YOU NEED TO KNOW…That It’s So Much Easier To Live The Truth

6a0120a8cdef2c970b0133ed471626970b No doubt, you’ve at some point been given the admonishment that it’s easier to tell the truth because you don’t have to remember your lies.  It really is solid logic, especially for those of us with selective memories.  Doesn’t it also seem that people tend to get in more trouble for lying about something they’ve done wrong—attempting to be covering it up—than they do for actually doing the wrong thing in the first place?

 Sure, it’s particularly obvious in cases like former President Clinton’s hazy recollection regarding his interpersonal relations, but how about the emails between fund managers laughing about sales of financial products they knew were destined for failure?  It’s quite possible that examples like those of corporate falsehood and the accompanying aloofness played a substantial role in the populist uprising that led to major changes in Washington recently.

That leaves me wondering… if it’s easier to TELL the truth because we don’t have to remember our lies, and we recognize the severity of the consequences when we’re caught in a lie, what are the implications if we LIVE a lie?  How about in our occupations, the pursuits in which most of us will spend the majority of our waking hours?  Do you ever feel as though you’ve been pigeon-holed into a particular job because it works well for someone else, but not necessarily for you?  Maybe you’re even encouraged to perform your duties in such a way that are in conflict with your values—or at least your instincts.  Maybe it seems like it would just be too hard, financially or personally, to be true to yourself and do something for which you’re better suited.  

Then follow the example of Keith McCullough, author of the book Diary of a Hedge Fund Manager. He found himself educated and skilled enough to excel at the highest levels in the hedge fund world.  He was “making it big” financially and had all the opportunities to continue to ride that wave.  But he knew it wasn’t who he was or what he was meant to be doing and took a 100% pay cut to walk away. He may not be making more money than he did as a hedge fund manager, but now Keith is enjoying the harmony of both telling AND living the truth… and that is something YOU NEED TO KNOW.

You Need To Know…Talent vs. Practice

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You Need To Know – TalPract


YOU NEED TO KNOW… some good news and bad news about your retirement—and life–plans.

You want the bad news first, don’t you?  Your retirement plan goals aren’t likely to be realized overnight.  Worse yet, most of your big plans in life also aren’t going to materialize in a flash moment of brilliance.  We know this, don’t we?  But our actions don’t always show it.  We agree that our goals aren’t likely to be met in an instant, but then we act as though the retirement or other life goal lottery is going to strike…. by over-weighting hot stocks picks or volatile mutual funds in our portfolios…  Or maybe we work day-in-and-day-out expecting someone to change our life and move us to the penthouse corner office, or hand us that big break.  So the bad news is that hope, desire – even talent – alone will not really get us anywhere in our long term planning.  As Anders Ericsson, the world renowned expert on high performance in work, sports and life puts it “I have yet to find a talented person who didn’t earn their talent through hard work and thousands of hours of practice.” 

So what’s the good news?  Ericsson dubbed the term “deliberate practice” in describing the one key factor that virtually all successful plans have in common.  That’s the reason that your buddy, who doesn’t have a lick of athletic ability, has a golf handicap in the single digits.  That’s the reason that monthly investment plans virtually always end up positively surprising folks years down the road.  But, when it comes to engaging in “deliberate practice” to better your retirement or financial independence plan, it requires that you HAVE a plan… then you have something to practice.

Talent, hope, passion and vision are all great things, but without employing them in habitual pursuits, they will accomplish very little.  Conversely, you will surprise yourself in your retirement and other life plans if you simply dedicate yourself to a deliberate practice of your objectives… and that is something that YOU NEED TO KNOW.

You Need To Know…It’s Wednesday (FRIDAY, actually)

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You Need To Know -Wednesday



This audio essay was initially written and read two days ago—Wednesday—but it’s just as appropriate today!

YOU NEED TO KNOW… that it’s WEDNESDAY (FRIDAY, actually).

Yes, I know that this You Need To Know would appear self-evident, but after the Labor Day induced long weekend, you can’t deny that you’ve had the experience at least for a moment when you had to be reminded that, for all intents and purposes, you’re actually one day ahead of your week?  It’s happened to me a few times this week—most recently with a realization that woke me out of a groggy stupor in the shower this morning.  

When a realization like this hits us, it’s generally a good thing, because you’re basically ahead of the curve, especially if you look forward to your weekends.  What is not such a good feeling is waking up and being given a reminder that you’re behind the curve.  This happens to me occasionally when my four-year-old son plays a trick on me and messes with my alarm clock… the volume’s set too low and I slowly wake—feeling surprisingly refreshed for a mid-week morning—only to realize that I’m now running late. 

These momentary hiccups in our personal space time continuum are fleeting; they come and go and we get on with our life.  But through numerous—often self-preservative—acts of self-deception, events like these take place on a much bigger scale in our lives, and especially in our financial lives.  When we’ve planned properly in advance, a surprise hits and you may realize, “Wow, I’m better off than I expected!”  But often times, and especially in the midst of a tough recession, too many people seem to have one of those record-coming-to-a-screeching-halt-moments when it hits you that you’re underprepared, sometimes woefully so.  Maybe you realize that you simply followed the wrong career path and are now backed into a corner; or maybe you didn’t keep enough in emergency reserves so your job loss now means home foreclosure; or maybe you didn’t save enough and now your options for retirement are severely limited.  

