By Byron Moore
Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, April 30, 2017.
Q: I’m thinking about leaving my broker. He had a hot hand for a while, but it seems like he’s lost his touch here lately. Aside from asking friends, any tips for finding one?
A: Before you change brokers, you might want to change your paradigm.
For about as long as we’ve been recording history, people have looked to individuals holding themselves out as healers to do the healing when we are sick. Fortunately, we’ve made some progress over the centuries.
Maybe it’s time we made similar progress when it comes to financial advisors of any stripe.
Advisor as witch doctor. There was a time when every village had some version of a witch doctor. This is the guy with all the confidence, showmanship and deep black magic to cast healing incantations over the sick. When the sick got well, he took the credit. When the sick died, he pointed to dark spirits who had thwarted his efforts.
The darks spirits story only works so many times, however. Once a witch doctor had too many funerals on his record, he had to move on to another village, perhaps swapping places with another relocating practitioner of the mystic healing arts.
Too many of us still view financial advisors as economic witchdoctors, practicing some deep magic inaccessible to the uninitiated.
The problem with this advisor-as-witch-doctor paradigm is that the advisor gets too much credit and too much blame. In other words, she becomes the focus, keeping our eyes off other, perhaps more critical and determinative factors impacting your financial life.
Advisor as combat medic. This paradigm understands that no healer (or advisor) has deep magical powers. Hopefully, they do have a deep reservoir of knowledge and experience that can help identify and solve problems.
Combat medics react to problems – big ones. And thank goodness they are there! Today we have many brave veterans living among us because of the efforts of combat medics and the general advances made in recent years in the whole field of combat medicine.
But if all your financial advisor does is react to problems as they arise, many opportunities will pass you by. And more than a few problems that could have been avoided will simply show up as yet another problem for the combat medic to solve.
Advisor as wellness physician. In very recent history another viewpoint of healthcare has emerged – the wellness paradigm. Only possible because of the amazing progress made in medicine over the past hundred years, more and more people began asking themselves, “What can I do to keep myself well, rather than simply wait until I get sick and go see the doctor?”
We will always need physicians to heal the sick – that reality isn’t going away. But if we can practice a healthy lifestyle, with the guidance of interested physicians and other healthcare professionals, we can seek to improve our quality (and quantity!) of life.
In the wellness paradigm, you understand your physician as simply one of your key advisors. They provide important information and advice about your health and lifestyle practices.
But in the end, it is you who are responsible for your health, and no one else. There is no deep magic. There are no magic pills to make you skinny if you eat Twinkies and fried chicken all the time.
Many things are under your control. You must control these if you want a happy outcome.
But many things are not under your control. If you blame your doctor every time you get a cold or the flu (“but I got the vaccination you recommended!”), you’ll be needlessly changing doctors for reasons that have nothing to do with them. Blaming your wellness doctor at the wrong time for the wrong reason tends to lead you to a witch doctor.
Understanding your physician (as well as your financial advisor) as an important partner in your efforts to be physically (and financially) well is key to knowing when to hold them responsible, when to hold yourself responsible and when to know that sometimes life just happens.
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