Most financial advisors have worked with clients who take more risks than they should. These people will stop at nothing to get the power, wealth, and influence they desire. Often, high rollers are portrayed in a negative way and there is some truth to this portrayal; being a risk-taker can be a hindrance financially. However, with the right guidance and advice, risk-takers and high rollers can see high rewards.
Of the nine Moneymax personality types, high rollers are the biggest risk taker. They desire power, influence, and wealth and aren’t afraid to take big risks. They enjoy the thrill of risky money decisions and in spending their money instead of saving it. While their risks can have high reward, their emotional decision-making can sometimes get in the way of their financial success.
There are five distinct traits you must understand about working with high roller clients. Once you understand these traits–and how to mold them into financially healthy traits, you can help your risk-taking clients see the ROIs they crave.
Trait 1: Risk-taking isn’t something they are afraid of
You might have guessed high rollers are comfortable with, well, taking risks, but what exactly does this mean for their financial health? It can be a double-edged sword. Being comfortable with risk is good for making money–as long as it’s paired with well-calculated logic behind the risk. If your client is a risk-taker, they need to learn the difference between taking a meaningful risk that is goal-oriented and taking a risk for the thrill of it.
Trait 2: They like being challenged
Risk-takers usually spend a lot of time out of their comfort zones and aren’t afraid to jump into a new challenge. At worst, this can lead to risky financial behavior if a client hasn’t acquired financial knowledge and skills. If they are educated on finances, this can lead to a high level of investment and effort from risk-takers who wish to acquire wealth.
Trait 3: Risk-takers like things to move quickly
Often, high rollers get frustrated when they don’t see an immediate return on their investment. As a financial advisor, you need to be able to articulate why a balanced, slower plan might pay off in the long run. A good talking point with risk-takers is that a balanced, more moderate financial plan will give them more control in the long-run and allow them to take bigger, more calculated risks down the road.
Trait 4: If they develop strong risk-calculation skills, they are likely to succeed
Often, we think of risk-taking as a dangerous personality trait. Yet, when a risk-taker can make calculated decisions and can evaluate the risks, they can be extremely successful.
Trait 5: Refocus high rollers on achieving your goals
The image of a high roller is often a person who spends much of their time gambling, racks up credit card debt, and in involved in other risky endeavors. When risk-takers learn to refocus that energy on productive goals, they can find increased financial, professional, and personal success. In order to do this, risk-takers need to discipline themselves and only take on risks that are calculated and goal-oriented.
Have you ever worked with a risk taker? What other advice would you give to help financial advisors with this client type?
ABOUT FINANCIAL PSYCHOLOGY
Financial Psychology provides services and tools for Financial Advisors to add some personality to their advising. Their signature tool, the Moneymax Personal Profiling System, reveals someone’s financial psychology in less than fifteen minutes and enables financial advisors to give customizable advice. Located in Ohio, Financial Psychology has empowered advisors over the last 30 years in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia, and beyond.
While every client comes to you for financial guidance, some clients need more hand holding than others. We all know those clients who call every time there’s a dip in the market or who show up in your inbox every week. But what if there was a way you could identify these clients faster and give them the guidance they need, all while respecting your own boundaries and free time?
By understanding your clients’ financial personality types, you can give them the guidance they need without taking too much time out of your day. Knowing your client’s financial personality type offers a variety of benefits including:
Identifying their pain points faster
Understanding their financial motivations and approach to money
Giving advice tailored to their strengths, weaknesses, and motivations
Each personality type will approach money differently, but financial advising clients won’t always tell you their money mindset, strengths, and weaknesses. The Moneymax quiz, however, allows you to discover someone’s personality type in less than 15 minutes. From there, you can give the right type of advice, especially to those who need more guidance.
Moneymax has nine personality types and of those nine, some need more guidance than others. By knowing what type you are dealing with, you can give the right guidance to each of your clients.
Moneymax entrepreneurs tend to think outside the box, consider career achievements a priority and will take risks to achieve their goals. While some follow the typical image of an entrepreneur and run a large company with many employees or own a small business, others are “intraprenuers”, salaried workers who carve out an entrepreneurial niche within corporations or businesses. Others work a full time job and have a side hustle outside the office.
Entrepreneurs won’t need as much guidance as other types. However, because entrepreneurs and business owners have different financial concerns than regular employees, these clients might need extra guidance on how to manage their finances as a business owner.
