Book Review: The Behavior Gap

The Behavior Gap, by Carl Richards

If a picture is worth a 1000 words, then the sketches drawn by Carl Richards are certainly valuable. Richards’ newly published book, “The Behavior Gap,” is even more valuable and highly worthwhile reading.

Richards has created a very unique and elegantly simple way of conveying financial thoughts by drawing sketches, using a Sharpie pen. These sketches are featured in weekly blog posts in The New York Times. Richards is a financial planner based in Utah.

In The Behavior Gap, Richards has done an excellent job of combining numerous sketches with a very forthright narrative of financial topics and life lessons. The book is well written and full of excellent advice, a lot of which is much deeper and more meaningful than they initially appear.

Richards clearly writes about topics ranging from the importance of the process of financial planning, as opposed to getting a thick financial plan, to happiness, money, and great conversations, and how all of these are so interrelated.

Richards writes: “Simplicity is both beautiful and functional. And yet, people are often disappointed when I propose a simple solution to their investment or financial planning problems. Such solutions can often be reduced to a simple calculation on the back of a napkin… Our attraction to complexity distorts the way we approach our financial goals. The simple options that have the largest impact and your financial success require discipline, patience, and hard work.”

We have a number of Carl’s framed prints in our office already. This book will be a valuable addition to accompany those sketches.

How a Financial Advisor Can Add Value

These are some of the ways that we provided value for our clients during 2011:

• Listened. We have listened and talked with them, to help them handle the volatility of the stock markets. As a result, they have strived to maintain their investment plans, which should benefit them in the long run.

• We have adhered to our cornerstone investment fundamentals: recommending globally diversified stock portfolios, holding very high quality fixed income investments, focusing on asset allocation, and the use of Investment Policy Statements.

• We have rebalanced our client portfolios throughout the year, focusing on the discipline of buying asset classes when they are low and selling them when they are higher. Similarly, we have done tax loss selling throughout the year, as applicable, not just at year end.

As we have strong CPA backgrounds, we have provided financial advice about many topics to our clients, such as:

• We have advised numerous clients on various aspects of their mortgage refinancing decisions, so they could take advantage of historical low interest rates.

• Made recommendations for our clients’ 401(k) plan investments, as we consider those retirement assets part of their overall investment portfolio.

• Assisted clients with college tuition planning, which ranged from evaluating section 529 plan decisions and investment options, to advising grandparents who wanted to make major prepaid contributions.

• Advised a number of clients on significant Roth conversions, which should have huge long-term benefits for these individuals, as well as future generations of their families.

• Helped a number of clients with charitable planning, including the planning, establishment and investing for charitable family foundations. These will benefit both the families now, as well as numerous charities in the future.

• Required minimum distribution planning, for clients who are older than 70 ½, who are required to take distributions from their various retirement accounts.

Other things we have done, which benefit our clients:


• We have attended numerous national conferences, as well as participate in biweekly peer group phone conversations with fellow advisors, to learn, share ideas and become better advisors.

• Read. We are voracious readers, of everything from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, both in paper and digital forms, as well as trade publications, books, blogs, Twitter and podcasts. We are continuously reading and learning.

• Blogging and Twitter: this will be the 28th blog post that I have written during 2011. Writing blog posts is a great way for us to communicate our thoughts and views on a timely basis, which we hope is valuable to our clients and prospects. Brad is also very active on Twitter, which is a terrific way for us to communicate with others, both in terms of sharing information that we find valuable, as well as connecting with numerous people throughout the country that we learn from every day.

Part of our core investment philosophy is recognizing that we do not have a “crystal ball” and cannot predict the future. We focus on what we can control, to the best of our ability, on behalf of our clients.

As financial advisors, our guiding principle is to try to provide our clients with a greater sense of comfort and security, so they can enjoy and focus on the other aspects of their life.

We are truly appreciative for our clients and the many referrals that we have received in 2011, as our firm has continued to grow. We hope that you and your family have a very enjoyable holiday season and that 2012 brings you good health and happiness!