In a recent Forbes post, “The Stuff In Life That Financial Planning CAN’T Prepare You For,” I suggested that we all, and perhaps especially financial advisors, need training in being better humans, and that it makes us better advisors when we do. Here are links to some of these resources and trainings that I have personally benefited from:
Books For Underlying Knowledge
These are books that, I believe, will provide a systematic learning path for better understanding the human elements of decision making in general, and financial decision making, in particular. They are listed in a purposeful order, but I encourage you to jump in wherever your interest takes you:
The Undoing Project, Michael Lewis
This is a great place to start, because Lewis is a master storyteller, and this mini-biography of the lives and work of Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, the OG behavioral economists, gives you an opportunity to be introduced to the field in an approachable, narrative form.
Misbehaving, Richard Thaler
Of course, it was actually Richard Thaler, the Nobel prize-winning economics professor at the University of Chicago, who coined the term “behavioral economics,” helping merge Kahneman and Tversky’s cognitive and mathematical psychology into “the dismal science,” effectively turning it on its head. Thaler provides an excellent history of this relatively new field that, along with The Undoing Project, might just prepare you for the next recommendation…
Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
This is the Bible of behavioral economics, summarizing the major lessons of Kahneman and Tversky. It’s not a “light read,” but it’s important and powerful.
Nudge, Thaler and Sunstein
This volume, by the aforementioned Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, now provides us with our first real-world example of applied behavioral economics. And apply it they did! In fact, this work has likely influenced your life, in at least some small way, whether you know it or not. For example, if your 401(k) is opt-out rather than opt-in, or if it has an automatic escalation option, you have Nudge to thank for it.
Switch, Chip and Dan Heath
Yet for all of its virtues, a first look at behavioral economics doesn’t feel much less dismal than its predecessor, in part because it makes us feel, as humans, like a big pile of mistaken biases and behavioral patterns. In a few powerful ways, Chip and Dan Heath invite us to see strength where others might see weakness.
Behavioral Finance: The Second Generation, Meir Statman
In fact, if you want a more positive take of behavioral economics and finance, look no further than Meir Statman, the Glenn Klimek Professor of Finance at Santa Clara University’s, look at the 2.0 version. (The link above gives you access to a free PDF of this book via the CFA Institute.)
Drive, Daniel Pink
Now we start to move beyond the more technical to the more applicable, beginning with Daniel Pink’s very readable look at human motivation. Why is this so pertinent for financial advisors? Because we’re in the business of helping people discern, articulate, and activate their motivating priorities in life, of course!
Start with Why, Simon Sinek
Sinek explores the core of motivation–what motivates us, and what motivates others to action–in his breakout book. Or, you can get a pretty good summary via his 18-minute Ted Talk.
The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
Of course, once we have the motivation, we often need help putting it to work, hence a deep dive on the science of habit formation. As advisors, it’s helpful to understand that people aren’t just financially “dumb”–they (we) are all just creatures of habit.
Atomic Habits, James Clear
Clear picks up where Duhigg leaves off, giving us a roadmap to powerful, positive habit formation. Again, as advisors, we’re in the business of helpful habit formation.
You Are What You Love, James K. A. Smith
If Duhigg and Clear help us evolve from discipline to habit, Smith takes it to another level, through to the final evolutionary stage–welcome ritual. This book definitely falls into the “spiritual” category, as Smith’s philosophy is primarily drawn from a Judeo-Christian worldview, but I do think it is ecumenically applicable.
Books for Practice Management
Now let’s get to work:
There Is No Good Card For This, Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell
The first book I mention is not explicitly oriented toward the practice of financial advising, but it is no less applicable, because the great human unifier is pain. No Good Card is a crash course in how to say you’re sorry and effectively helping people navigate challenges in life. It should be a prerequisite for every financial advisor, because every single one of us will face this tragic privilege in our work.
The Financial Wisdom of Ebeneezer Scrooge, Kahler, Klontz and Klontz
This oddly-named book is a great place to start when you consider the implications of psychology within the context of financial formation. It’s a quick, easy read that sets off a series of lightbulb moments, making it a great client gift as well as an advisor introduction.
Lighting the Torch, George Kinder and Susan Galvin
It’s unfortunate that this book is so hard to get your hands on, because it is an excellent articulation of the Kinder EVOKE® method of life planning, something you’ll see more about in the recommended trainings below.
Facilitating Financial Health, Kahler, Klontz and Klontz
If Scrooge is the prelude, Facilitating Financial Health is the masterclass, a literal textbook for financial advisors, therapists, and executive coaches (and priced as such). The best compliment I can give the book is a comment I got from another advisor to whom I had recommended it: “This should be required reading for every financial advisor.” I agree.
Practice Management Articles
I’ve written many, many articles about financial life planning, but here are a few that speak to some of that which I’ve learned from the books above and the trainings that you’ll see outlined below:
One of my favorite interviews ever was Professor Thaler, the co-author of Nudge and the author of Misbehaving…and the dude who coined the term, “behavioral economics.” I don’t think he’d take my call after winning the Nobel prize.
This article focuses on the big takeaway from Kahneman’s work, Systems 1 and 2, AKA, the Elephant and the Rider.
George Kinder’s legendary “3 Questions” can change your financial planning practice…and your life.
This book summarizes a host of the thought leaders referenced here.
This is a long-form article listing some of the biggest takeaways from my professional coach training (below).
Trainings To Attend
These aren’t the only trainings available, just the ones that I have experienced, personally, and am happy to recommend. Here again, I’ve listed them in an ascending order that I hope will serve you well wherever you are on your vocationally journey:
The Seven Stages of Money Maturity®, Kinder Institute of Life Planning
This two-day training is an excellent introduction to becoming a true practitioner of financial life planning, as taught by George Kinder. And I’d wager you get about four days’ worth of personal and professional impact for the two days it requires.
Fundamentals of True Wealth Planning, Money Quotient
Money Quotient is a true gem in the Pacific Northwest, a community led by Carol Anderson and Amy Mullen that has created teaching and tools that have been helping advisors put the life in financial life planning for many years. I’ve taken their 3-day fundamentals training, not once, not twice, but three times–and I’ve learned something new every time!
EVOKE® Life Planning Training, Kinder Institute of Life Planning
This is the legendary five-day intensive course where Kinder, or one of the other excellent trainers at the Institute, teaches you the entire client-ready EVOKE® method through an experiential intensive. I’ve yet to talk to a trainee, myself included, who didn’t consider it to be truly life changing–and if you stack the two-day with the five-day and the Life Planning Mentorship, you can also acquire the Registered Life Planner® designation, if you choose.
Having dedicated many hours to learning about life planning within the sphere of financial planning, I was inspired a couple years ago to see what the world outside of financial planning had to say about life planning. I decided to drink from the fire house, taking Coach U’s 6-day Essentials class that is a precursor to gaining ICF certification as a professional coach.
As I mentioned, I don’t consider this list to be comprehensive, and therefore, I’d love to hear of any of the books, articles, and trainings that would be on your list!