As one of the most educated and ambitious Moneymax personality types, hunters should be set up for financial and professional success. However, this type does have the tendency to doubt themselves and emotionally spend. Hunters have the ability to play the money game, but they need to learn how and develop the confidence to play on their own.
Hunters could need more guidance because of their lack of confidence. This type might ask more questions and might not be able to stick to a savings plan because they are emotional spenders. To give hunters additional guidance, consider setting up a stricter savings plan that plays into their ambitious spirit (such as a tracker or smaller goals to hit along the way to a bigger savings goal). You might also help build up their confidence by telling them when they did something right with their finances and encouraging them to take a more active role in managing their money.
The Moneymax Optimist tends to have a positive money mindset. They are proud of the way they handle their finances and have high expectations for future financial success. The optimist can sometimes overspend on things that bring short term pleasure. Despite their spending habits, they are overall confident and proficient in managing their wealth.
This type probably won’t need as much guidance as other types. But similar to the hunters, they may need some guidance on how to spend their money. If you scaffold their financial plan right and allot some wiggle room for their spending tendencies, this type should be easy to manage and need little guidance.
Moneymax Perfectionists tend to be overly critical and are afraid to make mistakes when it comes to money management. They often avoid decisions and put off work until they are sure they can do it just right. This type also tends to be frustrated with their financial situation as it’s never perfect.
As a procrastinator, the perfectionist might need more hand holding than other types. While they’re not as likely as the hunter or safety player to ask for your advice, you could find yourself following up with them a few times before they take action. When dealing with perfectionists, make sure to have a plan in place to curb their procrastination and take any needed actions as soon as possible.
Of the nine Moneymax personality types, the high roller is the biggest risk taker. They desire power, influence, and wealth and aren’t afraid to take big risks. They enjoy the thrill of risky money decisions and in spending their money instead of saving it. While their risks can have high reward, their emotional decision-making can sometimes get in the way of their financial success.
As the biggest risk taker, the high roller can be a tricky type to manage. They can be great if you’re looking for clients willing to make riskier financial decisions with a potentially bigger payoff, but these clients aren’t as fun to deal with when those decisions don’t pay off. If any of your clients are high rollers, keep in mind that you may need to make extra time for when their risk taking gets in the way of their financial success.
Moneymax Money Masters tend to be just that–masters of their money and lives. While they are third in income, they are first in assets and are strategic in setting up a good financial future. This group is highly involved in their money management and proud of their achievements.
Money Masters usually don’t need a lot of guidance. When they are first starting to build their assets, they could ask more questions than other types, but overall they tend to be more involved in their money management and will need less hand-holding along the way.
The achievers are frugal with their money, believe in the value of hard work, and are interested in protecting what they earn. They tend to mistrust others and want to play an active role in their money management. Achievers are tied with Hunters for being the most educated personality type and are also goal oriented. Unlike hunters, they tend to make more analytical decisions.
Due to their mistrust of others, you either won’t see as many achievers in your practice or these types will ask more questions and be more skeptical than other types. When working with an achiever, expect more questions than usual about your financial practices.
The Moneymax Producers are one of the hardest working types and tend to be altruistic. However, their assets and income do not reflect their hard work and they’re often frustrated with their financial reality. By changing their negative view of money, they could change their financial future.
The producers usually need a lot of guidance due to their negative view of money and their financial frustrations. This type could email or call you frequently for extra help with their finances. However, if you guide the producer to start building up assets which compliment their hard work, you might be able to better manage this type.
Safety players tend to see financial success as a matter of luck or being at the right place, at the right time. They are less likely than other Moneymax types to believe their individual actions control their financial future. Because of this, they tend to make safe financial decisions with minimal risks. Safety players are also more passive in their money management than other types.
Because of their perceived lack of control over their finances, safety players may need more guidance than other personality types. This type will be more passive with their money management and expect you to do the bulk of the work managing their finances. To help guide safety players, remind them of how much they can control their future and work with them to create a safe, less risky financial plan.
While some types may take more time and attention than others, you can better manage all nine personality types when you understand the strengths, weaknesses, and motivations of each. When you walk into a meeting with a client not knowing their personality type, you are often guessing about their approach to money. When you enter the meeting armed with their money personality type, you can more effectively attend to their questions and needs, saving you time and providing customized financial advising to your clients.
