It’s not about the market, it’s about your goals.

I’m going to be honest with you: Even after 17 years in the financial services industry, I do not spend my day staring at a computer watching what the S&P 500 is doing (but I have a partner who does). Frankly, most days I couldn’t care less what any stock indexes do, because they are not the barometer that I use to determine my success – and neither should you. On any given day, I’d prefer that the equity markets go up rather than down, but I’m not foolish enough to believe that that will always be the case. I also know that my ability to predict the market behavior on any particular day in the future is similar to my ability to predict the weather on the same day. How often are meteorologists right on average?

What I do focus a lot of my time on is our client’s individualized goals. At the end of the day, most people’s objective isn’t to dominate the S&P 500, it’s to be able to retire comfortably without thinking about the markets daily (though bull markets can sometimes cause investors to forget that). We prefer to set out a detailed plan grounded in where we are today and what our goals are for tomorrow, then develop a strategy to accomplish that, with as little uncertainty as possible. After all, if you could live off the interest of FDIC insured investments and accomplish everything that is important to you, why would you take any risk at all? Money is a means to an end, it’s not the end.

Life is more complicated than ever, and “cutting through the noise” can improve decision making.

In our planning practice, my team and I specialize in working with executives, entrepreneurs, and medical professionals. Despite their varied job descriptions and industries, these folks have a common requirement of their work: laser focus to attain results. They’re busy. So when we meet them for the first time, we often uncover something that they thought they’d taken care of that they’d simply overlooked. This may not seem like a big deal, but if that something is leaving an ex-spouse as a life insurance beneficiary, I can assure you it’s a big deal, a really big deal!

With constant access to information, it’s easy to get bogged down in details, many of which aren’t even relevant to your situation. A professional’s job is to help weed out the factors pertinent to your individual situation so that you can focus on the things that matter to you, whether they get lots of media attention or not.

We’re not in the investment business, we’re in the advice business.

It may come as a surprise to most people, but we aren’t in the investment business an more, we’re in the advice business. Don’t get me wrong – some of the advice we give deals with investment products, but only some of it. Many of the questions that prospective clients ask start with investments, but via our discovery process, we spend the majority of our time talking about dealing with long-term care, life insurance, mortgage refinances, or how to best care for an aging parent. These conversations refer back to my earlier point on goals. It’s also important to understand that “life happens.” Whether it’s the birth of a child, death of a spouse, marriage, or divorce, there are so many ways that an individual’s situation can change. When circumstances and priorities shift, it’s our responsibility to help reevaluate your situation and help determine what else needs to change with them, whether it’s your will, your beneficiaries, or your asset allocation.

Some things require a professional.

Sometimes we’re asked, “Do I really need someone to help me with my investments? My [insert favorite relative here] took a course about all this stuff and I can always GTS (Google That Stuff.)”

There are certainly many ways to get advice, and we are aware of the power of preference regarding how to go about getting it. When I think of trying to navigate all of the complexities of the financial life of an executive, entrepreneur, or physician via Google, I’m reminded of something I heard many years ago, “I might cut my own grass, but I wouldn’t cut my own hair.” Solid advice if you ask me, I’d suggest picking up the phone rather than the scissors!


About Chip Munn

Managing Partner, SWS Senior Wealth Advisor, RJFS Chip is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Clemson University, where he earned a degree in education and was selected as an Academic All American by USA Today. He began his career in finance as a financial consultant with Wheat First Union in 1998. He specializes in retirement and education planning and the transfer of wealth among generations. Chip lives in Florence with his family. Follow Chip on LinkedIn.

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