--- Carl Richards
Have you seen those nifty napkin drawings with profound insights? They are by Carl Richards. You may have seen them in the New York Times or his book, The Behavior Gap.
Carl was on his first Canadian tour this week. PWL Capital sponsored it. I got tickets from blogger Canadian Couch Potato, who attended in person along with Preet Banerjee. Carl spoke at The Academy of Spherical Arts.
The content tends to present a world view that's biased to what the sponsor sells. That might be commercial real estate, undeveloped land, foreign exchange, green, oil or an investment philosophy.
The risks get downplayed. The speaker is essentially giving an infomercial and saying nice things about the sponsor. Buyer beware.
DifferentCarl is different. He talked about investing but gave no investment advice. That's refreshing. Instead, he helped us understand basics that get in the way of results. How we behave, for instance.
Carl has a knack for making things simple. As his drawings show, he takes out as much as possible. This takes skill and skill takes practice. He said, "People like to argue about the numbers and miss the point."
His solution is to remove the numbers.
ComplexityCarl understands the power of simplicity. He said:
We have a complex in our industry. We think complexity is a sign of an intellectual gift. When you propose that advisors should make things simpler, they sometimes get lost and wonder "What am I for"? They don't realize that people would rather pay to have things simplified.
The old sales model said: I'm going to dig you a hole and throw you a rope so that you can get out. Sometimes advisors are uncomfortable with this idea that making things really simple is really valuable. It takes some time for them to get their heads around that.I’ve observed the same tendencies towards incomprehensibility, especially from the advisors with no meaningful designations. They think adding complexity shows their intelligence. If they’re that bright, why couldn’t they first earn professional designations and then learn how to simplify?
As Einstein said, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.”
The Wrong QuestionsDuring the question period and afterwards, some audience members asked for investment advice (e.g., signals for when to sell a mutual fund, how to identify the top/bottom of the market). Unlike children, adults like being told what to do even when there are no foolproof soundbite-worthy answers. Unfortunately, we can only spot the right investments in hindsight. Unfortunately, there are advisors who look convincing even to the non-gullible.
TrustNo one asked how to pick an advisor you can trust. I asked Carl privately. He said this is the most common question he receives at the New York Times. Maybe that's not surprising. He said that people want checklists but there aren't any.
Not everything can be made risk-free and drawn on a napkin. At least not yet.
- Carl Richards: website (behaviorgap.com), blog (New York Times)
- How to make smarter financial decisions (Advisor.ca, May 23, 2012)
- How to stop doing dumb things with your money (Macleans.ca, Jan 2012)
- A few things to ask your financial adviser (New York Times, April 2012)
- How to pick a financial advisor (Forbes, Sep 2011)
- Keeping promises when no one’s watching
- 13 questions to evaluate an investment that’s “too good to be true”
- Why insurance advisors also sell investments
- Looking beyond TD Bank and the Rothstein Ponzi scam
- The four steps in wealth management
- How an actuary invests
- Be proactive within your circle of influence
- Einstein quotations (Sparkinsight wiki)
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PS I've glanced through Carl's book, The Behavior Gap. It looks like a great read.