I have been in the financial services business for 26 years and in all of these years, I have never seen as much confusion, uncertainty and a lack of confidence than I see today with investors.
The reason for this I believe is because Wall Street is broken and has shifted its focus off of finding the best solution for the client over to profits and product sales leading to a high level of uncertainty amongst the public.
Being an insider, being behind the scenes of the financial services industry I can tell you that there has always been problems, no different than any other system but it seems to be more prevalent today than ever before.
I was hesitant to share my views at first but the more I thought about it, the more I felt I needed to share my observations and I will share my thoughts on what is going on in a minute.
I spend a lot of time reading and researching money related topics of course but something that you may not know about me is that I have always been interested in health and wellness. I read and research diets, supplements, how our bodies work, all in an attempt to improve my health and quality of life.
It is a rabbit hole of endless opinions, research and product sales that has cost me thousands of dollars in books, supplements, equipment and time. I have a lot of information and have found a couple of things that have really helped me but truthfully I am not convinced that I am any better off.
It is a case of the more you learn the more you realize what you don’t know. I am often more confused about what to take and not take, what to eat, what exercises I should be doing and how to sleep that I can become frustrated with my results.
The reason I feel that way is that while I have a lot of information I really don’t know what is best suited for me personally and how to put everything together. A lot of it sounds good and can even make sense but knowing how to implement it for myself has proven to be difficult.
Part of the struggle has been finding the right coach or doctor that has an interest in preventative care and who is not simply following a script of some sort. I have since figured out what to look for in a medical professional and have found a functional medical doctor to help guide me with important health decisions.
My point with sharing this with you is that when it comes to important decisions such as with our health and our money, we can’t change the fact that these are complex decisions that require a comprehensive process to determine what is best.
I work with hundreds of people every year taking them through a financial planning process that is similar to a diagnostic process you would expect to receive in a doctor’s office with the goal of understanding the client. And through this process we determine the most suitable prescriptions for each individual’s situation.
I think that in all of our minds we know this is the best approach to medicine and our finances yet we kid our self into believing that there are shortcuts. We want to save money and time so we seek to gain knowledge on our own. It is a behavioral bias that leads us to believe that we are smarter than we really are just because we have information.
Any one of you listening or watching this can take your phone and go to Web MD, enter symptoms you are experiencing and instantly receive a list of possible reasons for your symptoms.
Then with another quick Google search of the reasons you access endless pages of remedies, opinions and warnings from a variety of sources.
If you’re being honest, you have probably done this search before to diagnose a problem. And once you completed the search you are really no better off than you were before you started your search.
You have some information but no real conclusion about what it is, only speculation or paranoia about the results (and maybe an all natural supplement that promises to have the same benefits as a prescription).
You can do the same for any money related topic and find yourself with endless amounts of opinions, advertisements, quick fix solutions and product company websites.
We are all in the same boat in our search for information, the difficulty is ultimately knowing what to do with the information that we have. The act of searching for a prescription without a professional diagnosis and is where the problem lies.
Yes, you can Google search any question and get endless pages of search results. You can scroll social media and find an opinion on nearly any topic. You can talk with your parents and coworkers but no matter your effort, none of these sources have the experience or the detailed information about you to know how to put a plan together that is best suited for your situation and that you won’t find holes and omissions.
Having information makes us feel informed but it doesn’t really make us better and it doesn’t necessarily make us smarter.
Everyone has an opinion on just about everything but that doesn’t mean its right. Biases, experiences and opinions impact how you think and what decisions you ultimately make. It impairs your judgment and can mislead you into believing that by taking someone else’s opinion and applying it to your situation that suddenly you have the answer.
Marketing and product companies rely on this behavior and it is part of their sales training, which has hijacked the narrative for the financial services industry.
I know because I see it everyday and you are exposed to all of this everyday as well when watching TV, scrolling social media, talking with friends or searching the Internet.
