Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Happiness, Enough & Equanimity

Life After Enough: ‘Happiness, Enough & Equanimity’


Happiness corresponds to an economy, to calculations, to weighings. It needs varieties as much as contrasts (external comparisons- jds). Satisfaction (enough –jds) is as fatal to it as impediments.
Perpetual Euphoria, Pascal Bruckner, p37

This life and its purpose, prior to the French & American Revolutions and the ensuing imprimatur of ‘the pursuit of happiness,’ was never about ‘happiness.’.
The purpose of this life was salvation, character building, well being, and or earning one’s return – not happiness.
Now happiness and the pursuit thereof – is this culture’s mission. If anything we have a ‘duty to happiness’ even though we can’t define it and fall back on the analogy of pornography (I know it when I see it.)
Furthermore, rather than religion, the duty – the pursuit of happiness has become the opiate of not only the masses but the upper crust celebrity sniffing hyper class elitist asses.
This pursuit, in great part, according to Bruckner in Perpetual Euphoria, is a result of ‘progress.’
When we were hunter and gatherers – we acknowledged the food on the ground from a higher source (Hebrew National?). When we became farmers and ‘produced’ – the product became our doing – we acknowledged ourselves increasingly though we covered our bets and prayed for rain. With medicine’s advances we don’t have to rely on God’s will and grace but a Pfizer, Lilly or Merck and Obama Death Panel reprieves.
And deferred gratification – critical to character building, faith, and salvation - has been eradicated by credit and Viagra in the name of ‘happiness’ NOW.
Even religion has caste asunder ‘Gehenna (1) and Brimstone’ knowing happiness sells with the pitch of greater happiness in Heaven, the World to Come with just the purpose of ‘afterlife insurance’ premiums (church, synagogue dues etc.)

Hope is deferred disappointment
Ambrose Bierce

The sun will come out tomorrow
Tomorrow lyric from Annie

And if we presently in a state of ennui or unhappy – there the hope that happiness will be here ‘tomorrow.’
But as Krishnamurti wrote, ‘hope is (but) the absence of happiness.’ And please remember, Hope was a town in Arkansas that gave us Bill Clinton.
The pursuit of happiness and its pr flack hope are motivated by dissatisfaction resulting in the pursuit of more.

More & Happiness

Happiness is ‘getting what you want’ until what you wanted wasn’t ‘enough’ (again)
Schwartz’s Law

The Answer given by the white collar villain (in the sequel to Wall Street) when he was asked for his response to: ‘everybody has a number, what is your number?’

The hope for and the delusional pursuit of happiness typically leads to the seeking more. More is an insatiable desire that paradoxically puts sustainable pleasure out of reach leading to perpetual dissatisfaction (2). More has become the means and the ends – a sign of ‘election.’ Yet, the pursuit of more, better, now for happiness usually becomes less, worse, later Worse, the resulting disappoint eventually may yield sequentially disillusion cascading to self recrimination (I am a failure).

There is no happiness only relative positioning (my spouse makes more than your spouse – or the Gaines Gravy train commercial ‘my dog’s bigger than your dog’) and momentary sensation.
More is never enough
Getting more of what you want becomes in time ‘not enough’ as more is a comparative outside in game dependent on externals unlike enough which is an internalized inside out process.

Equanimity & Enough

They’ll be plenty of peace and tranquility in the world to come
Paraphrasing Judaic Thought (not Spielberg Follywood Judaic thought)

Mussar is a thousand-year-old Jewish system for personal growth, specifically in the realm of character improvement. In Mussar, equanimity – rising above the good AND the bad – given life’s ups and downs is a more preferable ideal to pursue than happiness in our character building to earn our return (Teshuvah).
Consistent with Mussar thought, my take on the purpose of this life is to find meaning IN one’s life, continuing to complete one’s incompletions (soul curriculum) through faithful character building spiritualizng the material, materializing the spiritual inside out to earn one’s return with the equanimity of rising above the inevitable good and bad.
Easier said than done.
And that ain’t happiness.

Enough (aligning personal resources to achieve life and after life goals while healing financial anxiety putting money in its place to assist one’s transcending to their significance) is just a means to the inside out work of finding meaning In one’s life and or character building, salvation, etc. There may be a certain contentment yielded by enough from the storms and cultural onslaughts of 50,000 commercials of dissatisfaction, more, not enoughness. But Enough isn’t happiness. If anything enough forces a confrontation with ‘what next, meaning, making a difference, and or self definition’ in the midst of one’s spouse or insignificant other famished (3) saying, ‘for better or worse but not for lunch!’
Enough with equanimity doesn’t stop the storms, make for smooth sailing – but allows easier navigation towards one’s significance.

