Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Trust Starts Here

Trust Starts Here

I recently met with a group of investors who had one nagging thing in common: they no longer trusted anyone to help them invest their money. Their former trusted advisors, in their minds, were not objective enough, didn’t deliver satisfactory service nor understood how to meet their expectations. Their complaints sounded something like “I don’t trust anyone these days”; “I’m not crazy about the guy I’m working with but I don’t think I’m going to find anyone different—they all have their own biases and act on them”; “I’m keeping my money in cash and at least I’m sleeping at night. Of course, it is a hassle having multiple bank accounts to manage”.

This scenario is quite common as I’ve heard on the news and read in surveys. Bottom line is that we don’t trust our institutions whom we’ve entrusted with our financial well-being—our government, our banks, our money managers and our employers.

We’d all agree it’s not healthy to be fearful of our security and well-being, but that’s where the agreement and clarity ends. When we have to figure out how to change the situation, we tend to ignore any meaningful personal feedback of what led us into the current situation—greed, unrealistic expectations, irrational exuberance for starters. In addition, most lamenters share in a passive approach to mastering their own financial and personal affairs.

If I’ve learned anything about the psychology of money management all of these years, I’ve learned that greater self-trust is projected unconsciously onto others and leads to greater trust of others. We know that we’ll do everything in our power to act in our own best self-interest, control what we can and then do our best with what we can’t. So, it’s clear we need greater trust in our own capabilities and efforts to protect ourselves and act in our best interest. We have to spend the time and do our own work—whatever it takes to bring back a greater sense of certainty and control. If I don’t trust myself because of mistakes I’ve made then I can’t really trust others. I have to see and own part of the responsibility.

So we talked about this concept in the group and waded through a lot of resistance to really perceiving the role that each one of us played. I must say we all left feeling more empowered and motivated to push ahead. Sometimes it takes making peace with a dreaded situation and finding a way to deal and cope as best we can.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

New Year's Money Resolutions: How to Succeed in Keeping Yours

Over the many decades of giving advice on how to succeed in keeping New Year’s resolutions, I think about how I can make the advice unique in some way so that more people heed the advice and succeed in keeping their resolutions. But I ultimately come back to the advice that I know works when we take ourselves and our desires for change more seriously, so we walk our talk so to speak.

I’ve found three guiding principles that are easy to remember and quite easy to execute if kept conscious and actionable in our daily lives. So heeding the three R’s will work for you, also, if your resolutions are:

1) Reasonable, 2) Realistic and 3) Rewarding.

Your resolution(s) should be based on an attainable goal rather than wishful thinking and on a whim. They should be what you could reasonably and realistically achieve otherwise you’ll set yourself up to fail. Most of us set goals so that we can be rewarded by achieving them, so make sure the resolutions are going to pay off for you.

If one of your goals is to getter a greater sense of control over your money management in 2010, put systems in place in your daily life so that you have a sense of whether you are really achieving and will achieve that sense of control. Tracking money coming in and going out is just the beginning. Monitoring if you’re making the best use of your money will assure that this new system for achieving greater control actually becomes rewarding. If you don’t know what it is that you want your money to satisfy, it will never be able to bring you that sense of fulfillment. That’s where the “rewarding” factor comes in, so that you can sustain the new goal you set. Set up the goal for the new sense of money mastery and make it concrete and measurable so you know when you achieve it.

Most resolutions fail because old habits are tough to break and new ones hard to form without consistency, conscious effort and a sense of motivation to sustain this new behavior. An important part of maintaining our resolutions is being able to emotionally and financially support our goals and challenges. So, it’s not enough to focus on the finances. We must also focus on a plan to assure that our emotions don’t trip us up along the way. One way to do this is in keeping the actions required simple and small at first.

Small steps can lead to big gains if made consistently over time. Small steps are easier to make and easier to commit to in our already crowded lives. The small steps must be part of a strategy and plan, however that consistently lead to our desired payoff. They must be recorded somewhere so we are aware and responsible for following through. We want these small steps to become habitual and reflexive so they become a natural part of our lives. They have to fit into our schedule—putting them into the calendar with cues to remind ourselves that we must take action—will assure that they aren’t forgotten.

Rewarding ourselves for accomplishing these small steps will assure that our emotions cooperate and keep us on top of our game for change. So, remember small steps taken over time will lead to big gains. Now, let’s all get going and assure that we beat the statistics this year and keep our resolutions.