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Improving Investor Behavior: Keep Politics Out of Your Portfolio

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, September 20th, 2020.

With the election a short 45 days away, the news stream is unrelenting. Political TV ads, postcards, and of course those phone calls during the dinner hour – it’s an all-out media assault designed to convince you that if the “other guy” gets elected, the world is sure to end. It’s enough to elicit one of three emotional responses: either anger and outrage toward the opposition and confirmation bias toward your selection, utter fear and terror at what may or may not happen, or complete apathy toward the whole process. Regardless of where you stand, it’s important to recognize the effect that this election might have on your portfolio… or lack thereof.

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Does Your Business Need a LIFT?

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This article originally appeared in ColoradoBiz Magazine, Sept. 1, 2020.

If COVID has brought anything to business owners’ attention, small and large alike, it’s the need for a financial plan before bad news drops. A year ago, the likelihood of a worldwide pandemic effectively shuttering business in the U.S. for six months seemed so outlandish that had you suggested it; you would have been laughed out of the room. In hindsight, that suggestion would have made you look like a genius or a prophet.

My point is this: every business needs a financial plan to help guide and keep them afloat no matter how good times may be or how plentiful the work may appear. In reality, it’s no different than the financial suggestions we impress upon our clients. As an independent advisor, I run a business and help my clients think about how they run theirs.

So, what have the impacts of Covid-19 taught us from a business perspective? What should businesses consider as they navigate through today and plan for the future? As I look back over the past five months, I see four key actions to take now to “LIFT” businesses.

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Improving Investor Behavior: Reframing Your Business Mindset

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, August 16th, 2020.

For business owners, improving investor behavior can mean more than a focus solely on financial instruments. The intent of this column has been improving investor behavior, which often discusses market investments like equities, bonds, and other financial assets. But it’s important to consider how our investor behavior applies to other critical areas of our lives, namely in the ownership and running of a business.

As an independent financial advisor, I’m in a unique spot. I own a business and am responsible for running that business while helping my clients think about running theirs. I have a dual perspective, both as an advisor and as a business owner. So this week, I want to cross over into the business world and encourage you to consider how your investment behavior (i.e., the beliefs and attitudes you have about your business) and possibly the most valuable asset you have, your employees, might be affecting your results.

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Improving Investor Behavior: Blind Spots & Confirmation Bias

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, July 19th, 2020.

We talk a lot about perspective in this article. Our perspective is the lens through which we view the world. It is our way of framing everything we see and ultimately defines how we react to what life throws at us. We believe what we believe because of our past experiences and perception of reality. In finance, investors often share their perspectives (albeit usually too much), which gives us untold insight into how people may be thinking at any given time.

The perspective du jour is that markets are not accurately pricing honest valuations (i.e., stocks are overpriced). But is this accurate or a blind spot in our perspective?

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Getting Back to Better

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, June 21st, 2020.

As a dad, I’ve always embraced my inner Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor when it comes to Father’s Day. Whether it’s a new drill, pressure washer, or some other home improvement gadget, I’ve always enjoyed gifts that keep me building. In a way, I enjoy the metaphorical message behind it too: tools give me the ability to enhance the environment that keeps my family safe, warm, and protected. It’s what I’ve always strived to do as a father.  

My goal as a parent has always been to build a better future for my kids, and to give them opportunities that I didn’t have. Whether that’s financial, educational, personal, or whatever it may be. It’s an essential part of my “why.” I think deep down there’s a part of us that wants our kids to be better than we ever were. To me, that’s progress and hope. It’s an innate and immeasurable desire – to want our tomorrow to be better than our today.  

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Improving Investor Behavior: Fear is a Very Powerful Emotion

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This article originally appeared in the Denver Post, May 17th, 2020.

After almost 45 years as a financial advisor, one realizes that there’s truth behind the phrase, “Reality is made up of circles, but we see straight lines.” Market cycles, crises, and investor behavior are all echoes of things we’ve seen in the past and will likely experience again in the future. No doubt the COVID-19 crisis impacts us all, and while it may feel like something completely new, it really isn’t. This is especially true when focusing on finance.

