110406 The Craftsman’s Creed

I’ve been following Josh Kaufman and his “Personal MBA” journey for a few years now (since before he quit his day job) and was recently reminded of an insightful blog post titled the Craftsman’s Creed published just before the launch of his book.

To me the term craftsman is not merely a adjective to describe someone in a blue collar trade, but a mindset that can apply to any task or profession.  It speaks to a level of quality and an attention to detail that many people choose not to exhibit.  A term reserved for those demonstrating an elegance for how things get accomplished, who take pride in the finished product and their efforts.  I like to think of myself as a craftsman…but I’ll leave that for others to decide for themselves.

Below is the text of the Josh’s Craftsman’s Creed and the full post can be found:  here.  Josh’s thoughts, coaching, and blog can be found at:  www.PersonalMBA.com

The Craftsman’s Creed

I am a craftsman. I am dedicated to perfecting the art and science of my craft, which I have chosen freely.

I am constantly, relentlessly searching for ways to improve my craft. I am dedicated to learning from the masters who have preceded me in every way I am able.

I create valuable things that other people want or need. I generously offer my work as a gift when it is wise, but my purpose is to help those who value my work enough to pay for what I have to offer. No one has an unlimited claim on my craft, knowledge, or the fruits of my effort. I work for people who value and support me.

I honestly promote what I have to offer, consistently and to the limit of my capabilities. I make no apologies for promoting my craft. I am proud of my work, and it is my duty and responsibility to reach people who may benefit from my craft. I can help them no other way.

I do my best to ensure that every single person who trusts me with their time, attention, or money is happy with their investment. If they are not, I will do whatever is in my power to do right by them without delay.

Skills are a craftsman’s credentials. I care more about a person’s character, what they know, and what they can do than where they grew up, where they went to school, or how many letters they have after their name. I choose to work with other craftsmen: people who are skilled, not simply schooled.

I respect other craftsmen, and I generously assist them however I’m able. I have no respect for the fool who searches for a way to enjoy the fruits of labor without effort, or the scoundrel who seeks to enrich himself by deluding others. Value, not wealth or fame, is the true measure of every craftsman.

I take good care of myself. My mind and body are the tools I use to advance my craft, so I take care of them. Rest and recovery are essential to my life: a worn-down tool is of no use at all.

I never stop pushing my limits. I am constantly testing and experimenting with new ways to expand my capabilities. It is my way of life.

I refuse to waste precious time and energy on trivial matters, trivial problems, and trivial people. I choose to focus only on the most important of demands: those that help me advance my craft or take care of the people who depend on me.

The world is an uncertain place, which I can not fully predict or control. Regardless, I will do everything in my power to prepare for every challenge and weather every storm. Nothing in this world is powerful enough to stop me from continuing to practice my craft.

Anything that I can do to improve my craft, I will do. This will keep me busy until the end of my days: a challenge I gladly accept. I am a craftsman, and always shall be.


110401 Hey Businesses! How To Not Suck At Social Media

Nary a day goes by where some businesses (local, regional, and national) doesn’t botch an attempt at social media and cause needless suffering for the recipients (and intended prospective customers).  Rather than merely complain (and continue to endure), I’ve decided to act on this unfortunate circumstance and offer a solution.
Loic LeMeur is an individual skilled in social media interaction and business.  I’ve learned (and continue to learn) from him and the purveyors of poor social media communication could too.  Last year he produced a series of videos on how to not suck at social media, most are less than 5 minutes in length so there is no excuse to perpetuate the suffering. The full series can be found HERE.
Enjoy the introduction.

110323 Joel Salatin @ TEDxMidAtlantic

Those who’ve read Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan or watched the documentary movie Food Inc. may be familiar with Joel Salatin. For the uninitiated, he’s a farmer, author, and public speaker. From the three generation family farm in Swoope, Virginia he’s been fighting, writing, and lecturing on the challenges and shortcomings of industrial agriculture and the politics surrounding it since before doing so was en vogue. Last year I had the pleasure of speaking with him after a talk he gave in Portland and found him to be down to earth and genuine despite his rise in popularity.

TED presentations are brief, usually less than 20 minutes but the conciseness of the talk makes it easily digestible.  Enjoy the Joelisms!

