Well, almost.



My plan was to cover the Songwriters Fest as a journalist Ö Hunter S. Thompson with a southern accent. While gathering the accoutrements necessary for Gonzo journalism, sunglasses, Swiss Army knife, Leatherman pocket tool and appropriate libations, bad news landed on the doorstep.



Someone scooped my press pass and back to the financial beat the cub reporter went. Thompson cut his teeth on the precursor to the Northwest Florida Daily News, an amusing concept for his devotees.



Our Songwriter Festival has been so popular with attendees along with artists that an alternative, The Swampwriters Festival, popped up. Thatís good, too, keeps Ďem honest. A few years back during a break at the Seaside Rep, Kim Collins of The Smoking Flowers said locals had no idea how big this was going to be.



You know you are doing something right when folks have a second choice. While Marieís Bistro packed in the crowds, the 30Aís counterculture missed the big deal.



When itís all said and done, the unofficial kick-off party was not at WaterColor or Pandoras but a week earlier at The Grayt Coffee House. With a little help from my friends, I jumpstarted a new dance parlor in Grayton. Grayton needs another place to dance like Destin needs another condo, but blame Eric Lindell, a pedal steel guitar player and a Texas longhorn hide. Before you knew it, furniture landed in the front yard and folks were twisting the night away.



After closing up the honky tonk, I felt compelled to buy his latest CD. He hooked me with the Aretha Franklin tribute but the next cut gave us todayís financial planning lesson: Stop living like other people and live for yourself.



Instead of focusing on what is important to you, the financial planning industry would rather you believe financial salvation means a magical mystery product like an annuity. Last week, I saw six different annuities and every client was on the dark side of the moon.  Equally as bad are the noisy crew who totally dismiss annuities, mainly because they charge more fees on assets managed.



Sometimes annuities make sense, sometimes they donít; itís why itís known as personal financial planning.



In addition to Byzantine products designed to confuse clients, financial advisors often can sidetrack you with arcane theories like sector rotation. Fritz Meyer tracked the Wall Street prosí predictions and concluded that ďthe notion that strategists can consistently add alpha (greater returns) with accurate sector picking is ridiculous on its face. Markets are just too efficient.Ē 



For every sector correctly predicted, they missed two others. A similar batting average will get you in the Baseball Hall of Fame but in the investing world itís the Hall of Shame. The best place last year was financials and everyone avoided them. You need a crystal ball to time the market correctly, a fact conveniently omitted but included in your asset management fee.



Basic financial advice, good for everyone regardless of income level, is to live within your means and focus on the goals, financial or otherwise, in your life. Make sure your investments are appropriate for your time horizon and risk tolerance. Diversify across asset classes with low cost index funds then rebalance regularly. Anything else is singing off key.



Buz Livingston, CFP, is a fee-only certified financial planner. He operates Livingston Financial Planning Inc. focusing on hourly financial planning and investment management. Contact him directly at 850-267-1068 or at buz@LivingstonFinancial.net.