A day in the advising life

Though it can seem mysterious to outsiders, especially in chaotic economic times, the daily schedule of this financial adviser doesn’t begin like the three witches of Macbeth concocting a stew of rosy assumptions or dire predictions. I’m also not the Wizard of Oz, hiding behind smoke and mirrors and pulling levers of manipulation.I like to start every day with a bike ride or quiet exercise because it’s crucial to have personal and professional balance. Sometimes achieving that balance is easier said than done, but the effort must be there.This may surprise some who think it’s imperative to jump directly into the avalanche of information that awaits us daily, but balance is the key. Simply put, we are no good to our clients if we don’t provide perspective, equilibrium and discipline. Though we’re not training at the same levels as professional athletes, there are common links to good performance in terms of building and maintaining strong physical and mental health. You need to be in top overall shape, mind and body, no questions about it.During the meltdown of 2008, I was biking to work more than usual. Though the chaotic flood of information was relentless, it was very calming to ride and appreciate the Zen and quiet reflection that comes from exercise.Because I spend as much as 70 percent of the day educating my clients and myself, my daily research must be focused, diverse and intellectually nutritional. I read as many as six online and international newspapers and at least two blogs to get a wide range of perspective and reliable information.It’s important to develop multiple independent sources of information. It helps you build and maintain intellectual integrity and independence – and not give in to espousing sound bites of conventional wisdom that others might wish to hear.’Actionable’ informationPerspective is necessary because clients are so bombarded with information, they don’t know what it means to their unique situation. You can’t really blame them. So much of what is reported and pontificated upon is speculation about the future based on past trends that may or may not have any relevance to the long-term approach that serves our clients best.In the intelligence community, they use the term “actionable,” meaning that it is information that needs to be acted on, sometimes immediately. When we think “actionable,” it’s not in terms of how the stock market reacted from day to day, but to emerging trends, especially those overseas, that never make headlines. These under-the-radar developments can be significant outliers as part of a long-term investment strategy.To cite a few examples, if you, as an adviser, don’t understand the importance of the Australian bond market or infrastructure developments in economically emerging areas of Africa, then you aren’t doing the job you need to do for your clients.The current economic situation has caused one major change to my daily routine. I have spent a lot of time working with investors who are experiencing their first bear market. Of course, this is not the first bear market but it may be the first bear market for this generation of investors – and that means a great deal psychologically for investors of all portfolio sizes. There are unique aspects to this current crisis that can impact long-range risk factors, but history can be a great guide to maintaining long-range perspective and calming frayed nerves.This had led to the one transcendent goal I seek to attain every day – to help clients make sense of the apparent chaos and review their options in the context of their tolerance for risk and their long-term financial goals and needs. To do otherwise would mean joining the long line of circus barkers peddling urgent quick fixes that often do little but become a financially corrosive, self-fulfilling prophecy.Tom Sedoric, managing director-investments of the Sedoric Group of Wells Fargo Advisors in Portsmouth, can be reached at 800-422-1030 or tom.sedoric@wfadvisors.com.