You see analysts and money managers eagerly trying to predict the markets creating high levels of anxiety and doubt while the 24/7 news cycle keeps negative headlines front and center baiting us for attention.
You have insurance sales people pushing annuities as the only retirement solution and money mangers like Ken Fisher deliberately tearing everything down that he doesn’t get paid for.
I saw several commercials from him and others while putting this together for you that promote a product. Their marketing makes it sound like they are better than the rest and can help you but all they are doing is selling a single product. It’s just marketing.
We have investment advisors who have hijacked the terms financial planning and financial advisor to imply that they offer more than investments for a fee. These are also the same people who put themselves out in the public as a fiduciary but are really peddling a single product.
These are examples of the confusion perpetuated by marketers who are good at mixing up the messaging and emotionally attacking people into making decisions.
And if that’s not enough we have financial entertainers who are not even licensed to be in the financial business who are self proclaimed and self promoted experts popularizing cookie cutter ideas that feed on the emotions of people.
Infighting within the industry about regulations, commissions and fees are another problem plaguing the industry and making it more confusing for the public to know how to process what they are hearing.
Quite frankly, all of it is embarrassing. It is no wonder financial services are ranked so low in the hearts and minds of the public.
So instead of trying to fight a broken system, I have made a decision to set out on my own path bypassing all the nonsense that is plaguing the industry to just focus on trying to help people get out from under some of the bad information and misguided advice they have been given.
It is not easy to be the voice in the room that goes against product sales, and a one size fits all mentality.
But I feel strongly that there is not a one size fits all solution and there is not a single product or idea that is appropriate for everyone.
We all have to use a bit of common sense when it comes to this and realize that buying a product or following a single action is not a financial plan…its not a solution. It may be part of putting plan together but it is not the plan itself.
And maybe that is something to consider, financial planning is a process. It is like going through a physical exam with your doctor where there are tests and discussions about treatment. It is identifying problems and goals. It is the process that determines the treatment.
I would not expect to walk into my doctor’s office and him give me a sales pitch for a new prescription. That would seem odd behavior to me. I would expect questions and tests to determine the best course of action.
The bottom line is that it is my strong opinion that we have to quit trying to take short cuts in an attempt to simplify things when simplification is not going to satisfy the problem.
When you buy products you are making a decision in a silo. In other words, you are doing what sounds good and is often a result of good marketing not good diagnostics. There should be consideration of your entire situation before decisions are made.
Marketing companies and product salesman don’t want you to go through a process of determining if something is right for you. They simply want you to respond emotionally and make quick decisions about what sounds good or feels right.
To reduce the likelihood of being sold something, the first thing is to do is go through a discovery process to figure out what is best suited for you. A plan should answer questions for future events before they happen. Questions like:
- How inflation is going to impact your future income.
- Understanding your income gap.
- How sequence of returns can affect your ability to withdrawal income.
- How you will cover rising medical needs and long term care.
The plan is put together before products are introduced or money is moved. You shouldn’t just start buying things or doing things without having a plan in place on how it all works together.
When my wife goes to the grocery store, she will create a meal plan for the week and create a list of things she needs. She will then go into the grocery store on a mission to fulfill the grocery list.
Most people do things with their money that is opposite of this approach. They will go into the grocery store, start buying things and then fill their pantry or freezer without knowing what they are going to make.
I will leave you with this. When you think about your money it should not be a question about what investments to choose, what product to buy or what tax deduction your going to get.
That is the wrong conversation to be having with yourself or the financial person you are working with. And it is equally important to understand that having money is not having a plan. The money funds the plan but the money itself is not a solution.
The conversation needs to be about how you’re going to use the money? What is the purpose of the money you have? What your needs are? When you’re going to need money? Combatting inflation and health care costs? Legal work and tax implications.
I really hope that this has resonated with you and understand the need to tune out the noise. I realize that this can seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. By focusing on your personal situation and working through the financial planning process all of this truly does fall into place.
Best of Luck!
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