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?
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.”
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 Richard_DiZinno@judiciary-rep.senate.gov.”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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”→
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.
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.
Hey, did you catch the recent study that’s been making its way around the popular press: “Buying time promotes happiness”? As perennially popular as happiness tends to be, the media jumped right on this one.
Of course one study – even an academic one – isn’t “proof” according to evidence-based rigor. But this particular one seems about as far-reaching as a stand-alone inquiry can get. It’s co-authored by five academic heavyweights from four universities. Plus it represents four academic disciplines across three countries – the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands. Contributors came from Harvard University’s Business School, the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychology, Maastricht University’s Department of Finance, and Vrije Universiteit’s Center for Philanthropic Studies.
“[W]orking adults report greater happiness after spending money on a time-saving purchase than on a material purchase.”
I’ve seen a number of posts lately about the value of spending money on spending time … i.e., on having experiences instead of possessions. Tim Maurer recently covered this subject nicely, for example. The study I’m referencing suggests people also derive a lot of pleasure from spending money on saving time or, put another way, on avoiding experiences they’d rather not have, like housekeeping or yard work.
Or how about wealth management? While financial services didn’t seem to come up as a happiness-generating time-saver in this particular study, I’d be willing to bet there are plenty of people who would rather be mowing the lawn than figuring out how to finagle their finances.
So here’s an interesting idea for your marketing & communications: What if you presented the value you bring to your clients in increments of time instead of just the money? Here are some ideas to get you going.
Portfolio management services saves some time. After initial set-up, maybe you’re saving a family a couple of hours every month by managing their portfolio for them. That’s nice, but a decent roboadvisor can take care of that too, so this is just the beginning. Continue reading “Are Your Clients Happy? Time Will Tell”→
Sometimes when I need a brain-break between projects, I spend a few minutes on Facebook, viewing what everybody is up to, sharing a few “likes,” and moving on.
Usually, there’s no harm done. Then, a month or so ago, I stumbled across a hoax about a family who had allegedly held a fiery Viking Funeral that ran amok. According to Snopes, the piece was satire, never intended to be taken seriously. Unfortunately, by the time I saw it, that wasn’t so obvious. The author did such a great job – or maybe real news is sometimes so outrageous these days – that I fell for it, hook, line and sinker, and took it to be true. I also took it and shared it on Facebook.