News Glut

News glut
© Can Stock Photo / deserttrends

Have you ever ended up with so many subjects to write about that you seize up and skip writing anything at all? It happens. Time to get caught up on some of my blogging backlog …

Calling All Pacific Northwest Advisors

If you missed the news, Dimensional Fund Advisors is holding a three-day regional event this summer, June 19-21, at the Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon. I took particular interest in its June 20th communications workshop. Sandwiched between a development conference and investor symposium on the 19th and 21st, the workshop is designed to help advisors “structure a more effective communication strategy with clients and prospects.” Rumor has it, the brainchild behind the event is one of Dimensional’s own communicator extraordinaires, Apollo Lupescu, PhD.

If all that isn’t enticing enough for you to attend, I’ll be there too! Let me know if you’re planning to join us. Maybe we can schedule an informal get-together before or after the program proper.

Twenty Over Ten Offers Content Assist

A few weeks ago, I attended one of Twenty Over Ten’s webinars, introducing Content Assist. The new offering struck me as one more reason to consider turning to this firm for your next website build. I especially liked the fact that it provides you with “starter” content, but you can edit it as much or as little as you please to personalize it for your own use. That’s not unlike my own Content-Sharing Library, except theirs is integrated tightly into their website service.

Will there be a content creation alliance between us at some point? Hey, stranger things have happened. No promises, but let me know if that’s of interest to you. Either way, I’d like to think Twenty Over Ten and I go together like Forrest Gump’s peas and carrots. Way to go, Twenty Over Ten!

Are You “Conflict-Free”? (Hint: No, You’re Not)

I’ll wrap with a communications tip of my own. Too often, I run across fee-only advisor websites (or in Canada, fee-based), assuring the visitor that the firm’s advice is “conflict free,” “completely unbiased,” or similar variations on these themes.

I hate to break it to you … Wait, scratch that. I’m happy to break it to you, since it’s in your best interest. Unless you’re a non-profit charitable organization, you’ve got pricing-related conflicts of interest. And if you’ve got brainwaves, they’re generating behavioral biases, whether you know it or not.

Worse, if you’re exaggerating your firm’s advantages, everyone essentially knows it, at least at a gut level. The strategy may not only strike a sour note in your communication efforts, it could be out of tune with best compliance practices. So, sing it proud, but say it accurately: Fee-only (Canadian fee-based) advice helps minimize biases, and better aligns your clients’ best interests with your own.

Or something like that. Need more help keeping your communications humming along? Keep me in mind.

New Year, New(ish) Content-Sharing Library

© Can Stock Photo/homestudio

Good news! This April, the Content-Sharing Library will be five years old. We’re just under 140 worldwide subscribers, with approximately 140 pieces available for download … and growing. Here’s a quick take on some recent updates I’ve made to celebrate and liven up the Library. (ALSO, don’t miss the UPDATED CONTENT announcement bundled into this post.)

Preview the Library Before You Join

Non-members can now preview the Library before subscribing. In preview mode, you’ll be able to browse everything that’s available for members to download. Click on Free Samples, to see how the download process works. When you’re ready to gain full access to the Library, Become a Member, and you’re on your way.

NEW: Updated Material from the Archives

Some of the material in the Library is now several years old, and yet still useful. To make best use of still-relevant material, I’ll be refreshing and re-releasing key content in updated form. You’ll find these updated materials featured in a new category, UPDATED Content.

To launch this initiative, I’ve just loaded an updated version of “The Vital Role of Rebalancing.” Originally released in June 2013, it’s still a timely discussion today.

Easier Access After You Join

Library members can now download content straight from “new content” email announcements or blog posts:

  • If you’re already logged into the Library, clicking on an email or blog post link (like this updated “Vital Role of Rebalancing” link) – will instantly download the referenced content.
  • If you’re not yet logged in when you click on a new content link, you’ll be prompted to log in, and then the material will immediately download.

