May 28, 2011


food line Oct 25, 1929You spend your life waiting
for a moment that just don't come.
Well, don't waste your time waiting.
--- Bruce Springsteen, Badlands

In recent weeks, I've been chatting with more university students looking for career advice. To generalize, they want to make wise career choices in a world of uncertainty. They're looking for answers, the right path, the recipe, the magic formula, the missing ingredient. One asked if sales experience is the fast track to becoming a CEO.

Here's the good news: there's no 100% risk-free path from Point A to Point B.

If there were a paved route with signs and rest areas, others could easily follow it too. What worked in the past needn't work now. Times change permanently. Luck also matters. Along your path, Point B may lose its allure. Do you stick or start towards Point C? Before deciding, read The Dip by Seth Godin (my thoughts).

You may not be in the right place at the right time. Those factors are outside your control but don't despair: you can make yourself the right person. When opportunity taps faintly, you'll be ready. This preparation beckons opportunity to seek you out. Why not do something while you're waiting?

Your Weapons

Who are you willing to fight? Who are you willing to offend? Who are you willing to support?
Go on the record. Take a stand.

Isn't that risky? No. Mediocrity is the bigger threat to your success. You can't get everyone to like you — for long. Why not show your trail even if you change directions along the way.
click to enlarge (and visit source)
Lady Éowyn: "I fear neither death nor pain."

Aragorn: "What do you fear, my lady?"

Lady Éowyn: "A cage. To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire."

Aragorn: "I do not think that will be your fate."
— JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


To stand out, why not be proactive and expand your circle of influence? How can you lose by doing this? Here are three steps.
  1. Start: take initiative (Poke The Box by Seth Godin)
  2. Ship: deliver again and again (Linchpin by Seth Godin)
  3. Stick: hone your skills while others falter and vanish (Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and The Dip by Seth Godin)
Do the three things and you'll find a niche. You'll stand out. You'll clarify your principles. You'll improve your skills. You'll find your own voice. You may even find a new untrodden path.

You'll get credit for everything you do that's online. It's not that others will read, watch or listen to all of it. Your consistent persistent generosity will make a strong impression. Rain/shine, hot/cold, you're there. You're dependable. You're worth a gamble.


If you won't share yourself on the permanent public record — which social media lets you do — you're in a cage of your own  making. What's holding you back?

What if I say the wrong thing? That can happen anywhere at anytime. You need to use your good judgement. You'll get better with practice.

What if I quit? Your inability to stick will be visible to anyone who cares to look. Maybe that's enough motivation to stick.

Others have the same fears. Victory goes to those who overcome them. To win a horse race, you just need to be ahead by a nose.

Quick Start

You've got the tools. Do you have the guts? It's much like public speaking — a key to success that few master. If you want to build your self-confidence, join Toastmasters (find a club). For very little money, this nonprofit helps you improve. Fellow members give valuable feedback that pays dividends forever.


If you choose to do nothing, you're not a failure: you're average. As Seth Godin says, "Average people are in the majority, but they're not in demand."


Podcast 119 (5:35)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS If you're average, you're dependent on the factory owners. Their interests may not match yours …

May 21, 2011


handicap crack 500x420
Thirty years ago, how the words would flow
With passion and precision,
But now his mind is dark and dulled
By sickness and indecision.
— Rush,
Losing It

We're living longer than ever (see longevity over the last 100,000 years). That progress doesn't ensure we'll have a high quality of life in our final years. We may be unable to care for ourselves financially or physically. Babies don't mind but we're not babies. We can plan.

Ken's Parents

Gerontologist Ken Dychtwald explains what happened to his own parents.
The tale of Ken Dychtwald's parents

At least Ken's parents had long term care insurance. Coverage is harder to get these days. My first full-time employer, MetLife stopped selling coverage in 2010.

Plans typically provide cash for
  1. cognitive impairments (inability to think, perceive, reason, remember), or
  2. the inability to perform two of the five activities of daily living without help (bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, transferring positions of the body)
Provisions vary. There are limits and exclusions (the fineprint taketh away). Yet coverage can provide valuable financial support.

Since we think we'll be immune, we're reluctant to prepare. If your parents need long term care, your inheritance can melt away. One strategy is to buy insurance on them (if they qualify).

What Do People Live For

Ken showed this video at CALU 2011. You don't need to know Taiwanese to be moved by this quintet. They have an average age of 81, various ailments and a dream.
Dream: the adventure of five Taiwanese average age 81 (based on a true story)

We too can dream and do. Why wait? Get on your bike and ride!


Podcast 118 (3:22)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Why not care about the long term before you need long term care?

May 14, 2011


Ken Dychtwald: Life expectancy in the last 1,000 years"For 99% of human history, longevity was under 18 years." — Ken Dychtwald

Gerontologist Ken Dychtwald (LinkedIn profile) of Age Wave spoke about aging and retirement at CALU 2011. (In the previous blog post, we discovered how the wealthy feel about their advisors.)


"I hope I die before I get old." — My Generation, The Who
Imagine 99,000 years with a life expectancy at birth of less than 18 years. Our ancestors died before they got old. Infectious diseases were a big culprit. Maybe the rock bands of those eras sang "I hope I live until I get old". 