My Answers to 13 Questions For Your Financial Advisor

  1. I operate as the Chief Investment Officer for my clients.  This means I collaborate with them and other professional advisers on retirement and investment related issues as well as life issues as necessary.
  2. Every new client relationship starts the same way I’d begin a friendship; through a conversation where we are attempting to discover if there are a sufficient number of shared values to merit working together.
  3. I work best with people who are smart, comfortable with technology, and regard money as a tool; to provide for them or their loved ones.
  4. Curmudgeons, lemmings, and the mentally apathetic.
  5. Regularly as needed ranging from multiple times per month to every quarter, but no less than annually depending on the clients wishes. I prefer email, telephone, and web conference but will also meet face to face when necessary.
  6. 40-60% of my time is allocated to working with clients and tasks directly related to maintaining our relationship.
  7. If I’m awake, I’m available.  I regularly speak with clients and their advisers outside of traditional working hours.
  8. I intentionally limit the number of financial planning clients I work with to stay below 75.  This allows me to maintain my desired level of service without having to add a bunch of staff and overhead.
  9. Less than 10%. See question 8 for explanation.  Marketing does not add value to my existing clients.
  10. The simplest explanation is I attempt to buy investments at less than they are worth. What I buy and when I buy it is driven by my global macro economic view and fundamental analysis.  I believe it is more important to avoid significant losses than to chase gains.
  11. 30-50% of my time is allocated to investment and economic research.
  12. I love to learn so furthering my education is something I’d do even if it weren’t required for my profession.  In addition to the mandated requirements of FINRA and my broker dealer, I subscribe to a bunch of magazines and newsletters, blogs, financial and economic websites, various podcasts, and read over 100 books a year on wide variety of financial and nonfinancial topics.
  13. Typically I’m compensated quarterly with a fee based on the assets I directly manage, but also utilize a flat, hourly, or one time consulting fee when appropriate. All compensation is clearly disclosed, documented, and discussed in advance.

13 Questions For Your Financial Advisor

Many financial planners are likable people, charismatic, and hopefully well intentioned.  Some are even good at their jobs, but unfortunately the typical stock broker, financial planner, and insurance agents are usually just highly paid financial product pushers.

It’s really hard to tell the difference.

I’ve created 13 questions to ask your current or prospective representative.  A decent adviser should have no problems answering them in a way that will help you better understand their motivation, goals, and priorities.

  1. What specifically do you do for your clients and how do you do it. Give examples.
  2. How do you select the clients you are willing work with? Why?
  3. What type(s) of people do you work best with?
  4. Who does not fit your service model?
  5. How often, by what means, and for what reasons do you contact your clients?
  6. How much time per week do you devote to meeting or talking with existing clients?
  7. What are your hours of service? Are you available to talk/ meet on evenings and weekends? How often?
  8. How many clients do you currently have and how many do you plan on accepting?
  9. How much time per week do you spend prospecting for new clients?
  10. What is your investment philosophy? Why?
  11. How much time per week do you devote to investment research?
  12. What are your plans for continuing education?
  13. How much will you earn from our relationship this year and in the future? How are you compensated, and when will you be paid?

Ideally several other advisers would be interviewed as well to provide a basis for comparison (Here are my 13 Answers). If after contemplating all of the responses it reinforces the level of satisfaction with your current adviser thank them for a job well done. However if these questions exposed some uncertainty in your existing relationship, they can also be used as a starting point for developing a new one.

Sharing this information is my way of exposing ridiculous policies of and creating change in the financial services industry.

Learn more about who I am, what I do, and who I do it for.

Take control of your 401k!

Most 401k plans are designed with a companies needs in mind. Frequently they contain inferior and insufficient investment options to truly diversify and protect your investments.

What can you do?
Many plans allow for what’s called an “In Service Withdrawal” which enables you to take control of your investments and get them out of the company plan while still employed and without adverse tax consequences.

How does it work?
First, the employer company must offer an In Service Withdraw and you (the participant) must meet their qualifying criteria. Next, fill out the required paperwork carefully; check the wrong box and taxes might be due. Finally, direct the funds to an IRA under your supervision or an adviser you justifiably trust (here are 13 questions to help make that determination).

How do you find out if a company allows an In Service Withdrawal?
1. Contact human resources and ask them, OR
2. Request a Summary Plan Description (SPD) from your 401k service provider, wait for them to send it, and scour the document looking for the section(s) on withdrawals, OR
3. Have a professional help navigate through the bureaucracy.

Sharing this information is my way of exposing the ridiculous policies of and creating change in the financial services industry.
Learn more about who I am, what I do, and who I do it for.