When viewing the Library, members can now also click on the title of the content to download a single piece, or check multiple selection boxes to download several pieces at once.

More Good Content to Come

It’s been a fun ride so far building the Content-Sharing Library. I look forward to adding new materials and continued updates for many more years to come!

You (Yes, You) Are More Important Than You Know

© Can Stock Photo / smarnad

True story from a friend who has a daughter and son, ages about 4 and 7. This December, they each wrote a letter to Santa Claus. I don’t know what they said, but my friend liked them so much she wanted to keep them. Hoping the letters would find their way back home, she sneakily left off the postage, provided a vague mailing address, and made sure the return address was crystal clear.

Her daughter had other plans. “But, Mommy,” she observed. “It doesn’t say ‘Santa’ on it.”

Busted. My friend still managed to omit the postage, but she had to add an address – “To Santa” – and off they went.

As hoped for, the postal service did return the letters … although not in the “Return to Sender” format you’d expect. Instead, both letters had been removed from their original envelopes and inserted into a single new envelope addressed to the household. Along with the letters was a new one – from Santa!

Santa encouraged my friend’s daughter to be kind, and offered up some advice for her son as well, who cautiously observed, “Well, I didn’t used to believe, but I might have to now.” As you can imagine, the four-year-old was blown away by the personal reply; she will no doubt think twice the next time she’s choosing between naughty or nice.

What has this got to do with your role as an investment advisor? Call me Scrooge, but I still don’t believe in Santa Claus. I’m more inclined to believe there’s one or more wonderful postal workers – or maybe community volunteers – who take the time to respond to this sort of correspondence. To me, that’s even more miraculous. These anonymous, but very real individuals are surely touching lives in so many positive ways they will never know about. They must act on faith that what they’re doing matters.

There’s the connection for you. As we press on the accelerator to another busy year filled with market swings, global turmoil, and personal challenges alike, take a refreshing moment to realize this:

Every act of kindness you extend is important to someone.

Each piece of solid advice you offer contributes to everyone’s well-being.

Each time you need to be brave, and make the right choice instead of the easy one in your personal and professional life, your decision counts.

So, as “Santa” said, let’s be kind instead of careless. Let’s be honest, even when others seem to get ahead with a lie. Let’s be fiduciary, not because it’s the law, but because it matters. More than you are ever likely to know.

Happy New Year to you all!

Evidence-Based Advisors: Here’s to Our “Do Unto Others” Community

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

As we mad-dash toward another new year, it’s a good time to reflect on fitting friends, old and new.

Take Joe Goldberg, for example, who I met when we both worked at BAM Advisor Services. I went independent back in 2009, while he remained on board as director of retirement plan services until earlier this year. Like me, Joe became his own boss … with a much wider break from past job descriptions. Joe is now in charge of trimming bodies instead of 401(k) accounts at his new fitness studio, TruFusion St. Louis.

I could not be happier for Joe; even back in the day, health & fitness were core to him, as he cajoled BAM conference attendees to get up in the wee hours of the morning to join him for a morning spin. The more sweat, the wider his grin got.

One thing we both took from our years at BAM was a deep appreciation for the “do unto others” mindset you get when you combine dedicated fiduciary advice with rational evidence-based investing. Pair the two together, and you inherently end up with a powerful perspective you can’t ever fully legislate or regulate into being – and that we may too often take for granted.

I realized that when Joe recently posted as follows on Facebook:

Isn’t that just such an “evidence-based advisor” thing to say?

Continue reading “Evidence-Based Advisors: Here’s to Our “Do Unto Others” Community”

Mitch Anthony’s Startlingly Brave Call to Action

© Can Stock Photo / ionutparvu

Coming out on a Monday as it did, you may have missed this little bombshell of a Financial Advisor piece authored by “The New Retirementality” author Mitch Anthony: “Harsh Lessons in Modern Con Art.” In it, Mitch shared how he – and his mother! – were conned out of $1 million by an unscrupulous real estate wheeler-dealer.

