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20 Lessons from 20 Years

Published by: Jeff Hall, CFP®,CIMA® Date: March 23, 2019

February marks two milestones in my professional career. Seventeen years ago I had the privilege of becoming Rather & Kittrell’s first employee. Twenty years ago, I began my career in financial planning.  I’ve had thousands of conversations about money and the circumstances surrounding it during that time. What follows are 20 truths I’ve learned during that time.

  1. Investors tend to benchmark their returns against the S&P 500, cash in the bank or a relative (friend, golfing buddy, etc). It’s easy to compete against hindsight because foresight doesn’t exist in investing.
  2. Giving is the best antidote for combating greed and selfishness.
  3. Success in one area of life doesn’t automatically lead to success in other areas.
  4. Life is a lot less complicated if decisions are made based on what’s right versus exclusively on the financial benefit.
  5. The two most dangerous words in investing are “always” and “never.”
  6. Humility and fortitude are significantly more important to an investor than a high IQ.
  7. A home will make you plenty of memories, but rarely any money. Housing prices have typically risen at about the same rate as inflation in our country. That said, after mortgage interest, taxes, maintenance, insurance and all the “stuff” we add to our homes, cash gives us a better return. Unfortunately, cash doesn’t provide much shelter from the elements.
  8. I think people would be shocked to know how many financial professionals don’t adhere to the same advice they give their clients.
  9. The likelihood of a successful marriage improves exponentially if the husband and wife talk openly about money. Candid conversations about money also provide children a better shot at developing into functional adults.
  10. What the investment media tries to pass off as information and research is merely entertainment used to sell something.
  11. If you gave me all the economic data for the upcoming year in the United States, I still couldn’t tell you how the S&P 500 index would perform. It’s virtually impossible to forecast capital market returns based on the economy and vice versa because the two aren’t perfectly correlated.
  12. Every trade in the capital markets is a result of what two people think. Markets trade on expectation and sentiment because fundamentals are subjective. With money, as with life in general, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
  13. Your greatest investment is in yourself. Human capital pays higher returns than investment capital.
  14. If everything has to go perfectly for an opportunity to be a good deal, then it’s not a good deal.
  15. Investing is one area of life where greater activity does not necessarily translate into better results. That’s why meaningful planning tends to suppress the urge to react to trends or the daily news.
  16. Life is full of transitions, most of which involve money. Simplifying these transitions with clarity and purpose leads to peace of mind. At the end of the day, people just want peace of mind when it comes to their money.
  17. Money is a lot more personal than we sometimes think. As a result, the deeper the conversations we have with clients, the more impactful the planning experience becomes.
  18. Investing is critical for all of us to accomplish our goals, but it can’t be done well in the absence of meaningful planning.
  19. Preparing ones estate for distribution and tax consequences is important, but preparing ones heirs for their inheritance is even more critical.

My friend, Dave Ramsey, once told me the beauty of balance in life is that it fills your tank.  I am thankful for my faith, family, friends, clients and a profession that provides me perspective on a daily basis.  I can’t wait for all I will learn and see in the next twenty years of my journey.