“Enabler” is now a pejorative term. Due to pop psychology, when we think of someone who is an enabler, we think of someone who allows and makes excuses for someone else’s bad behavior. A spouse may enable their spouse’s drinking problem by not confronting them about it and forcing them to change their behavior. A company may enable an employee’s bad behavior toward the opposite sex by allowing them to keep working there because they are a high producer. These are examples of enabling bad behavior.

Good Enabler

However, as a Financial Planner, I like to think of myself as a Good Enabler. In my job, I try to provide advice and help clients set goals that enable them to achieve their financial and life dreams. I provide clients assurance that their investment portfolios are soundly constructed so that they can sleep at night and that they can thereby focus their attention on where it should be, on their families and their jobs. This is enabling clients in a good way, in an effort to promote their good behaviors.

Too Busy

Are you too busy to deal with your own finances? There are a lot of people out there who are so busy with their day-to-day routines of working mega-hours, commuting, caring for family members in need, and, right now, getting ready for Christmas, that they don’t have time or perspective to deal with stuff like looking at their retirement fund allocations or setting goals in an effort to make sense out of why they are engaged in their routines. As a result, they feel caught in a trap and perhaps losing motivation. If this somewhat describes your situation, or if you have a friend or family member who sounds like what I am describing here, then perhaps I can help. I can enable them to set goals so that they can re-charge themselves and go forward with a better perspective on the meaning of their own lives.


What I am saying here is that the job of a Financial Planner is much more than someone who helps with the once-a-year reallocation of their portfolio. Instead, a good Financial Planner is a good enabler, someone who helps to prop up sagging motivation or who helps give a client meaning to their daily routine. These are “high-touch” skills that are difficult for a robot or a computer to replicate and are the real reason one should work with a Financial Planner. Please contact me if you want me to enable you to achieve your own piece of mind!

Bias In Investing

The Horowitz Inspector General’s report concluded that no one testified that political bias let to certain actions that resulted in FBI surveillance on the Trump Campaign for President in 2016. This means that the word “Bias” is back in the news in a big way.

Investing Bias

This led me to think about various forms of bias that we find with investors. We should all be aware of these biases and make sure to avoid them in lieu of unbiased rational reasoning, if possible. This is hard to do, but we can try. Here are some common biases we find in investing:

  • Anchoring Bias: This is where an investor gets caught on one piece of the puzzle and doesn’t see the entire picture. For instance, think about someone who bought GE all the way down to its current price of about $11 (although it hit $8 earlier this year and may be on the rebound). That person may have thought, “It’s GE, for cripes Pete! It has to turn around!” And it may, but that investor may have lost a lot of money on the way down because they were anchored in GE’s past glory and not in GE’s troubled waters ahead.
  • Confirmation Bias: This is where an investor has a preconceived notion of a company’s direction and then seeks and promotes data that only promotes that notion and disregards countervailing data. For instance, a customer may have a bad experience in a restaurant that is an outpost of a publicly-traded company. The customer decides, as a result, the company is going under and so they short the stock. Their anecdotal experience may reflect on the entire company, or more likely it reflects on that customer’s unrealistic expectations, or maybe something like the Yogi Berra phenomenon of “nobody goes to that restaurant anymore because it is too crowded”.
  • Overconfidence Bias: This is where an investor or perhaps an investment advisor thinks they are better than they really are. Think about Garrison Keillor and his fictional Lake Wobegon, where everyone was “above average”. Overconfidence and failure to consider that one may be wrong about an opinion can lead to poor decisions. For instance, maybe you have invested in 3 new stocks over the past few months and all of them have gone up. Now you think you are either on a hot streak or have gained some wisdom that others don’t have and so you bet the farm on the next play you see because of your high level of self-confidence. What could go wrong?


These are just a few examples of bias that we Financial Planners see. They are part of the growing fields of Behavioral Psychology and Behavioral Finance. It is difficult for someone to be sufficiently self-aware that they see these biases in themselves. This is another reason why you should work with a Financial Planner: To get a third-party (hopefully) unbiased take on whether or not you are biased in some capacity when it comes to your own finances.

Data-Driven vs. Data-Informed

The terms “data-driven” and “data-informed” come up when the Federal Reserve Bank makes a statement regarding the economy and the Fed Funds Rate. Their latest statement on December 11 was that the Fed would hold rates steady, and then this:

“In determining the timing and size of future adjustments to the target range for the federal funds rate, the Committee will assess realized and expected economic conditions relative to its maximum employment objective and its symmetric 2 percent inflation objective. This assessment will take into account a wide range of information, including measures of labor market conditions, indicators of inflation pressures and inflation expectations, and readings on financial and international developments.”

With this statement, is the Fed being “data-driven” or “data-informed” about future interest rate moves? What is the difference between the two?


“Data-Driven” means you let the data guide your decision-making process. You don’t have any particular agenda you want to accomplish and you are being reactive to data as it avails itself when you make decisions or change your tactics as they relate to future policy. With respect to the Fed, as an example, if it were data-driven, if the unemployment rate spikes, even a little, then the Fed might decide to lower the Fed Funds rate, or at least not to raise it, in an effort to stem weakening economic conditions. Likewise, if inflation spikes, even a little, the Fed might raise rates. In these examples, the Fed is reacting to data in an effort to follow their twin mandates of low inflation and high employment.


