Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 18

Behavior Gap

Taking It Personal
By Carl Richards

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the personal commitment required to be a real financial advisor and was reminded of a great passage in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. The narrator is having some serious issues with his motorcycle that need to be fixed. He takes it to a supposed motorcycle mechanic, just as we all would. After multiple return trips to the shop, the narrator picks up his bike for the final time, and as he is driving away, he discovers that the mechanic forgot to bolt the engine in place. He then offers this fascinating observation: “Why did they butcher it so? They sat down to do a job and they performed it like chimpanzees. Nothing personal in it. The biggest clue seemed to be their expressions. They were hard to explain. Good-natured, friendly, easy going— and uninvolved. They were like spectators. You had the feeling they had just wandered in there themselves and somebody had handed them a wrench. There was no identification with the job. No saying, ‘I am a mechanic.’ ” “They were like spectators.” Part of the reason that our work is so emotionally difficult comes from the need to take it personally. Because investment decisions are always better when they are made in the context of people’s goals and dreams, it is pretty hard not to take it personally. Once you’ve had one of those meaningful conversations with clients and understand what they really want, what they have been working their entire lives for, you are no longer a passive spectator. At that point, it is almost impossible not to take it personal. If you call yourself a financial advisor (using the term generally to mean someone who gives financial advice), doesn’t it follow that you will naturally start to care about the outcome of that advice? I would argue that it is only after you start to “care” that you cross from being a spectator into the land of a trusted advisor. But, of course, once we start to care, we are faced with a very difficult paradox. As real financial advisors, we care deeply about our clients and their financial goals and dreams, but in the end, we have very little control over whether they realize those dreams. We care so much, but control so little. We can’t control the return they get, how much they save, when they will need money, or how much they will need. So there we sit, deeply committed to the success of something that we ultimately can’t control. Aristotle said, “It does not belong to medicine to produce health, but only to promote it as much as possible.” As financial advisors, that seems to be our lot as well. When it’s all said and done, we can’t control a client’s successful arrival at his or her financial dream, but we can (and I would argue must) be personally committed to doing everything possible to promote it. K
Carl Richards believes the world is a better place when people make smarter decisions about their money. That’s just one of the big ideas he promotes at BehaviorGap.com, a laboratory of sorts where Richards asks tough questions about financial planning and investor behavior. Richards puts his ideas to work in the real world through his firm, Prasada Capital Management.

18 Morningstar Advisor October/November 2010


http://www.BehaviorGap.com

Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010

Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010
Contents
New on MorningstarAdvisor.com
Contributors
Letter From the Editor
What estate-planning strategies are you and your clients doing before the end of the year?
Next Steps for ETFs
Investment Briefs
Taking It Personal
A Model Practice
Find the Right Fit
Will REITs Put You in the Penthouse?
Prepare for the Worst
Tips for Common Family Situations
Might Makes Right
Built to Last
Four Picks for the Present
Tactical Strategies Miss Their Mark
Time to Hop on the Commodities Bandwagon?
Retailers Balance Caution and Catalysts
In Search of … Recession Survivors
Turmoil-Tested Small-Cap Funds
Mutual Fund Analyst Picks
50 Most Popular ETFs
Undervalued Stocks With Wide Moats
VA Sales Rise in Second Quarter
The Third Rail
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Intro
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Cover2
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 1
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 2
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Contents
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 4
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 5
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - New on MorningstarAdvisor.com
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 7
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Contributors
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Letter From the Editor
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - What estate-planning strategies are you and your clients doing before the end of the year?
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 11
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Next Steps for ETFs
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 13
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Investment Briefs
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 15
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 16
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 17
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Taking It Personal
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 19
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - A Model Practice
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 21
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Find the Right Fit
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 23
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 24
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 25
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Will REITs Put You in the Penthouse?
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 27
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 28
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 29
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 30
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 31
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Prepare for the Worst
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 33
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 34
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 35
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Tips for Common Family Situations
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 37
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Might Makes Right
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 39
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 40
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 41
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 42
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 43
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 44
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 45
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Built to Last
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 47
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 48
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 49
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Four Picks for the Present
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 51
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Tactical Strategies Miss Their Mark
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 53
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 54
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 55
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 56
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 57
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Time to Hop on the Commodities Bandwagon?
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 59
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 60
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Retailers Balance Caution and Catalysts
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 62
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 63
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 64
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 65
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - In Search of … Recession Survivors
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 67
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Turmoil-Tested Small-Cap Funds
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 69
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Mutual Fund Analyst Picks
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 71
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 72
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 73
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 50 Most Popular ETFs
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 75
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Undervalued Stocks With Wide Moats
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 77
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - VA Sales Rise in Second Quarter
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - 79
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - The Third Rail
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Cover3
Morningstar Advisor - October/November 2010 - Cover4
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