I don’t think Mitch will mind if I share his opening and a few other key excerpts:

“As I sit down to write this article, I know it will likely be the most difficult composition of my writing career—difficult because it dredges up a miasma of regret, embarrassment, sadness and anger like nothing else I’ve experienced in life. I was conned out of almost a million dollars.”

You can read the rest here, plus check out Financial Advisor’s op-ed about the piece, “Why Mitch Anthony Displays Courage.”

If you’ve never read Mitch’s larger body of work, I encourage you to do so. You may also consider using it as a resource for your clients who are pondering the practical and emotional aspects of their work/life balances. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you my early encounters with Retirementality directly influenced the path I took with my own career. As much as I enjoyed my corporate day job at the time, his insights expanded my thinking, readying me to seek even more out of life by moving to Oregon and going freelance with my work (on the eve of the Great Recession, no less).

But first, read his breaking – and heart-breaking – “Harsh Lessons” article. Imagine how tough it must have been for him to describe to us, his own community, how he had fallen victim to the very sort of swindlers that fiduciary advisors are constantly warning their clients to avoid.

What separates the mice from the Mitch, however, was his willingness to share his learning experience despite the risks, focusing on the greater goal of advancing an important call to action we are well-advised to heed.

Specifically, as awful as the experience was, Mitch describes how it was aggravated by a federal five-year statute of limitations on prosecuting the perpetrator for his flagrant financial crimes. The problem is, five years isn’t always enough time to catch a financial thief. Mitch explains:

“Once you discover you have been defrauded, very likely two to three years have passed. Legal proceedings will chew up a year or two. By the time prosecutors decide there is merit in proceeding, the time has almost run out, and they will cease their efforts knowing they are up against the statute. This was our exact experience. By the time I brought the fraud to the attention of the FBI, they informed me that the perpetrator was already ‘on their radar’—but at this point, there wasn’t enough time left to do anything, and they couldn’t afford the time and resources to waste their efforts.”

So, rightfully so, Mitch has asked for our help. Based on his conversation with Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Senator Charles Grassley’s office, here’s what we can do (emphasis mine):

“[Grassley’s] staff have informed me this is an important matter, but that for the law to change, we will need to speak up about it. This means having our various associations express their concern to the committee and to law enforcement as well. … If you want to voice your concern directly to the Senate Judiciary Committee, you can do so directly by contacting”

For Mitch’s sake, for your sake and, most of all, for your clients’ sake, go to it … and spread the word. As soon as I hit publish on this piece, I will be doing the same.

Grease Isn’t the Word After All

© Can Stock Photo / Leaf

On the threshold of Thanksgiving (here in the U.S. anyway), I pause from my regularly scheduled project list to post some ponderings on the power of a single word.

What’s the Word?

Recently, I was privileged to attend the BAM ALLIANCE 2017 National Conference. Returning to my roots is always part educational, part sentimental, and entirely inspirational; this year was no exception.

I could blather on for pages about some of the insights gained by networking with my peeps. Maybe I will in a future post. But if I were tasked with condensing the entire event into one word, it would be this:

It’s Empathy.

Events ranged from deep dives into academic financial theory, to business development workshops, to helping the local food bank with an outreach program, to pondering the true meaning of happiness. Throughout, I couldn’t help but notice a silver thread of empathy connecting all of us attendees, fund managers, financial service providers and keynote speakers alike.

Continue reading “Grease Isn’t the Word After All”

Color Me Communicative

© Can Stock Photo / roxanabalint

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

Did you catch Jason Zweig’s recent post, “It’s the Little Things That Can Color an Investor’s Outlook”? In it, he shared the results of a recent study on how strongly we behaviorally biased humanoids can be swayed simply by the color in which our investment choices are displayed. When participants saw financial losses in fire-alarm red instead of benign black and white, their responses were more frequently stained with the telltale fingerprints of fear and risk aversion … unless, unsurprisingly, they were colorblind.