Money decisions might seem objective on the surface and some are. Don’t spend more than you make, save for retirement, and consider saving up for a home are generally good pieces of financial advice but to truly understand why someone makes the decisions they do–good or bad–you have to understand how they approach their finances.
In order to understand this, you must learn more about their financial psychology. Financial Psychology is an interdisciplinary field that studies how principles from psychology impact our financial decisions. 13 financial personality traits in particular influence many of our money decisions.
This trait measures how involved a client likes to be in their money management. The more control they want over their money, the closer their score will be to 100. If one of your clients likes is constantly checking their stock portfolio and emailing you, they probably have a high level of involvement.
This trait measures how proud a client is of their money management skills. The closer their score is to 100, the more pride they have in their money management skills. If a client constantly criticizes their ability to manage money, they have a lower level of pride.
The more guided their decisions are by emotions, the closer they’ll be to 100 while the less guided they are by emotions, the further their score is from 100. A client who’s an emotional spender would score higher for this trait.
If a client believes others are financially generous, their score will be closer to 100. In contrast, someone who thinks everyone is greedy and conniving in financial transactions would have a lower score.
Confidence reflects how comfortable a client is with their money management skills. The greater their comfort level for managing their own money, the closer their score will be to 100. Someone who feels they are doing a good job managing their money and is comfortable talking about finances with a financial advisor would score higher for this trait.
Power measures a client’s interest in using their money for public recognition. The more your client wants to use money for public notoriety, the closer their score will be to 100. Someone who invests their money in running for a local political office would highly value power.
Work ethic encompasses how likely a client is to believe hard work will bring success. The closer they are to 100, the more they believe in hard work. Someone who believes corruption and luck, not hard work, brings about success would have a lower score for this trait.
The happier they are with their money situation, the closer their score will be to 100. A client who is miserable and always complaining about how they wished they had more money would score lower.
The level of risk a client is comfortable with when it comes to investments is one of the most used financial psychology traits by financial advisors. A client who is eager to invest in new startups or in crypto currencies with high risk and reward will fall closer to 100 while a client who is scared to invest in safer mutual funds will be closer to 0.
If a client feels their own actions determine their wealth, their score will be closer to 100. If they feel luck plays a bigger role in their money situation, their score will be closer to 0.
Spending encompasses if a client enjoys spending or saving money. A score closer to 100 means they enjoy spending money more than saving while a client who is frugal and hardly ever spends money would be closer to 0.
Reflectivity refers to how reflective and analytical a client is in their money decisions. The more reflective a client is, the closer their score is to 100.
If a client’s level of trust in the integrity of others’ dealings with money, their score will be closer to 100. Those who have less trust ion how others deal with money will have a score closer to 0.
Often, it can take confidence, time, and the right questions to discover where a client falls for these 13 financial traits.
But not with the Moneymax quiz. This tool measures where your clients fall on a scale of 1-100 for 13 characteristics in less than fifteen minutes. Based on their results for those 13 characteristics. If you’re interested in trying out the Moneymax quiz at a special discounted rate, consider subscribing to our newsletter. When you subscribe, we’ll send you a free gift and a discount code.
To know and understand the motivating forces behind investing, to know and understand why one investor becomes tense about losses, why one becomes greedy about profits, and why one either overreacts or fails to react is, perhaps, more than half the investment battle. Money and emotions aren’t always an ideal pairing. If your emotions are managing your wealth, you may not be setting yourself up for success.
There is a high price to pay for the kind of innocence many investors bring to their investments and the way they interact with their investment advisors. Unfortunately, in many cases, to help maximize your financial returns, you must first help yourself master your emotions.
Often, bull markets are like blinders. Investors begin to believe in the fantasy that their stocks will always take good care of them and never disappoint them. But, when reality hits and the bull market turns bear, investors can be faced with challenging decisions and their gut emotions may take over.
There are certain important relationships which we must understand before we may be able to achieve a consistent degree of success in the world of investing and in the marketplace.
The first and foremost of these is that the majority of losses in the marketplace result not from poor trading decisions but rather from emotional and attitudinal causes. Investing by its very nature is an emotional business.
Few investors have the self-knowledge, emotional stamina or self-control to make rational, intelligent and profitable decisions, particularly in times of stress. So often, investors react wildly to bad news, frequently selling shares of perfectly good stocks–reacting with their emotional money minds rather than their rational ones.
