What the Yanny/Laurel Brush Up Teaches Us about Investing

The latest evidence the internet has divided the world, amplified our differences and seduced us into an unproductive echo chamber of our own proclivities happened recently.  Like the blue dress/ white dress debate of a few years ago, the country became obsessed with a flaky audio recording from which no one could agree on what was being said.  Was it Yanny or Laurel?  

    It will come as no surprise to you, our faithful reader, that it got me to thinking about how our biases affect our beliefs. We all have biases, everyone of us.  We can aspire to make unbiased decisions and while this may be a worthy endeavor, it does not come without extreme effort and uncomfortableness. It is really, really hard to see a possibility beyond one's initial frame of reference.

    When ColeFP was first started, we used the phrase "unbiased advice" in our messaging. It was an attempt to communicate our advice was not motivated by a financial incentive from a third party, like most of the financial advice offered.  We were trying to say our advice was given with the client's interest as our sole motivation and that is still true today, however, I came to realize the use of "unbiased" as not being truly possible.  

    Why? Because we are indeed biased.  We have biases toward our clients, biases with regard to investment philosophy, biases regarding insurance, biases about appropriate levels of debt and cash.  We do not come to this industry without prejudices about standards of care.  So we abandoned "unbiased" as a integral part of our marketing.

    Some heard Yanny and sought out those who heard Yanny.  Others heard Laurel and did the same.  Some were blue dress people and others refused to accept anything other than a white dress.  You see,  we have a strong desire to confirm that which we already believe.  Hince the arguments ensue, the battle lines are drawn, the positions become more and more entrenched. When one combines emotion with bias the argument can make the front page of the internet. 

    These, of course, are decisions of no real significance, but when one comes to financial decision which can rarely be separated from emotion, the stakes are much higher.  Finding a unbiased financial planner won't be possible, but having someone emotionally removed from the situation can be of supreme value.

    I have strong "do it yourself" tendencies and empathize with that mentality, but there are some things in life requiring an unemotional perspective. Good financial advice is not void of bias, but it is should not be clouded by emotion.  Proverbially speaking, a good financial advisor helps his or her client see the forest when the client can only see the trees. And while we may have difference of opinion about what types of tree are in the forest, the good planner finds the trail one needs to follow to be best navigate through it.  

    When you need a fresh perspective we would love to be your guide.  We will have opinion and prejudices, we can't help it, but we will champion your interest, your history and your hopes and use our experience to help you find your best path, should we ever be so honored to be your financial planner.