You’ve likely heard the comparisons of this crisis to the Spanish Flu of 1918. While there are many parallels, this event was long ago. With so many innovations and improvements in the meantime, it’s hard to wrap your head around their similarities and differences. The “what-ifs” prevail. What if they had had better hospitals? What if they had better testing, doctors, technology?

So, for comparison’s sake, let’s consider more recent events. My career includes four large fear-driven market “crises” that come to mind: Black Monday in 1987, Y2K in 1999, the World Trade Center attacks in 2001, and the recession in 2008. Though these events are all unique, they were all the same in many ways.

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Improving Investor Behavior: An Unintentional Sabbatical

Has it been a month already? In some ways, this feels like the longest 30 days many have ever experienced. For others, it seems to have gone by way too quickly. When much of the world is committed to staying home and avoiding COVID-19, time becomes relative. In many ways, it feels like a sabbatical, albeit an unintentional and unwelcome one.

Sabbaticals are offered as a chance to skip the routine and learn something new. An extended opportunity to challenge your perspectives and grow your skill set. With that in mind, what are you learning during your sabbatical? How will you grow from the experience? What will be different in your life afterward? New? Improved? The Same?

 We’re learning a lot right now, on both micro and macro levels. Lessons about the economy, markets, human nature, and teamwork are appearing daily. If we fail to notice and learn from these, it will be a huge missed opportunity.

In that spirit, here are a couple of things I’ve learned over the past month.

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Highlights of the CARES Act

Late last week the senate passed and the President signed the CARES stimulus package designed to, among many things, curb the financial turmoil created in the wake of the Coronavirus. This $2.2 trillion, 800+ page legislation offers meaningful help to investors, business owners, and those directly impacted by layoffs or the virus.

Using several sources we’ve compiled a list of some of these benefits that our clients might find most helpful. If one stands out to you, please reach out to us and we’ll be happy to walk through how it might apply to your situation. We’d also recommend connecting with your CPA regarding tax-related items.

Here are some of the highlights:

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Fire Drills and Why We Do Them

Every meeting we have with clients includes a line item on the agenda: Fire Drill. 

What would you do if the market dropped significantly tomorrow? What would that look like for you? For years now it has felt like an unnecessary discussion point, even with the occasional pull back due due to a tweet or tariff threat. Yet we keep it on the agenda because, in the words of Mike Tyson, “Everyone has a plan until they’re punched in the face.”

Two months ago, no one could have anticipated a worldwide pandemic resulting in a virtual halt of economic activity. Yet it happened. But isn’t that the purpose of fire drills? To know what the plan is if-and-when something disastrous happens?

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Timeless Truths & The Cycle of Market Emotions

Just 30 days ago, on Feb. 18th, markets were at all-time highs. Today, fear grips the market and recession is at the top of every financial pundits’ mind.  Benjamin Graham, said to be one of the best investors of all time, and a mentor to Warren Buffett reminds us:

Control what you can control: yourself, your emotions and your response (or behavior) to those emotions.

Through many of the articles I’ve read this week, one stood out to me. Here’s an excerpt, written by the Collaborative Fund:

The majority of your lifetime investment returns will be determined by decisions that take place during a small minority of the time.

Most of those periods come when everything you thought you knew about investing is thrown out the window.

How you invested from 1990 to 1998 wasn’t all that important. The choices you made from 1999 to 2001 shaped the rest of your investing career.

What you did from September 2008 to March 2009 likely had more impact on your lifetime investment returns than what happened cumulatively from 2002 to 2007, or from 2009 to 2017.

The pilot’s famous answer when asked about his job — “Hours of boredom punctuated by brief moments of terror” — applies perfectly to investing. The brief moments of terror are the rise and fall of markets like this.

Ask yourself: Am I a speculator or an investor? What is the difference?

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