With few exceptions, most of the prospective clients that we see arrive here seeking to solve a specific problem. The pain from the problem has caused them to seek a remedy. So far, so good, but in most instances, the problem they want to solve is not really the largest issue.

One of our most valuable roles is uncovering latent problems, those issues that are lurking in hidden corners and may be difficult to see. In medical verbiage, the presenting symptoms may be just that, symptoms of something far larger that needs to be addressed. The risk that you seek to address pales in comparison to the very real underlying risk that you are not addressing.

The cognitive issues involved in financial goal setting and decision-making provide ample room to derail even the best laid financial plans. Overconfidence, risk aversion, confirmation bias, herding, and trusting narrative above evidence can all lead to serious financial mistakes.

Everyone can fall prey to these biases (and a host of others), even if we think we are well grounded. On a recent Saturday morning, I ran into an old friend at the hardware store. After catching up a bit, he launched into his theory about the impending collapse of the global economy and asked if I agreed. When I told him no, he was perplexed because the narrative he laid out was so compelling. My friend, like many others, is letting the “junk food for the brain” in the media each day unduly influence him. He obviously is not alone.

The approach we use is to help clients curate, (a 19th-century English word with new life in the 21st century), the huge waves of information that arrive each day, separating the important from the irrelevant. Greg MCKeown, in his excellent book Essentialism, speaks of “The unimportance of practically everything”. He is spot on. The era of choices has devolved into the era of “too many choices”. Ready for a real conversation?

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