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A New (and Better) Way of Understanding Your Financial Life

My wife and I have always detested the monthly statements we’d get from our brokerage firm and custodian. The information felt unnecessarily complicated, far too detailed and really not relevant to any aspect of our lives beyond whatever investment we had with that particular group. I’d look at the first page, ignore all the other pages and then place them on the mail pile and they’d eventually end up in some neat filing system my wife has run for years. Every few years, the drawer is emptied into a big box, dated and placed in the garage. And there they all sit molding away for several years until they finally end up in a recycling facility.

Imagine, though, if you could have a different way to look at your entire financial life. Imagine if you could have a financial report that was really meaningful — that you actually looked forward to receiving. What if it had an updated balance sheet, a list of your financial priorities and an ongoing score to ensure you were on track to living your best financial life; a consolidated list of planning needs met (like insurance and living wills); and a consolidated investment summary you could understand? What if you could actually have your entire financial life in one place? Imagine if it was actually easy to follow and was really engaging, and you could get it on-demand either as a hard copy or electronically whenever you wanted.

That idea is what began a multi-year, multi-million dollar process of inventing the nation’s first truly dynamic, engaging and all-encompassing financial report. With that first spark of an idea, we have now created a completely personalized dynamic report that incorporates our clients’ entire financial lives, which we call their Guidebook. We think it will change the industry, revolutionize what people expect from their financial institution and help United Capital maintain its position as one of the nation’s leading and most creative independent wealth management firms.

Just as important, the technology that drives the Guidebook frees up valuable time for our brilliant advisers to spend more time where they should be: in front of our clients, helping them tackle their toughest questions, and giving them comfort about how to deal with life’s financial surprises. In the first few months since the release, we are approaching 1,500 Guidebooks delivered to our clients, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Words like “Wow!” “Finally!” “I’ve never seen anything like this!” and “Thank you, this is awesome!” Nothing is more gratifying for all of us. This is innovation at work that helps us do what we love to do: improve lives.

So goodbye to those stacks of paper drifting around my house and welcome to a new age; I can’t say we’ll be missing them.

Joe Duran

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In Praise of Laziness: 3 Reasons You Should be a Little Lazier

Our country, like few in the world, is imbued with a culture of respect for hard work. We applaud the folks who slave through the summer and put in long hours “at the grind.” That mindset was shaped early in our history, when physical labor built the U.S. into the world’s engine. Whether it was farming, mining or industrial production, for most of our country’s development, the harder you worked the more productive you were. It’s a pretty straightforward linear relationship with physical labor: the more hours you work the more productive you are in a day.

Working in the “Brain Economy”

The challenge is that most of our workforce today has shifted from physical labor to mental labor. We live in the “Brain Economy” and that work does not translate in the same linear way that physical labor does. That means that rest, and some laziness, is imperative to being really effective with your time. Let’s discuss three ways in which being a little more lazy than you are today could actually help you to be more successful:

 

1.    Productivity increases with some rest. While many of us approach our day as a marathon, in reality it is a series of sprints with moments of high intensity and lulls interspersed throughout. Just like every elite athlete takes moments out of a game to rest and recharge during a break, we should approach our workday the same way. I found this idea to be a life-changer for me (with credit to Tony Schwartz). When I got sick and tired of being completely spent at the end of each day and having nothing left to give my family, I changed my workday habits and found ways to manage my energy over the course of the day. I’ll explain what worked for me. Try leaving your office for at least 10 to 15 minutes once at mid-morning and once at mid-afternoon. Talk with your folks about non-work items, take a short stroll outside, go get a cup of coffee or a smoothie. I then moved my workout from early morning, when I hated getting up and felt exhausted, to mid-day or in the afternoon at 4 p.m. I hated early morning because it would shorten my sleep, and I disliked late afternoon even more because I was spent, I wanted to see my family and I felt guilty being gone from them. There is no doubt that I am twice as productive throughout the day as I used to be, and I am still energetic when I get home. 

