persuade’ them – snippers and insurers – to do what you need them to).

Finally, at the end of a long day/week/month/year, we come up, take off our hats, wipe our foreheads and knock on your door.

“All done; did you want to have a look?”

The Inspection

We take a quick tour of the yard.

The grass, beneath the tall yellow stalks, is actually green. You can see the mower tracks, but they’ll bounce back quickly.

The garden beds have the offcuts from the edging all over them, but those edges are sharp!

There are a few yellow patches, here and there, but, again, they’ll grow back. Bit of care and maintenance and it’ll be back. No lasting damage.

We chat about how to do that – whether you want to do it yourself (and here’s how) or if you’d prefer us to keep coming out to make sure it stays tidy.

You seemed a bit nervous when we first started walking around, but by the time we’re at back to the front gate, you’re smiling.

“I’ve been meaning to do this for a long time…”.


No worries at all – happy to help.



*I liked this one.

^About grass and lawns, anyway!


PS: A final note on yards – a short way beyond our two lawns was a corner paddock butting up against a dirt road.

Wire fence, two power pylons and the morning sun shining in.

And it was filled with sunflowers. Randomly arranged, growing tall and proud and filling passersby – this one, at least – with happiness and smiles.

Thank you, sunflower paddock grower, whoever you are!

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