Why is it that some investors may tend to make rational decisions, stick with their choices and strategies while others seem to act out their emotions and make investment decisions that may not lead to profit?
The field of behavioral finance has given insight into some mental miscues investors make that might sabotage and crimp their returns:
Fear of Losing Money
Psychologically, people give greater weight to a past loss than they do to a future gain. In fact, some individuals find losing money so distasteful that they talk themselves out of investing altogether. Some investors don’t make reasonable trade-offs because the drive to avoid loss sabotages any future gains or opportunities.
But when you make decisions out of fear instead of rationality, your decisions are seldom ever good. A 2019 study on entrepreneurship found entrepreneurs who made fear based decisions instead of rational ones were less successful financially.
Determine ahead of time exactly how much you can “emotionally” afford to lose as well as “financially”. They are often very different.
Worrying About the Wrong Risks
Investors are held captive by events that could be conceived as unpredictable or frightening events. People are traumatized by dramatic events. They can’t tolerate the anxiety that accompanies them.
This can be seen in a modern day context where, for the past 3 years or so, even successful business leaders have been predicting an economic collapse worse than the great depression. While there have been adverse negative effects due to COVID-19, it has not been on the scale of more dramatic predictions.
Investors often become blind and deaf to others’ advice in these times and tune out advice from others, including their financial professionals. They exaggerate current crises.
What’s worse is that they forget the wisdom of lessons from the past. They overlook the fact that people who stayed fully invested during previous crashes recouped their losses.
Help yourself base your decisions on what you can control, not on those factors you can’t control. Review the rationale for your current strategy and ask yourself and your financial professional if it still makes sense. If it does, review why the strategy still makes sense from time to time so you can help regulate any impulsive and emotional reactions that may bring you off course.
Knowing thyself isn’t just for characters in Shakespeare’s plays. It’s also a great way to better manage your finances. Since emotions play such a big role in financial decisions, it’s important to educate yourself on psychology as well as investing in financial education.
If you are a financial advisor, you most likely have strong financial literacy and have studied personal finance for quite some time. However, you might not have studied the psychology behind it.
Oftentimes when we look at just the finance side of wealth management, we can get confused by our clients actions or ideas. However, if we studied the psychology of finance, we would better understand our clients.
One of the best ways to educate yourself on financial psychology is with the Moneymax assessment. This assessment not only allows you to know your clients’ and potential clients’ personality types, it also reveals where they fall on a scale for 13 financial characteristics.
If you understand the psychology of your clients as well as the principles of personal finance, you are better able to manage wealth.
As you evaluate your investment strategies and individual situations, whether with your financial professional or on your own, consider these points:
Investors are more prone to make or lose money as a function of their emotions and attitudes than on the basis of their stock selection or trading system.
The best system can be rendered a losing proposition by inappropriate implementation due to emotional and behavioral limitations.
Appropriate or successful investor behavior can be learned to a large extent. Education is essential to helping investors stay in control and continue to grow, particularly in learning self-regulation and self-control.
Acknowledging and understanding your emotions is an important step in staying on track with your long-term financial plans when challenging economies become the everyday reality.
Likewise, learning to control your emotions even when the market turns upwards is equally important.
Finally, remember, if you find yourself questioning your decisions, talk to your financial professional, they are there to help you when you have to make the tough decisions.
Credit cards can offer peace of mind, but more often than not, they create undue stress. We talked to credit experts and mental health professionals, who say you can bring tranquility into your financial life by following these five strategies to mindfully manage your credit card.
1. Clear away credit card clutter
Have you ever stood at a cash register, shuffling frantically through a stack of plastic to find a specific retailer’s card? Trying to keep track of and manage too many cards can be overwhelming. So, if you have more than a few cards, experts recommend that you pare down your collection.
“You need to lighten your load,” says Catherine Williams, Vice President of Financial Literacy for Money Management International, a credit counseling firm with offices in 22 states. She recommends keeping two multi-use cards.
One should be a rewards card to use instead of cash — to buy items such as groceries, gas and monthly yoga classes — that will make it easy to track spending and prevent worrying about cash getting lost or stolen. Never carry a balance on a rewards card, because they have high interest rates.
The second card, Williams says, should be a very low-interest credit card for unexpected big-ticket purchases — such as a new household appliance or car repair — that you might have to pay off over a few months.
If you have too many retail credit cards from clothing, electronics and home improvement stores, Williams recommends paying down your balances and closing one or two cards every three to four months. “It’s a slow and steady way of changing a habit,” Williams says.
