Introduction to It's About More Than the Money: Investment Wisdom for Building a Better Life
In this introduction I'd like to talk with you briefly about your investments, your financial future, and your quality of life. That will prepare you to get the most out of this book.
In 29 years as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch, I've seen enormous changes in the markets, the financial services industry, and even my own firm. A key objective of my professional career during those years has been to guide and educate clients. The downturn that began in mid-2007 has made me even more determined to use my experience to help simplify the investment process and offer practical advice that anyone would find valuable.
In the past you may have come to rely on what you considered conventional wisdom in your pursuit of successful investing. Perhaps as a result of this most recent crisis you have reconsidered what you thought it would take to achieve your goals. That would certainly be understandable. This particular market downturn has dealt such a devastating blow that everyone has been struck by it or knows someone who has. No one could blame you if you now wonder where this experience has left you and whose advice is safe to follow.
In my role as a financial advisor, I have talked at length with clients about their investment experiences. Like most people, you probably have lost money in one or more economic downturns. You may also have lost faith in the investment process. In this book, my primary goal is to help you get your investments back on track and restore the confidence you need to be a successful investor. Along the way, the insights I share will not only help you emerge victorious from the current financial crisis, but also prepare you to be a more successful investor in whatever markets lie ahead.
You may not think of yourself as an investor; however, if you have money that you want to protect and grow, you are an investor. You may have money in the bank, in bonds, in the stock market, in real estate, or in complex derivatives. That makes you more than just someone who has put aside a little money. You are not just a bank customer or a client of an investment brokerage firm. As long as you have saved money, you are making investments. You are an investor, and you need to take that role seriously.
How can you regain control of your financial life? First, you have to focus honestly and objectively on your past investment decisions and the consequences of your actions. Let's face it: For most investors, this is too great a responsibility to go it alone. For that reason, an important message throughout this book is that there may be distinct advantages in working with a financial advisor who is reliable and well suited to your circumstances.
Most likely you have at least one person functioning as an advisor already. Maybe your advisor is the account manager at your local bank or the person assigned to you when you walked into an investment firm. Maybe you obtained outside advice as to where to put your money. From whom did you accept advice? Was it your spouse? Your parents? Your friends? Any of these may be your advisor. Or you may have a financial advisor in the most traditional sense—a formal relationship with a qualified investment advisor at a bank, trust company, or investment brokerage firm.
You might be asking yourself, "Do I need to establish a formal relationship with a professional financial advisor to be considered the kind of "investor" for whom this book is written? The answer is "no." When I refer to investors in this book, I want you to know I'm talking to you. As an investor you deserve to be treated with care and respect, regardless of whether you use professional investment services. I want to acknowledge, however, the advantages of working with a professional financial advisor and selecting an advisor wisely. Whatever insight you gain here about how to think of investing and how to talk constructively to others about investing can help you make better investment decisions.
In the meantime, I will also guide you behind the scenes by offering insight into how to improve both your investment strategy and your overall financial picture. You'll be hearing true stories and quotes from actual investors. I have changed most names and supporting details to protect their privacy. You may find yourself having thoughts and opinions similar to theirs, or you may discover entirely new perspectives based on what they have to offer. The sharing of their dialogue may be just the ingredient you need to effectively evaluate your own actions.
One of my objectives in writing this book is to demystify the investment process so you, perhaps in league with your advisor, can develop and follow guidelines that will work for you. That is entirely possible even if you have little experience with investments. I intend to help you become empowered through knowledge and action-oriented practical advice.
Through this book I will be available to you every step of the way as you pursue success in your investments and in all your goals. Being successful relative to life's most important goals, after all, is about so much more than the money. Let's read on and learn more.