"When it's over, what will my life have been about" - Rabbi Harold Kushner

Enough - healing financial anxiety, puttin money in its place, to transcend to significance with equanimity....

(1) Gehenna - in the traditional Jewish view of the afterlife, Geihinnom is the place of punishment and purification (unlike hell there is a statute of limitations on the time spent in Gehenna)
(2) the Latin for 'enough' is satis. Thus dissatisfaction is 'not enough'
(3) think a state of being perplexed such that the heel of one's hand concurrently smacks one's forward as it leans backwards.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Strategic Planning for NAPFA Part II: The Future of Personal Financial Planning & NAPFA

Strategic Planning for NAPFA Part II:
The Future of Personal Financial Planning & NAPFA

Why Personal Financial Life Planning Exists:

• The healing of personal financial anxiety putting money in its place to transcend to one’s significance
• Client realizable comprehensive goal determination coordinated and aligned with orderly plans for the achievement of desired life (and afterlife) goals

Why NAPFA Exists:

• Professional Development: Qualified comprehensive fee only membership professional training and development in ‘managing goals under management’ for clients’ (which requires a planner to do their own business plan, personal financial plan, and personal financial life plan – and the cobbler’s kid having no shoes is no damn excuse)
PROTECTION: Legislative Advocacy: Lobbying for the alignment of personal financial life planners’ and clients’ interests to be matched rather than in conflict with timely and full transparency
CONNECTION: Assembling comprehensive fee only personal financial life planners into a critical mass of financial purchasing power for disintermediation (allowing product providers to created lower cost products for clients)

Half truth; whole lie
Talmud (what NAPFA has become)

NAPFA has become:

• A trade organization for the marketing of member’s services
• A bloated bureaucracy dependent more and more of product providers for revenues (like the old IAFP) to feed itself – even putting a wire house official on the planning committee
• Officers more concerned with photo opportunities in the media for their own practice development

NAPFA has lost:

• Its differentiation –
o in part to the good job it has done relative to fiduciary standards
o allowing AUM (assets under management) compensation to be classified as fee only planning (1) which makes the fee only planner really asset managers in fee only planner’s clothing blurring distinction and contrary to being on the client’s best interests.
• It’s gumption and leadership
o Failing to enforce professional standards of its leadership and members (sitting on conflicting financial planning boards)
o No professional public rebukes for outright membership plagiarism,
o Past indifference to the planner training in the past by the College for Financial Planning and its alleged product liability.
Hypocrisy: The ship’s captain lectures on navigation as the ship sinks

What The Personal Financial ‘Life’ Planning Market (Particulary The 90 Million Boomers Wants/Needs/Desires:

• Anxiety relief from the fear of ‘outliving their money’
• Meaning IN their life (presented as ‘making a difference, what next? meaning, ‘still cutting the mustard’

The NAPFA business (yes, business given the lack of professional integrity enforcement and the Monte Hall Let’s Make A Deal for Vendors trade organization orientation) needs to refocus on comprehensive personal financial life planning in the continuing training and development of planners to meet these needs.
As Gandhi said, ‘be your message.’ And Franklin said, ‘better done than said.’ Well, how many damn fee only planners talk, wink at life planning – but haven’t done it themselves, let alone have a business plan nor their own personal financial plan in writing. (The answer, ‘it’s in my head,’ doesn’t count for clients and it sure as hell don’t count for planners. ‘It’s in my head,” is a head case – not ‘being one’s message’ no matter how one massages it with spin)
And faux yakety yak kumbaya life touchie feeling life planning (a paid friend) with no results other than to defend one’s asset under management percentage fee with this feature that doesn’t deliver – doesn’t count either as personal financial life planning.

Without getting into the weeds too far – action is required – moving toward not just understanding. When Indiana Jones faced a chasm to get to the Holy Grail – and there was no, he took the leap of faith and made a first step and the bridge appeared. Well, the first step in life after enough comprehensive personal financial life planning is often a small one. For example, have the client take out his or her calendar and ask him or her to X out a regular afternoon date for 4 hours for the next 3 months (otherwise, their life planning transition will be the leftovers – and you know where leftovers eventually go usually in the trash). That afternoon 1 day a week, 4 hours a week, is to try all those someday things they have put off and wanted to do. But here is the kicker, they need permission to NOT be great at whatever it is.

One step: – no tom toms, self esteem, abandonment or my mother or father’s fault – one step – moving toward, climbing the mountain rather than mining the mountain.