2. Use plastic for self knowledge
The maxim “know yourself” applies to finances as well as other areas of life — and a credit card can serve as a valuable tool for gaining self-knowledge and clarity, experts say.
“I love the idea of using a credit card to understand your budget — you can get a lot of peace of mind from it,” says Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, who recommends learning about yourself by putting all your purchases on one credit card for a month. “You can come up with real data and new insights about how you’re managing your money,” Yarrow says.
Hard numbers can be useful, Yarrow says, because consumers tend to underestimate the amount they spend on routine purchases — which can blur together in the mind.
“A lot of people have no idea how it adds up when they spend on gas, tolls, coffee, cookies or that organic arugula they decided to throw in the cart at the grocery store,” Yarrow says.
And, consumers sometimes fool themselves on luxury purchases — such as new designer shoes — to convince themselves it’s OK to splurge. Yarrow says: “They might tell themselves, ‘Oh, I haven’t bought any shoes lately,’ when, in fact, they bought three pairs this month.”
3. Clarify your financial priorities
One key to financial peace of mind, experts say, is figuring out how to use credit cards in harmony with your values and priorities. “We often get caught up in routine and fill our lives with the small things and then there’s no room left over for the big things,” says Elisha Goldstein, a psychologist and co-author of “A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook.”
He recommends taking time alone to reflect on your priorities, then thinking about how they relate to your finances.
Once you’re clear on priorities, you can sit down at the beginning of each month and decide how you will spend and use your credit cards in a way that reflects what’s important to you.
When you’re trying to cut down on credit card spending, it’s also important to take small steps. For example, you can decide not to put anything on your card for 30 days to cut down on spending. Making small, specific commitments to yourself provides peace of mind and better control over your behavior.
4. Practice mindfulness with money
If you’re trying to change your credit card habits — especially if you’re caught up in a cycle of spending now and regretting it later — mindfulness can help, experts say, by helping to make you aware of habits that longer work for you.
“You might normally walk by a window and see a sweater and, before you know it, you’re walking out of the store with the sweater and have thrown it on the credit card,” Goldstein says. So, if you wanted to practice mindfulness rather than just reacting impulsively, you would take deep breaths, pause and become aware of your body, your emotions and your thoughts, Goldstein says.
“The foundation of mindfulness is being intentional, paying attention to what’s happening in the moment,” Goldstein says. “And when we pay attention to cravings, we realize these are just thoughts and not things we need to necessarily act on.”
5. Accept your financial reality
A downside to credit cards, experts say, is that they allow you to pretend you have more money than you actually do — so it’s important to practice acceptance of your actual financial reality.
One of the biggest stresses you can create in your life is not understanding or admitting what you can actually afford. Not knowing your financial reality causes stress in your wallet and emotionally.
Knowing — and accepting — what you can actually afford isn’t just a matter of hard numbers. It involves your priorities, your wishes and your emotions, too.
For example, maybe some friends want to go to a pricey restaurant — and technically you could afford it, but you know you’d be eating ramen for the rest of the week. If you go, you won’t enjoy it as much as if you could afford it or budgeted for it. That sense of regret will create an emotional price when the check comes as well as a monetary one. By being honest with yourself and your friends about what you can afford, you will have greater peace of mind.
If you practice these healthy habits, you can expect to feel calmer, more in control and more balanced about your credit cards — and the rest of your financial life.
Whereas some bulls might describe this market as a stock buyer’s dream, the advisers I have spoken with are describing it as a nightmare for many of their clients.
Modern Portfolio Theory has given us an abundance of literature on objective measures and definitions of risk, and supposedly, the most effective methods for financially managing them.
Risk as a subjectively experienced emotional state, however, has received much less attention, even though most investors and advisors acknowledge that how they respond psychologically to making decisions under conditions of uncertainty can have a dramatic influence on their financial success.
Definition of Risk
Risk is a subjectively or personally experienced emotional state influenced by the ability to make decisions under conditions of uncertainty.
Risk, by definition, contains important subjective elements not typically considered or evaluated by the investment community. It is the subjective risk of investors which will determine perceptions, reactions, satisfaction, suitability and perhaps even success.
If investors’ subjective definitions of risk don’t enable them to sustain their strategies when they make rational sense, then they will create their own financial loss in selling impulsively.