“Data-Informed” is sort of the opposite of “data-driven”. Data-Informed means you let data act as a check on your intuition or bias. You have a preconceived idea of where things are headed and you analyze all data to confirm that your preconceived idea is correct or not. If you read the italicized statement from the Fed, it sounds like the Fed is now more data-informed than data-driven. The Fed has an objective of 2% inflation and will set interest rate policies in an effort to achieve 2% inflation. The Fed has a preconceived idea that 2% inflation will be good for the US economy. True, the Fed will consider data for the next interest rate decision, but they are showing an intuition as to the level of inflation they feel appropriate and will check future data to see if the economy is heading in the direction they want.


What does this all mean for you? Think KISS – keep it simple, stupid. Rates are low and staying that way. The Fed doesn’t see out of control inflation – quite the opposite, they want to see a bit more inflation than they have recently. They certainly do not see a recession on the horizon any time soon. All of this is bullish for the financial markets. The Fed may be more data-informed than data-dependent, but they are not being overly active at this time, and that is good news for the economy.

5 Things I Do To Get Stuff Accomplished

I have my own company and work by myself quite often. I set my own agenda. Sometimes my temptation is to forget all of my work for the day and go and do something fun instead. To counter this temptation, I have several mechanisms I have developed over the years that help me get stuff accomplished. Here are 5 of these mechanisms:

Have a Set Routine: My “get up in the morning” and “go to bed at night” hours are pretty set. Even on the weekend, though I may sleep in an extra hour, I try to go to bed at about the same time. During the week, I wake up, check the markets and the messages, then I usually do some exercise before sitting down for the day. If you have a set routine, you know when you are available for any outside calls or meetings and you can more easily schedule them accordingly so as not to cause major interruption with the rest of your schedule. It also lets you slide into the productive part of your day without having to think about it.

Write Stuff Down: I have a notebook in which I write anything of note, and I carry that notebook everywhere. That way, if I am not at home, I most likely have any notes I need with me. I am more likely to remember to do something if I have written it down. Some people use their Notes function on their computer or smartphone – that can work as well.

Do the Hard Stuff First: If you have the choice to do so, I recommend doing whichever task you have that takes the most energy or brainpower first, or at least early on in the day. I get more tired and addled as the day wears on and so I can think more clearly during the early part of the day. I write most of my blog posts early in the morning, for instance – I don’t know how brilliant they read, but at least I have made the effort to write them. When you finish your most difficult task early in the day, you can take a deep breath because everything else for the rest of the day should be a breeze by comparison. You can give yourself a pre-lunch pat on the back.

Leave A Task Unfinished: Instead of aiming to finish everything you have planned for the day, leave something unfinished. That way you can wake up the next morning and easily slide into the next day by finishing what you started the previous day. You will probably finish that task quickly because your brain will have had all night to sort through how to get it done. When I read a book, I often quit reading right in the middle of a good part because then I will be eager to get back to it as soon as I can.

Make a Plan For Tomorrow Before You End Today: Don’t wake up in the morning without a plan or a goal for the day. Instead, make your plan before you go to sleep the previous evening. Maybe the day’s plan is already set for you – if so, great! No thinking involved. However, if you have to self-motivate yourself (as I do many days), you will be motivated to get out of bed and get stuff done if you have already planned what to do the day before. You will find that your level of productivity and sense of accomplishment will increase if you don’t always have to think about your next step because you have already done so.

IMO: A lot of these pieces of advice fall into the Yoda category: Don’t think, do! Now for those of you who have an outside job and whose schedules are already over-filled, this column may not have as much relevance. However, perhaps you are sick of that over-scheduling and are contemplating retirement or at least wishing you had more free time. If that’s the case and you are one who likes to get stuff done, then consider my pointers here. Also, how does this relate to financial planning and investing? Well, what is the second word in financial “planning”? You have to plan in order to be successful with your financial life. Don’t put it off: Develop your financial plan and then live your life accordingly. Put your plan in action.

December Sell-Off?

Don’t be surprised if we have a sell-off in the stock market during December. Why? Because sell-offs happen when you least expect them, and because markets have been moving up a little too smoothly with decreased volatility during the past year. It all could be a bit too good to be true. I believe we could see a return to higher volatility and a market downturn between now and December 31.

Chart for SPY (S&P 500 Index ETF) March to December 2, 2019

YTD 2019

The S&P 500 ended November up about 25% YTD and with the VIX Volatility Index at about 12.6, at the low end of its recent range. The S&P 500 has gone up almost in a straight line since October 1, despite major headline headwinds. Larger institutional investors may look to sell and book some profits this year despite underlying fundamentals (low unemployment, low interest rates, positive GDP growth) that point to improving market conditions. My thought is these large investors sell now, book a positive 2019, and re-invest in 2020 and see what happens then.

What Should You Do?

If you are a long-term investor, just hold tight. Don’t sell in advance of something that may not happen, but don’t add to positions either. A market sell-off may feel like a short sharp shock, but typically a sell-off will have a basic pattern and will play itself out over a time period. If a sell-off does happen, I would view it as a technical sell-off, not one based on declining market or economic fundamentals, although the financial press may try to put that false narrative out there. If that is the case, and I am right about large investors wanting to book 2019 profits, then look to re-engage sometime right after 1/1/20.


I get the most worried when things are going a little too well. Now is one of those times. Though I am not losing sleep, I believe we could see some rough sees for the remainder of 2019. I recommend you hold your ammo for now until we get some confirmation first of a sell-off and then of an uptrend that ends the sell-off.