In conjunction with monetizing the fear of outliving one’s money – the personal financial life planner needs to assist at getting to the heart of the matter: what next – finding meaning IN one’s life, making a difference and still cutting the mustard.

To recreate NAPFA, the above differentiations will require a different NAPFA, even cannibalization of itself, and more importantly disgorgement of assets to the regions, and a new revenue sharing arrangement ala states rights and federalism.

• Forget withering, structure follows mission. Zero base budget NAPFA to its above new limited role, give it two times its operating costs and disgorge the rest to the regions on a per member basis.
• Thereafter, the dues split should be 80% to the regions with NAPFA National keeping 20%. The whole emphasis of the regions is professional development and study groups.

People forget in their revisionist self serving history of NAPFA, it was SIFA that created NAPFA. Period – end of sentence. SIFA has, in Russian terms, been De-Stalinized.

At SIFA there was a structure to our meetings – study groups.
• Each member had to have a specialty to share with the group. This allowed more time for each planner to focus on process and less on content. Thus, each member’s time was ‘leveraged.’
• The meetings were a round robin – going through each area sequentially
1. Practice management ideas
2. Process ideas and techniques
3. Strategies and tactics
4. Content area discussion
5. Deals
6. Marketing ideas
7. Presentations
8. Richard Lee’s current squeeze
• We created a federation – a consortium amongst ourselves as such that if something could have happened to one another – there was someone ‘on call’ if necessary

As far as conventions are concerned (go to meeting doc com is probably preferable to belly bumping) NAPFA National is on its own. It’s a profit center that stands on its own.

Half truth; whole lies

NAPFA’s differentiation is gone – but the need – the thirst for meaning IN one’s life and reducing the fear of outliving one’s resources (notice not just money) is greater than ever. Reinventing NAPFA isn’t just necessary it’s a matter of survival and incremental change and pouring new whine (on purpose) into old sheaths (present structure) is being DOS in a a Windows 7 world.
Dithering, dawdling, more committee meetings, self congratulatory insulated back slapping won’t cut it.

Above the crowd or just faceless in the crowd – that’s the decision

(1) Assets Under Management is contrary – the antithesis of fee only comprehensive financial life planning putting the client and the planner in conflict. As Maslow said, if all we know is a hammer everything will look like a nail. Unconsciously or unconsciously, assets under management compensation gravitates the focus of the planner to ‘more’ even when a lower rate of return with less risk would make the goal. Other goals – providing for long term care, income adequacy upon disability etc – become second class citizens in the practice. Fee only comprehensive personal financial life planning is about managing goals NOT managing assets. AUM is just a Trojan horse using personal financial planning as a vehicle to be an investment manager in personal financial planner’s clothing. If NAPFA membership is to be continued for AUM compensated planners, these planners should have a different NAPFA membership designation and no vote in elections.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Future of Personal Financial Planning: Personal Financial ‘Life’ Planning

The Future of Personal Financial Planning:
Personal Financial ‘Life’ Planning

(Planning The Strategic Plan of NAPFA (The National Association of Personal Financial Advisers (1) (from Jim Schwartz, Co Founder NAPFA who resigned years ago) )– Part I

An Open Letter To NAPFA ‘Planning Committee’ (Which Should Not Have Wirehouse, Bureaucrats as members – and does)

The old shall dreams and the youth shall see visions
Book of Joel


It has come to my attention from a few of you, given that unlike most planners, my practice was almost 50% strategic planning (managing by objectives tied to compensation) and recognized by George Odiorne (one of the fathers of planning) for the application of MBO to personal financial planning, that despite my resignation from NAPFA (you still owe me an apology on the College for their Own Financial Planning’s(2), I actually have done both sides of planning - personal financial 'life' planning and corporate planning.

1) It ain't rocket science but mission statements (what can be) are often confused with vision statements (what should be) and devolve to motherhood statements and worthless bromides
2) missions and visions need to be defined not only for what it is (who, what, when, how, why) but what it is not (which is even more critical). Without the 'is not' all you get is 'snot' and a large bill from corporate planners who take off your watch tell you what time it is and send a big bill and maybe good lunch and a lot of flattery.
3) planning is done by the business not for it - or it fails.
4) (the plan) must be tied into compensation - short, long, intermediate - or it will be just another pretty plan up on the shelf that everyone can point to and forget.

5) Lastly, the bureaucracy IS NOT involved in the mission, vision, nor ground rules. They are administrators not policy makers and managers. “Sorry, if I stepped on someone's damn TURF” to paraphrase TNA Tag Team Wrestling Champs ‘Beer Money.’

