Watching Others, Watching You, Watching Out

© Can Stock Photo / Bepsimage

You know the classic Catch-22 pun: “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.” Here are a few items I’ve been keeping a watchful eye on lately. As an evidence-based investment advisor, you may want to take a look at them too.

GDPR … It’s Growing on Me

GD-what? It’s not your fault if you’ve not even heard of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Set to go live May 25th, it’s a big deal in Europe, but I might not have heard of it either if I didn’t have a number of colleagues and clients based there. Even then, it only dawned on me a few weeks ago that I may need to comply with portions of it too, as described in this Forbes article.

If you are not collecting, processing or storing any personal information on anyone in the EU, you can probably remain blissfully ignorant about the details. But, I wanted to bring it to your attention anyway because I’m intrigued by its parallels to our would-be fiduciary standards. Think of the GDPR as having a similar mission, but it’s meant to protect people’s personal data instead of their financial well-being.

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Are You Ever Asking for It: Ideas on Client Referrals

© Can Stock Photo / Pixelbliss

Note: If you’ve been reading my blog for years, this post may sound familiar. I originally posted a version in 2012. The subject came up again recently, so I decided a redux was in order …

“I know I probably should but …”

What’s your favorite excuse if you don’t routinely ask clients for referrals?

It feels pushy. It’s not my style. This isn’t the right time/place. I forgot. What if it isn’t a good fit? I’m not currently seeking new clients. I’m just no good at it. … Do I have to?

If any or all of these sound familiar, I challenge you to shift your mindset: Asking for referrals doesn’t have to be a chore or an embarrassment, and trust me, the more you do it, the easier and more natural it will become. Once you become comfortable with it, it can become a three-way win for you, your clients and those being referred to you. Here’s how:

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Getting Sticky With It: A Parable About The WSJ

© Can Stock Photo / Subbotina

While The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) is not an investment advisory firm, this venerable publication faces similar challenges to the ones found in our industry. They’ve been around quite a while, working hard at being the source for “serious” readers, Jason Zweig fans (Jonathan Clements before him), and “stipple” drawings.

Still, as is the case in the advisor community, even the grandest institution can crumble if it doesn’t keep up with the Times (figuratively and perhaps literally in journalism). The bigger you are, the harder you might fall if you assume you can completely ignore those pesky roboadvisors, for example, or if the evidence underpinning your evidence-based investment strategy incorporates nothing newer than insights applied at the turn of the millennium.

Happily, this is not a cautionary tale based on the WSJ’s demise. Instead, I’ve now been subscribed to the publication for a little over a year, and I have been pleasantly surprised at the lessons I’ve been learning from it – directly from its news and commentary, and indirectly from its strategies for ensuring “clients” like me are happy campers.

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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 …

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!

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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?

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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