Financial Planning

Shocking News for Investors  You and Your Financial Advisor Are Biased

Shocking News for Investors – You and Your Financial Advisor Are Biased

I can hear investors saying, “I’m not biased” – well sorry but you are! And guess what? So is your financial advisor! But, if you take time to invest in knowing your financial behavioral biases you can work very effectively with them, instead of blindly against them

Understanding behavioral finance and the effects of human behavior on financial markets provides insight into the human side of financial decision making. This insight can help investors take a more rational and less emotional view and remain committed to long-term strategies and goals during periods of market volatility.

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Both investors and advisors often make incorrect judgments based on personal beliefs, past experiences, personal preferences, and emotions. These biases direct them away from rational, long-term thinking. Further, biases focus the investor or financial advisor on only one aspect of what could be a complex financial decision-making process.

Ariel Cecchi – Consultant on Behavioural Economics and Service Design University of Geneva observes the following:

A common interpretation in behavioral finance is that rationality is the result of a pure cognitive process which can be behaviorally biased. In general, the bias has a negative connotation because it produces a distortion in the calculation of an outcome. When a decision-making process is cognitively biased the outcome leads to sub-optimal results or judgment errors. Roughly speaking, the subject might make irrational choices due to faulty reasoning, statistical errors, lack of information, memory errors, and the like. Differently, when the decision is emotionally biased, it means that the cognitive process has been influenced by feelings, affects, moods, and so on (let’s label these states “emotions”). This leads us to irrational decisions or actions.

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Biases are influential underpinnings in terms of the decisions we make. Such behavioral biases cannot be completely eliminated, but recognizing them is the first step in managing them, reducing their effects and avoiding self-destructive behavior.

In increasing numbers financial advisors are adopting the behavioral components of investing. They may have worked with their investors for long periods of time, focusing predominantly on risk tolerance and objectives. Not so now. Advisors are making the effort to understand why investors often react in the moment and revert to short-sighted beliefs that may hurt their returns.

Many advisors are implementing behavioral insight processes that deliver greater self-awareness for recognizing potential advisor AND investor behavioral tendencies. Tools such as ones provided by Financial DNA measure each of these behavioral biases independently and display them on a Behavioral Management Guide. This enables financial advisors to discuss the strongest biases with the client and develop a strategy for managing them.

Managing money is too important to be driven by our emotions. Running to our inherent go to’ behavior when markets fluctuate has to be managed. The responsible first step in any investor/advisory relationship, therefore, is to objectively uncover the financial personalities of both advisor AND investor, using a measurably reliable, independently validated discovery process. Anything less degrades the advisor’s fiduciary responsibility and investor experience while opening the door for compliancy issues and loss of clients.

The Top 4 Ways Your Brain Wrecks Investment Performance

The Top 4 Ways Your Brain Wrecks Investment Performance

As behavioral finance goes mainstream, investor behavior has become more accepted as the major influence on investment performance. So how does one become Behaviorally Smart? Dalbar research shows investment losses to individual investors due to their behavior to be an average of 8% per year over the last 30 years.

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And not just limited to the investor, based on research performed by Cabot Research, professional investment managers are leaving 1% to 3% a year on the table, which is significant when you realize the size of these large portfolios. So even the professionals who use sophisticated technology and extensive research make mental errors in their decision making. After all, they are also human and have to manage their cognitive biases and emotions when under pressure.

This begs the question how can investors improve? There is no simple tonic to improved performance, as this requires wholesale behavioral change – a paradigm shift in how one engages the world around them.

Steps to Investor Improvement
1) greater level of self-awareness as to why they repeat the same mistakes
2) develop an investment process that provides a “check yourself before you wreck yourself” step to mitigate these blind spots.

Greater Self-Awareness
With more than 15 years of research, DNA Behavior has learned that easily identifiable behavioral traits lead to patterns of decision-making that are then very closely aligned the structure of an investor’s portfolio. So the combination of traits and patterns makes up their financial personality style. The portfolio mirrors who they are! In fact, investors should look at their portfolio as the composition of all their decisions and not just a series of market positions.

Next, the reality is that some behavioral biases cost more than others. Based on Cabot Research (read Michael Ervolini’s book “Managing Equity Portfolios“, the top 4 ways the brain can wreck investment performance are summarized as follows:

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1. Holding on to winners for too long. Known as the Endowment Effect, the investor falls in love with a winner and loses sight of the fact that its best days are gone. There is the fear of selling the position too early and missing out on future growth.

