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Home>Practice Management>Behavior Gap>The Pursuit of Happiness and Financial Advice

The Pursuit of Happiness and Financial Advice

What if the very pursuit of happiness thwarts happiness?

Carl Richards, 04/08/2013

When it comes to giving financial advice, it’s very easy to get caught up in the numbers. How much can your clients save? How long until they retire? And just how much do they plan to spend in retirement? I think it comes from a desire to feel certainty in an uncertain world, and it got me thinking about this quote from Viktor Frankl:

“It is the very pursuit of happiness that thwarts happiness.”

What if this advice applies to other things, too? For example, what if our pursuit of precision to reduce uncertainty creates the exact opposite effect? What if instead of making our clients feel better, our obsessing with precision only makes them feel more anxious?

I remember a time when the markets had been really wild. The bad news was everywhere, and I thought it made sense to call a client to reassure him that he’d get through this rough patch. Giving myself a pat on the back for being proactive, I gave him a call.

“Hey Dan, I just wanted to check in and make sure you weren’t losing any sleep over the news about the market.”

My client: “What news? What are you talking about? Is something wrong? Should I be worried?”

I genuinely thought my call would help him. I’d embraced the notion that precision (“I know what’s going on in the market”) mattered most to my client. So, it was incredibly frustrating to discover that I’d only made him feel more uncertain about his situation. I suspect you’ve gotten a taste of this, too.

The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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