NAPFA (created by the Society of Independent Financial Advisors – least there be revisionist history) originated as a professional organization with the ability for disintermediation (getting product sponsors to create products without commissions –increasing potential performance for clients). NAPFA has lost its differentiation - especially if there is victory now on the fiduciary standard for financial advisors. It has become a trade organization – marketing members’ services - masquerading as a professional organization.

Philosophy Guirjeff theorized (his Law of Seven) that that which we intend becomea the exact opposite in time. And so, has NAPFA in my opinion.

And the real real real question facing today’s boomers (all 60 million+ of them), in particular, - however presented "make a difference, what next, etc.' is Meaning. The question is enabling finding meaning IN one's life not the meaning of life or More, More, More (reinforced by assets under management compensation rather managing goals). And lanners have to do this for themselves first - or as Gandhi said 'be your message' or Franklin said, 'better done than said.'
One of my favorite questions for potential clients to ask a planner is ‘do you have a personal financial plan yourself you can share? Do you do business planning for your company? May I see a copy? (My guess is out of 100 – less than 5 – the ship’s captain lecturing on navigation as the ship sinks???)
So as one who retired at 46 (now 61) am I eating my own chili?

My missions: - 1) perPETuation(c) (no dog before his time, extending the quality of K9 life - save a life and you save the world - Talmud - 1 dog at a time -Schwartz) see my book Trust Me; I'm Not A Veterinarian (no you are not getting the whole mission or vision and the is nots –given the plagiarism I’ve experiences in the past by NAPFA members who weren’t even rebuked) and www.next2kin.org
2) reJEWvination(c) Jews of Meaning (www.jewsofmeaning.org)- finding meaning IN one's
life through Judaism
3) ENOUGH(sm) - healing financial anxiety, puttin' money in its place to transcend to significance (c) can't wait to see who else rips me off without attribution (which is okay but they usually get it wrong) see my blog which updates the enough book

Of course, a certain chairperson (who forgets who gave her the push originally in NAPFA leadership) can dismiss this all - first ignore (which she has), then ridicule, and finally adopt. Someone once said there is an inverse relationship between competency and elevation to leadership posts in trade/professional organizations. I have watched over and over and over again, the ascension of so called planners who use NAPFA for practice development and self congratulatory photo ops of themselves

This planner did what he preached - how many planners can say that let alone that they aligned personal financial resources and life goals for themselves?
It is time for reinventing NAPFA from scratch. PART II next week

(1) The College for its Own Financial Planning (subsequently sold to a profit making organization) not only trained planners in incorrect math methodology for retirement (30,000 planners times on average say 50 clients – you do the math) stonewalling to prevent product liability, but also allegedly created structural barriers to trade (anti-trust activity) using tax exempt status at the time. NAPFA and its weenie leadership was silent rather than professional. I was vindicated by Forbes, Barons, Worth etc and some of the most important mathematicians in the country. And NAPFA and its leadership dwaddled, dithered – and even used their newsletter to deflect calling me a terrorist while it’s chairman sat on the then College controlled Certified Financial Planning Board.
(2) NAPFA has allowed plagiarism without recourse. I don’t mind my work being referenced. Worse some have used my work – and still get it wrong.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Liberal Greed & More vs Enough

Liberal Greed (i.e. Theft)in reference to More vs Enough

Stipulating to my bias that enough is preferable to more (1), the question of greed has become political rather than definitional.
When there is excess accumulation due to voluntary exchange creating value – this is not greed but rather usefulness – utilitarian. The excess accumulation may be the intention but it is a consequence. This ‘excess accumulation’ is not greed no matter how the liberal Obama redistribution of wealth socialist collectivists wish to recharacterize it. If anything, the characterization of accumulation via voluntary exchanges as ‘greed’ is just a smoke screen rationalizaton by this liberal Obama redistribution of wealth socialist collectivist to sanitize their intention: theft without voluntary exchange.
This theft is disguised as entitlement while stoking the flames of coveting and envy. But theft is theft is theft.
And excess accumulation, unless the result of coercion or deception, but the result voluntary exchanges that produces value is not greed.
Per the above, the invocation of greed is just the mantra of sneak thieves – who steal in the middle of night – sort of like Obamacare, the Cornhusker kickback, forcing a bill through without time to examine it. And the aforemention actions are theft and greed – using coercion and deception for the excess accumulation of stolen power.

(1) More better now has a way of becoming less, worse, later. See my blog: healingfinancialanxiety.blogspot.com