Any attempt to categorize investments according to an objective risk profile can be misinterpreted by investors because of their internal or psychological risk profile which ultimately predicts their reactions and perceptions of their investments and the satisfaction they reap from them. They have their own subjective realities and definitions of risk which prevent them from understanding the objective definitions of risk.
To truly understand your own risk and your clients, you should look at the psychology of risk. A great way to do that is to use the Moneymax assessment. The unique benefit of this assessment is that while it looks at risk, it also looks at 12 other factors which influence our financial decisions.
This gives you a more complete picture of your clients’ and your own money personalities. Risk is just one factor in a much larger picture–and you need to understand the full picture to better suit your clients’ risk levels.
Lowering The Chance of Objective Risk Is Not Lowering Subjective Risk
As investment advisers, you can employ a variety of well known techniques to lower the “chance” of loss: dollar cost averaging, diversification, careful asset allocation, and buy and sell disciplines. However, even though you may choose to emphasize and lower objective risk, you must still deal with the subjective reality of investors’ emotional responses to risk.
It is the psychological impact of the “consequence” of a financial loss on investors’ decision-making that makes the impact on how investors conceptualize risk. Their subjective realities are their objective realities and don’t necessarily make rational sense.
For most investors, risk is a concept related to loss, which is subjectively vs. objectively defined. It is based on feelings vs. facts. Because risk and loss are intimately connected, particularly the consequences of loss, how an individual has experienced and adapted to loss throughout life becomes a significant issue in one’s approach to risk.
All individuals experience both real loss and emotional loss. If one has not resolved former real or emotional losses, there is a tendency toward blindly eliminating losing situations in the face of downside loss and/or volatility. They experience an almost panic-like psychological urge to divest themselves of the psychological and paper position of loss without first understanding whether the fundamentals warrant such actions.
If resolved, they’ll be able to experience real vs. emotional reactions to loss and be able to feel ok and come through it. They would have more flexibility and adaptability to handle future uncertainty and would not shy away from future experiences.
Giving investors an opportunity to reflect on their real vs. emotional losses through interviewing and integrating that knowledge into their current investing style not only alleviates much unnecessary panic; it also prevents significant denial of loss. They need to ease back into investing. They’ll eventually adapt.
Managing Subjective Risk
Since objective risk doesn’t always equal the subjective risk level in your client’s mind, it’s important to learn to manage their subjective risk level. If you understand how risky a client perceives an investment or financial action to be, you can better serve them.
A key to this is the ability to empathize and understand where your client is coming from. So often, wealth advisors care only about the investments and not about how clients perceive the investments. But if you want to better serve your clients, you should take the time to better assess and understand their perception of risk.
Let’s look at an objective low-risk action: investing through a mutual fund. For some clients, this might be perceived as low risk because their parents did the same and had success. But if a client saw their parents lose money through poor investments, their subjective reality might be that any investment is a risk.
Once you understand the personal history and psychology behind why a client perceives something to be a risk, you can better empathize and rationally explain why a certain action benefits them.
However, you didn’t become a financial advisor to be a therapist. You don’t need to know a client’s entire backstory to better serve them, just their money personality. One of the best ways to discover their money personality and how psychology influences their financial decisions is with a quiz that has been well-researched and proven to work time and time again. One such assessment is Moneymax.
With an assessment like Moneymax, you can better understand where a client is coming from and the best ways to manage their wealth after the client takes one short quiz! If you run this quiz on potential clients, you can go into the first conversation truly “getting them” because you understand the psychology behind how they view risk and make financial decisions.
While financial risk can be objective, it often feels subjective to our clients. To better understand where they’re coming from and the psychology of risk, invest in learning more about them beyond the money and assets in their wealth portfolio.
Prudent and successful investing is as much about managing attitudes and feelings about money as it is about managing the money itself. It’s all in how we use it that brings us the greatest satisfaction and success.
If we are self-aware and self-confident, we feel more of a sense of mastery. We feel we are making the best use of it because we are using it to reflect our core values and our sense of ourselves.
Daniel Goleman has written extensively about the benefits of having and using “emotional intelligence” in our life’s pursuits. In his book, “Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence” he posits that the ability to identify and monitor one’s emotions is imperative to being a competent leader.
He has a short list of competencies leaders must possess including self-awareness and self-management. If you are self-aware, you have realistic self-confidence—you understand your own strengths and limitations. His point is that effective leaders understand how their personal dynamics, principally emotions, make an impact and learn to manage them so that they are used most effectively.