   

2.    Big ideas come to a mind at rest. Truth is that most of the busy work we do might be very important in a tactical sense, but will not allow for the strategic thinking that takes your business to a higher level. While you are accessible during your workday you will naturally spend most of your day reacting rather than creating. That means little likelihood for real change. You need a quiet, uninterrupted mind to be creative and to think about the big questions. It’s also true that being a little lazy will help you look for the easiest way to do something rather than just the best way to do something – they are not usually the same thing. Creating uninterrupted thinking time helps to create space for big ideas. Every major idea for evolving our business has come from dedicated think time with the team or while we were out of the office. Around here that happens every Friday afternoon for two hours, and every six weeks for the entire day for our management team. Non-work time even creates space for small ideas; this entire article, like most of them, was crafted while sweating through a hot yoga class (perhaps that’s why I get told my posts sometimes have a slightly “West Coasy Zen” thing to them).

 

3.    Your rest gives others permission to rest. We too seldom confuse activity with productivity. Most people comment on the large daily schedule scrawled on the white board behind my desk. Perhaps it’s because it includes gym (or yoga) time and several short breaks throughout my day displayed for all to see. Whether its fellow advisers or entrepreneurs, they usually think it’s very odd that I am so open about my rest time. I see the occasional disapproving glance, however, I know that our team appreciates the example that you should manage your day for output not for input (hours worked is not the right measure in the “Brain Economy”). No one here boasts about working over weekends or staying at work late at night – we don’t think that’s a badge of merit. It means you are overworked or don’t manage your day the right way. The management team takes time to recharge – they are forced to take two weeks off in one block. Of course there is never a good two-week time slot to be gone, but what we see is that it helps the team to manage the intensity of the work when they are here. If you have really productive and intense people who care deeply for what they do, you need to let them know it’s OK to be lazy so that they can be awesome when they are working.

There are few things harder to cope with in a company than a valuable partner who is burnt out, especially if that partner is you. Be a little lazy this Labor Day, and try bringing some of that with you into the office. You might be happier and more successful if you do.

Joe John

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Do You Know Which Financial Road to Take?

If you set out to go to a friend’s house for dinner and you had never been there before and you never got the address or location, would you just drive around aimlessly until you happened (hopefully) upon their neighborhood, then maybe located their street, and then walked up to each door to knock and ask if they lived there? It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? If someone asked you to come over, but they refused to tell you where they lived or how to get there, you would probably never agree to leave your house. You would want to know where you were going before you started out to get there.

It sounds so obvious – and yet, too many investors make investment decisions with no idea about where they are trying to go and what they want to find once they get there. At United Capital we talk about the “two eternal truths about decision making,” and the first one is that lack of clarity and understanding of yourself and the situation at hand will lead to poor decisions.

Without taking the time to be clear and specific about what you want, and to understand your biases toward money, your experience is most likely one of aimless wandering in the hope that you will get close to the financial end you seek.

While some investors might know they want to save for college, retire comfortably, support a loved one or pursue philanthropic interests, few think about the journey required to get to these end goals. You will need to make a lot of big decisions and trade-offs along the way.

We all have a viewpoint of money that is an accumulation of what we’ve learned and experienced over time. A bias could be that “You can never have enough money saved” or “If I die tomorrow, at least I have lived life to the fullest” and hundreds more like this.

When we combine our biases with our lack of specific direction, we have a potential for making bad decisions that don’t lead us anywhere, much less where we want to go.

Before you make another financial decision, be sure you are clear about what you want to accomplish and why it’s meaningful to you. Have a process and a checklist each time you make a financial decision.

To learn more about your biases and how they affect your financial decisions, visit www.honestconversations.com to discover your Money Mind®.

And don’t ever accept an invitation to go to dinner somewhere without getting an address beforehand!

United Capital

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IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE

United Capital Financial Advisers, LLC (United Capital) provides advice and makes recommendations based on the specific needs and circumstances of each client. For clients with managed accounts, United Capital has discretionary authority over investment decisions. Investing involves risk and clients should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. The information contained in this blog is intended for information only, is not a recommendation, and should not be considered investment advice. Please contact your financial adviser with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. This blog is a sponsored blog created or supported by United Capital and its employees, organization or group of organizations. This blog does not accept any form of advertising, sponsorship, or paid insertions. Certain authors of our blog posts may be influenced by their background, occupation, religion, political affiliation or experience. It is important to note that the views and opinions expressed on this blog are that of the owner, and not necessarily United Capital Financial Advisers. As a Registered Investment Adviser, United Capital does not allow any testimonials on their blog, and any comments deemed as such United Capital will remove.

United Capital does not offer tax or legal advice; therefore all articles should not be taken as such. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. All referenced entities in this site are separate and unrelated to United Capital. Any references to any specific commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by United Capital.