2. Selling young winners too early. This is attributed to Risk Aversion, resulting in the investor having fears about the future and not wanting to take the bumps in the road as the stock goes up in value.

3. Holding on to losers for too long is caused by Loss Aversion. The investor is fearful of the pain that will be caused by taking a loss and therefore, ends up with a portfolio full of losers.

4. Not adding to winners when they take off is attributed to Regret Aversion. This is an investor who, through fear, is hesitant in their decision-making and backs out of building the stock position as it gains momentum.

Based on your history of decision-making which of these 4 patterns has cost you the most? And remember, there are also many other behavioral biases, which coupled with these, will further contribute to reduced performance. To help you on the journey of closing the investment performance gap, start with self-awareness of your behavioral traits. Take the first step by completing your Financial DNA Discovery – click here.

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4 Hacks For Managing Your Nightmare Clients

Advisors and their staff love to stereotype their clients. Without even realizing it, most firms segment their clients based on communication style using a crude method of stereotyping. While this segmentation is informal, it 100% aligns to the four fundamental client communication styles. Below is a guide to the four most common client communication styles and how to serve them based on their common stereotypes. Any seasoned advisor will agree that these tips can save your client relationship.

1. The Engineer: By far, the most common stereotype I hear is “the engineers”. Many firms will avoid engineers at all costs. But for firms that have mastered communication to engineers, this is their bread and butter business. The key many firms use when training new staff is: “don’t you dare show up to a meeting for an engineer without doing your homework.”

Tips for working with “The Engineer” (The information focused)

  • Make the meeting have structure, provide an agenda ahead of time.
  • Provide research to back up recommendations. Give them space to review the research and contemplate options. Ask leading questions to draw them out beyond simple yes/no options.
  • Follow-up the meeting with additional resources to educate themselves and a to-do list as “homework”.
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2. The Talker: The “talker” can be a potentially great referral source, but they sure can do a number on your calendar!

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Tips for working with “The Talker” (the Lifestyle focused)

  • Make the meeting fun and inspiring.
  • Swap stories of influential people that share a similar situation.
  • Follow-up the meeting with a phone call, even invite them to a social event. Everyone likes the life of the party, or at least wants to hear what they’ll say next.

3. Mr. or Ms. Guarantee: Averse to risk, Mr. or Ms. Guarantee cant stand the thought of losses and immediately jump to the worst case scenario. They wont like the idea of complete uncertainty and will often ask for written guarantees and whole-heartedly compare their performance to benchmarks. They need continuous reminders to stick to their plan and that slight ups and downs are normal.

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Tips for working with “Mr. or Ms. Guarantee” (the Stability-focused)

  • Make the meeting relaxed. Use a coffee table or living room type setting.
  • Reference past experiences and make recommendations accordingly.
  • Follow-up the meeting with a phone call AND email about next steps.

4. The Hardheaded: “Do as I do, not as I say”. The hardheaded have a view of the world that every rule is intended to be broken. These clients are the best selective listeners in the world and will interject on a dime to keep the discussion focused on their self-centered plans goals.

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Tips for working with “The Hardheaded” (The goal-setting focused)

  • Make the meeting formal and focus on how you will meet THEIR goals for returns.
  • Be prepared with a sample big picture plan.
  • Afterward, follow-up with an email or text summarizing the discussion.

 

 

 

Following these guidelines will keep most client experiences on the right path to success. But if you ever find you can’t quite find the right fit, either try a mix of the options above, or there are tools and training available to support your needs.

Advise Your Advisor On How To Advise You On Financial Advice

Advise Your Advisor On How To Advise You On Financial Advice

Your Advisor’s not telling you that your long-term financial goals may be out of sync with the level of risk you’re willing to take in order to reach them. No risk, no reward, right? It’s time to advise your advisor on how to advise you on financial advice.

According to a recent survey by asset manager Natixis, while about 73% of investors polled said that pursuing returns is more important, nearly 84% also said they would choose safety over risk.

So how can you balance increasing assets vs. tolerating risk? And how do you relate this to your advisor? For financial advisors, this balance presents a challenge as well. How your advisor is able to accurately assess this is by delving into your core natural risk propensity and tolerance, part of your financial personality.

The opportunity is to educate your advisor on realistic expectations and strategies to best reach your goals. And while he or she has the tools and training available to them in order to help you along, not everyone is onboard with matching your individual personality behaviors with your personal financial goals.