These instances are not fleeting like the alarm clock or getting to the Wednesday [Friday] after Labor Day one day early—but they’re also not irrecoverable either.  And the first step is self-awareness or recognizing where you stand at the moment.  So whether you’re driving, sitting, standing or walking, consider this your wake-up call—your invitation to reality.  Ask some hard questions and know where you stand.  You’ll be glad you did… and that is something YOU NEED TO KNOW.

You Need To Know…A Dead Pig In The Sunshine Is Quite Happy

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You Need To Know – Dead Pig


YOU NEED TO KNOW… that a “dead pig in the sunshine” is actually quite happy.

I’m sure you’re quite convinced at this moment that I’ve finally lost whatever marbles I previously possessed, but if you’re from the south, you might know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.  I was on the phone recently with a great client who lives in another state that is decidedly below the Mason-Dixon line, and at one point, he mentioned that he was, “Happier than a dead pig in the sunshine.”  Since I’m a big fan of the use of uncommon metaphors, I asked him how that could possibly be… he didn’t know, so I looked it up on Google.  And believe it or not, even Google was not able to tell me why a pig that was dead could be happy regardless of where he lies.

Do you ever feel this way when people in the financial world start talking?  These days, everybody is throwing around a good bit of gross domestic product, core inflation, and if you’re lucky, maybe you can have some credit crunch… (is that an ice cream topping?)  At tax time, you’re sure to hear about adjusted gross income, maybe modified adjusted gross income, and the rightly scorned alternative minimum tax.  In estate planning, you have a federal estate tax exclusion which may or may not be impacted by your annual gift exclusion or your lifetime gift exclusion.  But, if you’re looking for the most common “dead pig in the sunshine” style rule that could never be explained, why is it that the two primary ages for IRA distributions are stipulated in half years (59 ½ and 70 ½)??

Do you ever think that the phrases that are thrown around in the financial realm are actually used to make you think that you don’t know enough and thereby need to buy something from the person who’s doing the phrase dropping?  Next time, just tell them that “you’re happier than a dead pig in sunshine”… they’ll understand… and that is something YOU NEED TO KNOW.


You Need To Know…Your Job Is Not About The Money

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You Need To Know – Love Your Job


YOU NEED TO KNOW… that your job is not about the money.

Please take 10 seconds to stop whatever you’re doing (unless, of course, you’re driving; in that case, please proceed) and answer the following multiple choice question—honestly!  The following best describes how I feel about my job:

a)    I hate my job

b)    I tolerate my job

c)    I like my job

d)    I love my job

e)    I’m MADE for my job 

Now, if you didn’t answer either d) or e) (that you love your job or are plain made for your job), I’d like to know why.  My guess is that virtually every single answer would be some variant of “I NEED or WANT the money.”  If that is the case, I want to applaud you, because that means that you’ve chosen to sacrifice the majority of your waking hours in this lifetime to doing something that you don’t particularly like to do because you need or want the money… and I’m not saying that sarcastically—my guess is that you likely need or want the money for a worthy cause, like your family, and that is absolutely a cause worthy of sacrifice.

But then assuming that is the case—that you don’t necessarily love your job, but you’re doing it because you want or need the money to take care of yourself and your family—here’s another important question: What additional sacrifice would it take to land or create the job of your dreams?  Maybe additional schooling or a pay-cut while you gain some more expertise or experience?  And maybe it would even mean asking your family to sacrifice for a time.  Moving or changing schools?  I know this is serious stuff that is not to be taken lightly.  And now I need to ask one final question: Which is the greater sacrifice—remaking your professional self and temporarily altering your lifestyle and possibly that of your family?  Or spending the majority of your waking hours in your LIFE working a job that doesn’t actually give you fulfillment?

And here’s the irony of sticking with a job simply because of the money:  My experience, in working with hundreds of clients from at least 4 different generations with widely varying income levels, net worths and family structures has taught me that those who find the career path that best suits them find a greater level of contentment—regardless of their income—but on average, they also just happen to make MORE money… and that is something YOU NEED TO KNOW.

You Need To Know…Why You Need to Have Your Bubble Burst

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You Need To Know – Bubble


YOU NEED TO KNOW… how important it is to have your bubble burst occasionally. 

How often do you think about your money? How about your career? Improvements on your house? Vacations you'd like to take? As a financial planner, thoughts about money, careers, assets and liabilities are a virtual constant. And sometimes, I’ve noticed that when we are up-to-our-neck in our own stuff, we have a tendency to becoming increasingly self-focused—believing that our own reality is the only reality. Living inside of our own little bubble then has a tendency to lead to many forms of discontent—we see a friend’s new house or car and think, “Well, shoot, I deserve a new house or car!” Before you know it, we, as the king or queen of the bubble in which we live begin to justify all sorts of foolishness—financial and otherwise—and see the world outside as merely a tool to benefit our own personal kingdom.

But then, occasionally, something from the outside world unexpectedly invades our kingdom and our fake reality. Monday, my wife called me to let me know that our friend—a wife and mother of three children just entering college, high school and middle school, respectively—died of an apparent stroke in her home. As that news sunk in, my bubble was obliterated. My dissatisfaction with the leaking air conditioner, old roof and drab siding on our house evaporated. My impatience with falling short on a couple specific financial goals and career aspirations faded, and virtually every ounce of annoyance, frustration and discontent was put into the proper context.

You don’t have to wait until tragic news strikes to be freed from your bubble kingdom that in reality functions more like a prison…and that is something that YOU NEED TO KNOW.