In my work at Financial Psychology Corp., the same principles are applied to money management. In working with the financial services industry, it became clear early on that understanding feelings and being able to manage them was a key competency in mastering wealth accumulation. Financial advisors had the greatest influence with their clients if they understood the importance of managing attitudes and feelings as well as finances—both their own and their clients.
Investing by its very nature is an emotional business and being able to understand our feelings and the impact they have on how we are using our money, enables us to make smarter choices and ultimately make the best use of our money.
I have seen too many otherwise highly intelligent investors allow their emotions to cloud their better judgment. They react impulsively and inappropriately to market swings and use their emotional money minds instead of their more rational money minds.
The skill set is the same whether you want to be a good leader or you want to be a good money manager: you have to know yourself and how to profit from reinforcing your attitudes and feelings which are assets and shoring up those that may be liabilities. We can become our greatest financial asset if we learn how to use our personality traits so that we profit from them. It all starts with knowing ourselves.
The mission of my company, Financial Psychology Corp., is to give people insight into their financial behavior so that they can make the best use of their money.
Just as leaders use their personal attributes to achieve the most powerful influence in their pursuits, investors must be able to use the same skills and competencies to have optimum influence in how their money is being managed: realistic self-awareness and self-confidence of doing the right thing.
So often, investors react impulsively to bad news and a volatile market selling shares of perfectly good stocks or changing their asset allocations in anticipation of a significant downturn in the market. Had they held on, history reinforces staying the course if the allocation makes rational and financial sense and the stocks deemed to be good stocks over the longer term.
But many investors, react with their emotional money minds rather than their rational ones.
Why is it that some investors make rational decisions, stick with their choices and strategies while others act out their emotions and make bad investment decisions?
The field of Behavioral Finance has given insight into the mental miscues investors make that sabotage and crimp their returns. One of those miscues or mental mistakes is the fear of losing money.
This is how it works: Psychologically, people give greater weight to a past loss than they do to a future gain. In fact, some investors find losing money so distasteful that they psych themselves out of investing altogether.
Investors don’t make reasonable tradeoffs. The drive to avoid loss really sabotages any future gains or opportunities. Rather, investors rationalize their feelings and walk away from being an involved and active investor in the market. Some work it out and choose a strategy of a more passive approach investing in index funds and stay the course.
From where I sit as a psychologist specializing in money management and investing, I tend to experience investors or would-be investors who are frozen by indecision and the fear of losing their money.
Solution: Determine ahead of time exactly how much you can “emotionally” afford to lose as well as “financially”. They are often very different.
If you feel that a financial loss will be a significant emotional and financial loss, then choose the more conservatively balanced approach of investing. If you feel you can handle the emotional and financial upset of a loss, estimate just how much of a loss that should be for you to continue to feel and be secure.
The point is that investing is by nature an emotional as well as financial business. Your heart and wallet go hand in hand.
With spending some time upfront reflecting and gauging your comfort level, you will be better equipped over the long-term for whatever happens in the market.
“I no longer watch CNBC with my coffee every morning. I find that I just don’t want to be more confused and feel more anxious. I just don’t feel as optimistic as I used to–my whole mood has changed. I guess I’m feeling a sense of heaviness, uncertainty-maybe even a bit of depression.”
“My statement has sat in my unopened emails for weeks. I don’t want to look at or know the balance. I own a lot of shares of each stock and it’s great when the market is going up because there are big gains. But when it’s going down, I have to face large losses.”
I had these conversations last week with two knowledgeable and confident investors who are generally quite comfortable with volatility. Both of their “Entrepreneur” Moneymax® Profiles suggest that they are both highly motivated by performance with tendencies to take higher but calculated risks.
Often Bull markets are like blinders. Investors begin to believe in the fantasy that their stocks will always take good care of them and never disappoint them.
Since the “Great Recession”, the market has reinforced such fantasies. It has been a bull market for the past five years with one small exception in 2011 with a 10% pull back. Recently we have had the worst three days in three years.
In my years of experience, as a psychologist specializing in the psychodynamics of money management and investing, I’ve come to realize that there are certain important relationships which we must understand before we can achieve a consistent degree of success in the world of investing and in the marketplace.
• The first and foremost of these is that the majority of losses in the marketplace result not from poor trading decisions but rather from emotional and attitudinal causes.