Where advisors often fall short is not identifying all of the risks associated with your particular situation: investment, financial, and personality risks. This is an important factor because under stress, you might not be as clearheaded or know all the ins and outs of a given situation in order to rationally process what’s happening and make behaviorally smart decisions. You very well may be operating based on your core natural behavior.

As you’re transitioning jobs, getting married, buying a house or preparing for retirement, you’re under a lot of financial stress – worries regarding accumulating wealth may push you into new, riskier investment decisions. Then add market volatility, unforeseen personal events or escalating college tuitions or long-term health care costs, or the emotions associated with being in the “withdrawal stage” rather than “accumulation phase”, and you’re pushed according to your core natural behavior. In many cases, this mix of stress and decisions based on your reaction to that stress is not beneficial for the long-term success of financial goals.

Your financial advisor needs to be in a position to manage not only your portfolio, but protect you from your natural self. This is an important step in the investor/advisor relationship and necessary to your financial success, because under stress, your risk behavior is less predictable without an objective tool. You may want to jump at every opportunity, or over-spend, or take no action at all. This is where knowing your behavioral insights and communication style, help your advisor help you and your significant other.

In many cases, a couples’ behavior will be directly opposite one another. So there is an added challenge for your advisor to know the behavior of each of you in order to address both in different ways.

So, how do you uncover these behavioral risks?

You need an objective, third party system so that your behavior, under stress, becomes more predictable and therefore can plan accordingly. Then, in combination with your experience and wisdom, discovering your financial natural behavior will allow you to become a behaviorally smart investor and provide valuable insights to your financial profile. It’s an enlightening process to see if your advisor is right for you, and then in turn, to see if you’re a match to them. And who knows? With these insights, you may find out a lot more about yourself and your partner, than you’d previously known.

Be sure to discover all of your risks originating from your natural core behavior. It’s the only way to protect you, from yourself. And it helps establish a trusting relationship with your advisor to create a financial plan that is as unique as you.

Find Your Financial Advisor Soul Mate Don't Settle for Less

Find Your Financial Advisor Soul Mate

People have unique financial needs; no two situations are ever exactly the same. Finding a financial advisor who really understands us and can deliver advice tailored to the specific situation can make a significant difference in helping us accomplish our life and financial goals.

It takes a special kind of person to be able to unlock deeply held information at the first meeting. It gets progressively more difficult if that first meeting is not conducive to our communication style. Fortunately, some advisors have Behavioral Finance tools available to ensure they are meeting your needs.

So many of us settle for second best when it comes to engaging a Financial Advisor. Yet how much more could be achieved, if the Financial Advisor we chose not only fully understood investments, but also knew how to uncover your goals and behavioral biases that may be a blockage to achieving those goals?

I wonder why we prolong a relationship with our Financial Advisor when it’s clear we are settling for second best. I want someone smart, trustworthy, and dependable and who cares about my future and my financial wellbeing by making sure they really understand me and are not giving me a generic portfolio that they prefer. Joanna Cleaver writing for US Money puts it like this.

You stay because breaking up is hard to do.

I want my Financial Advisor to see their self as a financial soul mate. I want them to understand I have a bias for Newness – giving more weight to something new and exciting, rather than because it made logical sense to do otherwise. I want them to partner with me as I manage my Mental Accounting bias – needing to allocate my finances into specific buckets for explicit purposes, rather than for long term goals.

Maybe this sounds radical, but why can’t I have a Financial Advisor who understands my communication style? I need time to understand and dwell on what they are saying. I need information delivered to me in a relaxed environment. Wouldn’t this achieve a greater likelihood that I would remain with the same Financial Advisor for years?

Many years ago, I wanted to invest in an exciting start up. Something about this entrepreneur and his ideas excited me. My financial advisor wouldn’t even discuss the opportunity referring to me as a ‘novice’ in terms of investing and to the entrepreneur as a ’7-day wonder’. The advisor had no idea about me, my plans for my life and indeed I think saw me as an amateur.

As I am reminded of that incident many years ago, I wonder if the advisor (long since out of my life) remembers the conversation as he watches the multi-billion dollar empire this young man went on to build.

All it would have taken for this story to have been different was an advisor who understood that I don’t take risks, but that I am very savvy when I see an opportunity, and that at that time I could well afford the amount I wished to invest.

Its time for Financial Advisors to approach us as our financial advisory soulmate. They need to take time to match us with advisors based upon communication style and understanding our behavioral biases. With a validated behavioral and communication process, I believe I can find my financial advisor soulmate. It isn’t just a need, but I believe it is their responsibility to ensure my financial and life goals are met.

