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Focusing on what matters and what you can control is useful in life generally and not just when it comes to investing



Carl Richards, a former adviser explains which elements are within our control and the one notable thing that isn't when it comes to investing...

RP: Sometimes the best way to explain a simple but important concept is to illustrate it. And no-one understands that better than Carl Richards. A former financial adviser, Carl now works with other advisers on managing their clients’ behaviour.

Carl is well known for his sketches, and one of his most popular is one that helps clients to focus on what really matters. It was a conversation with his mother that gave him the idea.

CR: She sits down and says “Oh nothing” and I said “No really what’s wrong?”, she said “Oh the dollar. I’m just so worried about the dollar.” At this point it was like 12 years into my career and I had not had anyone really ever ask me about the dollar. So I remember I was like “Well tell me more about that mom.” And she’s like “Oh it could collapse.” My mum as far as I’m concerned controls the universe but she has no control over what happens to the dollar. The argument would not matter if the dollar fell. Well, yeah if the dollar collapsed it would matter but we started talking about that intersection of these two circles. Things that matter and things that you can control because if it does not matter, why are you worried about it? And if you cannot control it, why are you worried about it? Other than to plan around it but if we can get the intersection of things that both matter and things we can control, then that is really where we should focus because that will make a difference.

RP: Focusing on this intersection of what matters and what you can control is useful in life generally and not just when it comes to investing. It can save you a great deal of time and unnecessary worry.

CR: The good news with investing and particularly if you think more about wealth management in general like more broadly than just investing, is if you were to make a list of all the things that actually mattered, most of the things we have control over. Asset allocation, our behaviour, when we retire… There is a whole long list of things we have control over.

There is one noticeable thing that matters a lot that we have no control over and that’s our return. In other words, the markets. We spend 80% of our time talking and worrying about the one thing and I am just suggesting that we should maybe flip that a little bit. It does not mean ignore that thing, I am just saying why don’t we spend a little bit more time talking about the things that we do have control over that also matter?

RP: Thank you to Carl Richards. You’ll find plenty more helpful sketches like that one on his website, BehaviorGap.com. That’s BehaviorGap.com.

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