Powerful changes in today’s world are empowering individuals and consumers like no other time in history. But as our employment, political and social circles rapidly change, we seek ways to cope, survive and thrive under these new circumstances. While providing tremendous opportunities on one end, they challenge our beliefs and security blankets on the other. These changes can at first seem alarming because they not only allow us to be our best but actually demand us to be our best. How do we handle all of this change? What do we do?
The turbulence of our times demands strong finances and habits that can be effective in all economic climates. With the breakdown of employment security, it is a dangerous moment in history not to have our finances in tip-top shape. To face the future with poor financial flexibility and stamina creates a severe disadvantage. Therefore, the economic and job stability we cannot find in the outside world must be created within our own personal finances.
While the S&P 500 remained near its all-time high, the recent massive selloff in the technology sector went mostly unnoticed. But for investors who follow the so-called “FANG” stocks (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google) the hit was painful: About $60 billion in value was wiped out in just one afternoon, representing the largest selloff in nearly 2 years.
The wipeout was a function of just how big these companies have become and the position they are in with new tax reform looming. Tech companies are expected to receive little benefit given its already-low average tax rate of 18.5% (below the 20% proposed rate).
This has caused investors to rotate out of the tech stocks and into the financial services sector, which stands to benefit more from a corporate tax rate that would drop from the current 35% to 20%.
Interestingly, the S&P 500 was relatively unaffected while this rotation into financials and out of tech ensued. The index’s volatility actually remained low, as did correlations among the S&P 500’s member stocks.
In other words, the diversity offered by the S&P 500 Index allowed for the index too remain relatively unscathed by the trading within the tech and financial sectors, a key reminder to investors that having proper exposure across the markets continues to be important with the S&P 500 near its all-time high.
What Are Your Own Possibilities?
Sometimes, the pursuit of wealth can leave a void in our lives—a place left empty because we lacked the energy or time to pursue a dream. There is a saying: “Wealth is not an end, it is a means to an end.” The problem is that the complexity of creating wealth and the subsequent financial planning often gets in the way of seeing and pursuing an end truly aligned with your highest purpose in life.
My life’s work has been focused on this critical unmet need. I hope to help people see the possibilities that open up once you escape from the chaos and confusion that characterize so much of the wealth management field today. I absolutely know it is possible to put a large portion of wealth management on automatic; I have built the system, structure, support and discipline to achieve this; and I’ve seen how using these benefits helps people define and achieve their highest ambitions. This approach is both effective and rewarding.
Clients are surprised sometimes when I ask them about their higher purpose and possibilities. It is not that they feel I’m prying; they just don’t expect an advisor to be concerned with such matters. I tell them that these are the most important questions for them to consider when it comes to financial planning.
Hiring a financial advisor can be a smart and profitable decision: As we detailed in a recent blog article, advisors using industry best practices can help their clients earn a significant investment premium.
There’s a catch, though. Not all financial advisors do the right thing, consistently, for their clients. Surprisingly, the great majority of financial advisors are under no legal obligation to put their clients’ financial interests ahead of their own.
As we have watched the 2016 Olympics in Rio, it’s truly impressive to see the athletes from all over the world compete at such a high level and demonstrate their true dedication to their chosen sport. The athletes and their families have spent years devoted to hard work, incredible amounts of focused energy to training, exhibit world class discipline and dedication in order to be the very best in the world. Their ascension to the Olympics of course has not been linear, as each of the athlete’s had to overcome many obstacles and adversity in their paths to reach the pinnacle of their respective sport. The Olympian athletes’ training efforts, focus, and discipline are primarily behind the scenes with many hours working with their coach and trainers, with never a promise to compete or let alone win an Olympic medal. Their hard work and tireless effort’s provides them the best chance to execute their lifetime goals.
Financial advisors can provide peace of mind. But do they deliver a demonstrable, dollars-and-cents advantage to their clients?
Two studies show that the answer is yes—if the advisor is diligent in providing several key services. Let’s start with research from Morningstar, the big Chicago-based investment research firm. A 2012 Morningstar study found that advisors who use an “efficient financial planning strategy” can help clients increase their retirement assets significantly.
When it comes to financial planning, I have found that a systematic approach is needed to make important decisions, focus on what matters most, and evaluate options. In previous posts I introduced the guiding principles of wealth management:
- Make your balance sheet, cash flow, and portfolio your friend
- Compare your finances to standards of excellence
- Stress-test your financial plan
- Know what is holding you back and spurring you forward
- Be specific and proactive to make permanent changes
In my previous four posts I introduced my guiding principles of wealth management, along with the first four principles (links to one, two, three and four). Today I will discuss the fifth and last guiding principle:
Be specific and proactive by identifying and implementing the actions that will result in the best permanent changes
Over the years, I have had the privilege of observing how clients meet challenges and tackle opportunities. Some have a knack for succeeding in any task they take on, while others seem to struggle more than they need to. Eventually, I saw a key distinction between these two groups: Successful people are usually very specific and proactive, while those who struggle tend to be vague and reactive. They set goals, but they do not follow through with a plan of specific actions aimed at meeting those goals. Consequently, instead of controlling events, they wind up responding to events. Getting stuck in reactive mode is another example of the 85% Trap.
By contrast, when successful people see a need or set a goal for themselves, they develop a specific plan of action. In keeping with the concept of the Essential 15%, they strive to find a permanent solution to every challenge, as opposed to a solution that requires ongoing effort.
In my last few posts I have discussed my first few guiding principles for wealth management: make your balance sheet your friend and compare your financial plan to standards of excellence. Today I will discuss the third principle:
Back-test and stress-test your financial plan under various scenarios to further reveal strengths, weaknesses, and possibilities.
The “Elastic Limit” is a term I’ve borrowed from engineering because it has tremendous relevance in wealth management and financial planning. It refers to the amount of stress a material can withstand before undergoing permanent deformation. For example, if you stand on a wooden bench, the wood may sag a bit and bounce back when you jump off. However, if several NFL linemen stand on the same bench, the wood will probably warp, crack, or break.
Compare your finances to standards of excellence and use them to make enhancements
When people with wealth describe to me how they view their current position, they use a wide variety of yardsticks to measure themselves. Some are troubled because they are comparing their finances to friends, family, or associates who appear to be much better off. Others are troubled because they have lost a large portion of their net worth through market declines, bad investments, or business setbacks.
It is more common, though, to meet people who feel quite confident and secure because they’re doing much better than they imagined they would when they were younger. Their confidence may be fueled by the good opinion of others around them, since wealthy, successful people are often accorded tremendous respect and kid-glove treatment.
There is nothing wrong with these benefits of success, but you can’t allow them to lull you into false assumptions about your financial position. If you want to know where you really stand in terms of financial strength, you need to employ objective standards of excellence.