Everyone has heard this conversation starter countless times from a friend or family member. Oftentimes, the question is more figurative than literal but it still prompts us to look inward and respond.

The primary reply that we give provides a huge clue as to what’s top of mind. If we are having health issues we might center our answer on those; if there are financial concerns, we might go there. The question itself casts a wide net.

Broaden Your Horizons

A substantial segment of our work here focuses on trying to nudge clients to broaden their horizons so that improving their overall life, not just the financial part, is their focus. The day-to-day distractions of the financial markets make this difficult, particularly if you try to go it alone.

The truth is that the more you focus only on investments, the harder it is to improve your life. Investments are just tools, not ultimate solutions to bigger life problems. Investment marketers have brainwashed investors into believing that expensive packaged products offer nirvana. This has always been false.

Processed Products

Let me offer an analogy between packaged investment products and processed packaged foods. Neither of these existed three generations ago but are now common staples in our financial and nutritional lives. Both categories are harmful to what most of us profess that we’re trying to accomplish in life.

For certain, time-tested investment structures such as mutual funds, widely available for more than 60 years and exchange traded funds (20+ years), have allowed investors to accomplish the objective of diversification without complication. Even these established investment forms, however, are not immune from marketers trying to appeal to very narrow, and short-lived emotional triggers.

Don’t Be Distracted

All of us have a single cohesive life. Our financial life, family life, work life, faith life, etc. all function together, not apart. Understanding this can move you much further in the direction of what matters most in your life. On the other hand, if you view each component as distinct and separate from the other, you will always be contending with daily distractions that pull you away from what’s most important. Believe me, that’s the very goal of the marketers!

Think about marketing messages as time-oriented prompts where the primary objective is to cause you to concentrate on the very near term (this hour, this day, this week) instead of a longer time frame where what matters in your life is more clearly visible.

Are there parts of your overall life that are weak while others are strong? How can you remedy this? What are the next small steps you can take? Start there. Ready for a real conversation?

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