So that’s one interesting data point suggesting that the colors in your communications may matter more than you realize, and not always as you might expect from a financial accounting point of view.

This important message, often overlooked, reminds me of an article I stumbled across recently by software developer Nick Babich, entitled “Red, White, and Blue.” Babich is a self-described “UI/UX lover,” which may sound nefarious but it means he concentrates on how to improve websites’ user interface (UI) and user experience (UE).

In other words, colors are his bag, baby. He offers several other reasons you should be more in touch with your and your clients’ inner rainbow than you may currently be.

Continue reading “Color Me Communicative”

A Rapid Roundup of Evidence-Based Advisor Networks

© Can Stock Photo / nameinfame

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

Hey, sometimes this marketing stuff works. Between a few targeted initiatives and the “pay it forward” power wrought by word of mouth, I’m happy to report that my e-newsletter mailing list has grown nicely since I launched my independent business in January 2009. And the pace seems to be picking up. Checking my MailChimp stats today, I’ve welcomed about 250 of you to my mailing list this year; with a grand total of just over 800 subscribers to date.

Better yet, most of you are precisely the community I’m best set to serve: fee-only, independent investment advisors who are spreading evidence-based investing around the globe.

So, welcome, one and all! Are there times you feel a little alone in your evidence-based investing efforts? I thought it might be helpful to offer a rapid round-up of some networking opportunities deliberately dedicated to helping you and yours collaborate on this very subject. I’ve mentioned all of them in past posts, but time and attention spans fly by, so here’s a handy review: Continue reading “A Rapid Roundup of Evidence-Based Advisor Networks”

Oddly Appropriate Bedfellows: “Sex That Works” and Evidence-Based Investing

© Can Stock Photo / olandsfokus

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

One of the reasons I launched my Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy series was so I could mostly write about best practices for evidence-based investment advisors … but sometimes strike off on a lark when I felt like it.

This week, let’s talk about sex.

This may seem like a wild lark indeed but, in a moment, I’ll explain how it’s actually more parallel than you might think to my usual flights of fancy.

Last March, my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. If you do the math, let’s just say we’re a touch (or more like a body block) older than 32, and it’s sometimes harder than it used to be to reignite the spark that united us more than a quarter century ago.

So along came a recommended book newly published by another Wendy who lives here in Eugene, Oregon: “Sex That Works,” by Wendy Strgar. On a whimsy, I decided to support a local Wendy, and loaded it to my Kindle.

Continue reading “Oddly Appropriate Bedfellows: “Sex That Works” and Evidence-Based Investing”

Evidence-Based Investing Around the World: Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

A Wendy’s Wednesday Whimsy

Yet another nifty quality of evidence-based investing is that it requires global participation (to provide essential out-of-sample observations), and contributes to it too. As the compelling logic of evidence-based investing goes global, we independent providers – advisors, fund managers and support services alike – have been joining forces as well, to convert elegant, evidence-based theory into practical investor-applicable reality.

Supporting and supported by a global community, I’d like to think we’re coming about as close as we can to building that fabled perpetual motion machine.

I’ve especially enjoyed collaborating with Mineral on our Evidence-Based Investing Infographic/Poster. Our brainchild has been experiencing quite the intercontinental ride of late, in no small part thanks to several overseas colleagues. In particular, my fellow EBI communicator Robin Powell of Regis Media helped spread the word about it recently on his Evidence-Based Investor blog. Also, Robert Van Beek, CFP®, Founder/Director of About Life & Finance, reached out to us and kindly offered to help us create a Dutch-translated version of the poster. That’s now available for custom branding at the same attractive price of free (in any currency), simply by selecting “Dutch” on the order form.

This gave me and Mineral a brilliant idea. Why don’t we produce our infographic/poster in several languages?

Continue reading “Evidence-Based Investing Around the World: Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”