Financial Life Focus

How to clearly navigate your financial life

Maybe They Know Something I Don't Know?

Do you ever question your beliefs? Maybe you should!

It's a lazy summer morning. The weatherman promises yet another scorching day, with temperatures expected to soar over 100 with a humidity index of rainforest proportions. It's barely 8:30 and already the thermometer screams 85 from across the street. Sitting outside my local coffee shop, my iced coffee sweating profusely, I watch the runners zipping past.
My initial thought is: These people are insane! They require significant therapy. It's hotter than hell and they're running down the pavement like it's their job. CRAZY! Another runner passes my table, plugged into his music, a smile on his face. Hmmmm. He really does look happy! My fifty-six-year-old knees send a message to my brain clearly stating their own disbelief: anything other than a brisk walk will only make my orthopedic surgeon happy, they say. Still, I am haunted by his smile. Is there something this man knows that I do not?
As the happy man jogs away, my mind is drawn next to the loud conversation coming from the table next to mine.
"I called my broker and told him to sell that dog he sold me!" one guy squawks.
Another picks up, "With all the information these guys have at their fingertips, why am I losing money? Maybe I should just get off this merry-go-round and stick my money in the bank. I'm going nowhere fast! I think the whole thing is rigged!"
"You can't put your money in the bank, you earn nuthin'!" someone else chimes in.
"Yeah but it's better than losing money all the time. I buy, I sell, I buy, I sell. Where's it getting me? Only the broker makes out. He's a good guy, but I'm sick of the excuses."
The voice sounds familiar, I turn to look at their table and recognize one of the guys in the group, a coffee-shop regular with whom I've exchanged ritual ‘good mornings' from time to time. He notices me sitting there and calls me over.
"Hey, you're an investment guy, right?"
"I am a Financial Planner, and yes, we manage money."
"Can you shed some light for these guys? They think that all investments are rigged."
I smile, biding my time, somewhat trepidatious about entering this discussion. I have very strong feelings about how money should be handled and stock picking and market timing just doesn't do it for me. But, perhaps I can add something for them to think about.
"Ok," I say, "what's the question?"
"Well, my broker keeps suggesting I buy these stocks and then when they go down, I feel like I am totally screwed and I just want to put my money into the bank. What should I do?"
"There's a lot to your question. The first thing is, I would insist on knowing why you're buying something and what the expectation for the growth is and how long the anticipated hold is for. Secondly, I would ask yourself, when you get into that selling mode, who's so happy to buy the shares that you want to sell? What do they know that you don't know?"
With this statement, all the chatter stops. I smile pleasantly then turn back to my iced coffee, which by now has created a puddle of water underneath the plastic cup. Two more runners blow past my table, talking and laughing as they pass, radiating health and vitality. The thermometer at the bank has hit 88. What do they know that I don't know? It's time for me to find out.
Ninety minutes later, I leave the air-conditioned gym behind me. I feel alive and grateful that I'm not sitting in the blistering heat, engaging with futility in the conversation that resumed full force when I left. I may not be up for jogging in the blistering heat but that doesn't mean I can't find another way to experience that same vitality.
It's like that with money too. We tend to think that there is only one way of thinking when in fact there are many. I encourage you to look at your own beliefs around money, and other topics, and ask yourself if you are beholden to any beliefs that are limiting you. Is it possible that someone knows something that you don't? If so, I encourage you to find out what it is!

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Michael F. Kay, a Certified Financial Planner, practitioner and a CPA, is president of the firm Financial Life Focus.

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