• Investing by its very nature is an emotional business. Few investors have the self-knowledge, emotional stamina or self-control to make rational, intelligent and profitable decisions, particularly in times of stress.
So, often investors react wildly to bad news, often selling shares of perfectly good stocks. Had they held on, they would have realized that. But they, as many investors, react with their emotional money minds rather than their rational ones. They usually are at the “effect” of their feelings and not managing them well.
Why is it that some investors make rational decisions, stick with their choices and strategies while others act out their emotions and make bad investment decisions?
The field of Behavioral Finance has given insight into the mental miscues investors make that sabotage and crimp their returns:
• Fear of losing money
Psychologically, people give greater weight to a past loss than they do to a future gain. In fact, some investors find losing money so distasteful that they psych themselves out of investing altogether.
Investors don’t make reasonable trade-offs. The drive to avoid loss really sabotages any future gains or opportunities.
Solution: Determine ahead of time exactly how much money your clients can “emotionally” afford to lose as well as “financially”. They are often very different.
• Worrying about the wrong risks
Investors are held captive by unpredictable yet frightening events. People are traumatized by dramatic events. They can’t tolerate this anxiety.
Investors become blind and deaf to others’ advice in these times and tune out that advice, including their advisors’. They exaggerate current crises. What’s worse is that they forget the wisdom of lessons from the past. They overlook the fact that people who stayed fully invested during previous volatile times recouped their losses.
Solution: Help your clients base their decisions on what they can control, not on those they can’t control. Give them the rationale for their current strategy and
reiterate why it still makes sense. Repeat it several times and intermittently so they can hear it and use it as a guideline in regulating their knee-jerk and emotional reactions.
In other words, there is a vast world of emotion under the surface structure of investing. To know and understand the motivating forces behind investing, to know and understand why one investor becomes tense about losses, why one becomes greedy about profits, and why one either overreacts or fails to react is, perhaps, more than half the investment battle won. There is a high price to pay for the kind of innocence many investors bring to their investments and the way they interact with their investment advisors. Unfortunately, in many cases, to help your clients continue to maximize their financial returns, you must first help them master their emotions.
Some experts are calling the recent mass exodus of small investors from the market an irrational reaction to unfound risk; others are hypothesizing that small investors need cash and their home values no longer support equity loans to survive so they are using their 401k investments to pay bills.
Personally, I feel small investors are feeling a tremendous level of anxiety and are having difficulty managing it. Their high level of anxiety and their inability to tolerate it precludes them from keeping their money in the market for the long-term and continuing to believe that they will be okay. The true definition of a suitable investment strategy is whether investors can maintain it over time – even anxious and volatile times.
Apparently, these investors are incapable of managing the stress of being in what they deem to be a risky strategy. But even sophisticated investors and professional money managers are anxious and unable to predict current and future risk in the market. So why should the small investor be any different. The difference may lie in unrealistic expectations and inappropriate risk taking that led the small investor into the market in the first place that is the real problem. If they weren’t diversified; if they didn’t understand the downside and determine whether they could withstand it, then they are feeling much greater stress and lack of tolerance in coping with their current feelings of anxiety and distrust.
There are a myriad of reasons why investors have reduced their exposure to securities and gravitated to what they perceive to be less risky investments like bonds, cash, and other fixed income vehicles. Perception is a subjective reality that is difficult to alter with objective facts. The problem is compounded by the volatility of today’s market and objectivity being illusive. You just have to listen to CNBC for a while and you’ll hear experts hypothesizing, and disagreeing whether we’re out of a recession or just heading into another. So how is the small investor to feel confidence or a sense of trust that the market will be kind to them if they stay? At least by doing something, they feel they have taken some action in their best interest rather than remaining frozen from fear.
I have empathy for these small investors who fell into the trap of feeling that they would be saved by the boom in house prices, stock market rallies and the optimistic view that kept all of us believing that the good times were here forever. For those who did not save some of the rewards from those flush exuberant times, or diversify to manage the potential downside of such a upside for the market it is a particularly stressful time. It is a time of reflection to learn valuable lessons for the future as well as a time to take an inventory of what can be done to manage personal financial insecurity and stress.
What my work has taught me is that the ability to tolerate anxiety and fear, manage stress and take small and consistent steps to control what can be controlled is often a defining difference between achieving a successful solution and optimistic financial future or sinking further into financial stress and insecurity.