It’s time for your advisor to learn more about Behavioral Biases that get in the way of making sound financial decisions and to use available tools and training to better support achieving life and financial goals

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Be-Fi for the DIYI (Behavioral Finance for the Do-It-Yourself Investor)

The oldest advice in the financial world: buy low, and sell high. And easy to follow too, right? Then how come we’re not all gazillionaires? That’s the Behavioral Finance $25,000 question.

First off, maybe a gazillion bucks isn’t everyone’s goal, but even moderate growth on savings over time in preparation for retirement shouldn’t mean we suffer losses over and over again along the way. So beyond market volatility, what are the factors for our repeated or short-sighted poor finance decisions?

Let me share a story.

Years ago I got a “hot stock tip” from a buddy, stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Between his recommendation and the historical value showing nothing but upward mobility, why not? Well, it hit. A solid 34% gain in just about a month. Amazing, right? I was so excited, I could barely wait to see what it would do next. And that’s the turning point. A couple of dips later, I still had a significant gain, but I was going to ride it all the way back up. It had to bounce back, right? That’s optimism bias. So to remove myself from further discouragement, I opted to not check it daily, even weekly. And in about the same amount of time of its rise to greatness, it dipped to pennies on the dollar below my initial buy-in. What happened? I got greedy? I didn’t set limits (gain or loss)? I got caught in the Herd-following bias. I was following the lead of the others instead of the hard facts, or following a set plan.

Well, I finally got around to telling my Financial Advisor. Even though she’s entrusted with my long-term savings plans, I’d not considered sharing my “fun experiment.” She took one look at the company’s performance and simply said “they’re awful, sell it while you still have something. And next time, check with me first”. Good advice, but not what I wanted to hear. So, I kept it anyway, even in light of overwhelming odds. That’s Overconfidence Bias.

It’s been almost 6 years of hanging onto to this one-time trading nightmare. At least, we weren’t “missing” the money, just sad to have seemingly blown the wad. On a positive note, I’m on the cusp of another big potential return. A rental house we bought at the bottom of the market and now, with a little elbow grease, is primed for resale. Bought, mind you, with our Financial Advisor’s full support. It’s our backup plan if we both lose our jobs and need to get out of our big, nice house quick. We could downsize finances in a hurry. Anyway, the silver lining, since I’ve held onto the dog of a stock, is to sell it when we sell the house and take the stock loss to offset the house profit. Not brain surgery, but in sync with our advisor’s input.

A nice story about Behavioral Bias and advisor communication, but let’s get back to the Financial Personality of a person who might seem to haphazardly buy high and sell low, when they meant to do otherwise, and how this affects long-term financial planning efforts.

Our Financial Personality covers both innate and learned behaviors in regards to our financial decisions. It also includes our behavioral biases, communication style, and Market Mood. So knowing one’s Financial Personality is the key to developing financial goals and then the plan to achieve them. This transparency in truly understanding ourselves helps us navigate volatile market events and stay on point for the greater good. Your Financial Advisor has assessment tools that can quantify your personality traits. There’s a self-guided version posted here (personal assessment) to try for yourself.

 

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Another integral part in working with your Financial Advisor, or any business colleague, friend neighbor or significant other, is communication. Recall that I included my advisor on the house purchase, but I only spoke with friends on the stock ordeal? Well, we all have our own communication style. And we tend to run in circles where our own style is fairly prevalent — learned from families and developed amongst friends. But in the business world, good communication is key to being understood, and understanding others. And we won’t always get to choose to (or from) whom we engage. So we have to learn to adapt (or be left behind). Wouldn’t you want a way to identify how you come across to others or how best for others to engage you? Well, there are assessment tools for this too. Again, here (communication style) is an assessment you can try, and even share with others.

It’s no coincidence that I included the interactions with my Financial Advisor as part of my financial thrill of victory and agony of defeat. She was and continues to be in my corner for staying on course and avoid making bad decisions when the terrain suddenly changes. And some mistakes have wholly been on my own. Now, this may not be the case for everyone, and that’s why we’re kicking off this discussion — to find the peaks and valleys of our financial journeys and help one another along the way. If you’re interested in seeking an advisor, or already have one, and want to share what’s being discussed here, please check out this advisor finder.

 

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Likewise, tune in for more Behavioral Finance for the DIY Investor over the next several weeks as we cover the many ways our Financial Personality, Behavioral Biases and Communication Styles affect, and are affected by, our relationships with our friends, family, Business and Financial Advisors.