Now, living a billion seconds is commonplace. Since 1900, US life expectancy has grown from 47 years to 80. That's a huge change in one century and unprecedented. Count on this trend continuing with medical advances. If only there were inventions to make our money grow and maintain our quality of life.

Economic Uncertainty

We risk losing health as we age. Treatment, lifestyle adjustments and long term care can be expensive.

The greatest fear is becoming a burden on the family (55%), followed by ending up in a nursing home (24%) and using up savings (12%). For the caregiver, the biggest worry is the emotional toil (57%), followed by the costs (49%) and impact on their own lifestyle (21%). That's from the 2010 Let's Talk survey conducted by Age Wave and Harris Interactive for Genworth Financial (PPT).
would you rather accumulate wealth or have peace of mind?
Would you rather have more money or predictability?

According to the same survey,
  • 21% want to accumulate as much wealth as possible, while
  • 79% want to save enough to have financial peace of mind (whatever that means)
Our views change during periods of exuberance and uncertainty. Maybe this desire for safety will remain. However, an aging population and longer lifespans are a bad combination when investment returns are volatile in our interconnected global economy.
In another CALU session, David Solie (LinkedIn profile) said that aging and volatility have created a new species of complexity. We're getting older and can't count on what we counted on counting on. Will it get any worse?

The Evolution Of Retirement

In this video, Ken shows how retirement has changed over the years.
Ken Dychtwald: Re-Visioning Retirement

The Science Of Longevity

Not only are we living longer, medical developments are likely to continue that trend.
Ken Dychtwald:: Exploring the science of longevity

The Bright Side

In the past, life was linear: education, work/family and leisure (retirement). Is that appropriate now that we're living longer? Why not spend our "longevity bonus" throughout life rather than at the end? If you're an employee, this is tougher to do. Entrepreneur have much more flexibility — should they choose to use it.

If you like what you're doing, you might continue working. That helps pass the time and provides income. Retirement can now last longer than people lived in prior millennia. Rather than leaving a legacy, there's an opportunity to live a legacy.


Podcast 117 (4:45)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes

PS Let's take care of our health now so pain doesn't prevent us from enjoying our longevity bonus.

May 8, 2011


CALU 2011 (20th anniversary)The wealthy were treated as a single group. Now they are divided into segments. For instance, needs vary for entrepreneurs (making their own money), professional athletes (high income for a few years) and inheritors (receiving money they didn't earn).

This week at CALU 2011 in Ottawa, Keith Sjögren (LinkedIn profile) of research firm Investor Economics spoke about those with High Net Worth (HNW). Technically, they have $1 million of investable assets. Here we'll call them "wealthy" and review findings.

Key Issues

The wealthy identified two key financial concerns
  1. how to minimize tax
  2. how to transfer their wealth
They turn to advisors for help. Even then, the wealthy do little planning. Only 1/3 are willing to undergo comprehensive financial planning (see why financial planning is ignored). However, they are interested in estate planning which deals with what happens after their deaths.

Because of the recent poor economic environment, the wealthy have become more conservative. They're focusing more on capital preservation than returns. That's predictable.


Overall, the wealthy are now more demanding. They want advisors with expertise and significant technical skills.

The older wealthy prefer older advisors. They don't feel a young'un can understand what they've gone through. The young wealthy aren't keen on older advisors who are prone to think like their parents. They prefer younger advisors who are technically-savvy and share contemporary views. Finding a "modern" advisor is a big challenge since
  1. many advisors are close to retirement
  2. there are fewer newer advisors
  3. there's little training for new advisors

Changing Advisors

To simplify their lives, the wealthy have cut advisors and now use about 2.5.  Here are reasons they have switched (more most important to least important)
  • inadequate level of expertise
  • disagreement regarding strategy
  • high fees
  • lack of objectivity
The wealthy are open to ideas ... but they aren't contacted regularly. As wealth increases, there's more reluctance to give referrals. The wealthy aren't keen to be part of an advisor's business development strategy.


Do the wealthy have confidence in their current advisors?
  • Yes: 67%
  • No: 5%
  • Unsure: 28%
The last element is interesting. Imagine not knowing if you've got the right advisor. Comparing is difficult. You may not know what to expect or how your advisor compares. There are no standardized public scores to help you measure trust. Buyer beware.

Switching advisors is a hassle and less than 10% do in a year. When the wealthy leave an advisor, they tend to go to a bank. Private banks are growing but there is the perennial problem of biased advice and cross-selling. That's part of the cost of getting advice from your banker.

The Luxury Market

The session ended with some insights about consumers in the luxury market
  • expect privileged service (e.g., private bankers)
  • expect increasing levels of service
  • less brand loyalty
  • crave innovation
  • reward performance over reputation
  • demand technical expertise since they are becoming increasingly inquisitive
You probably distort your spending to spend part of your life in the luxury market.


Podcast 116 (5:01)

direct download | Internet Archive page | iTunes (new)

PS I spoke at CALU too. Here's the background and a video of my session on YouTube.