Hope, Encouragement, Remedy

If things you worry about interfere with a sense of contentment, we may be a source of hope.  If you sense there’s more to your purpose but find it hard to let go of things which might be holding you back, we may be a source of encouragement.  If you’ve not addressed some things that would otherwise give you license to take more of the good kind of risks, we may be a source of remedy.

These won’t be remembered as the halcyon days, but they will be remembered by some as the re-order days.  Days when a new vision for a hoped-for life are formed.  Days when priorities are re-articulated.  Days when “winning” might mean something different than what you previously believed.

If you’re that kind of get-to-work person, then we are ready to get down to that same kind of business with you.  We don’t believe you get to prevent all challenges, risks, and loss, but we do know that confronting them with a plan that mitigates and responds should free you to pursue the things you care most about.

We are presently engaged with clients worried about protecting income, defending against cyber theft and privacy invasion, securing their home, staying physically and emotionally active, reacting to job changes that have left them without the same benefits, and moving family members back into the home, each one intending to liberate the worry so happiness can be pursued.

Less Worry | More Happy, indeed!

It’s because I believe that worry and negativity are bad for us that I feel a passion for designing plans that deal with the risks and threats facing families and individuals.  Our Less Worry | More Happy mantra is aspirational in that it captures how we believe we should be living.

But I admit to being a sufferer of worry.  It’s not easy for me to have confidence in the face of things I can’t control.  It’s not easy for me to not get upset about things I see as injustices.  It’s not easy for me to feel comfortable that things don’t always need my hand in fixing.  And as I gather experiences working with families and other advisors, I get a sense that I’m not alone in these feelings.

And I also am becoming more aware of the underlying hum of generalized negativity propagated by those who have made fear profitable, whether for money or power.  The general divisiveness over what used to be considered facts, the apparent inability to say to someone with whom you disagree “yeah, that’s a good point”, the loss of any grey area as we try to draw clear dividing lines on everything, and the volume and constancy of doom and vitriol spread from media pumphouses who apparently can only sell the banal all contribute to a malaise and a relational poverty that leaves us isolated and tribal.

So I’m offering here what works for me as the start of how I refocus my mind on what I should be focusing on, and how I train myself to be more positive, supportive and conditioned to act instead of just stewing in worry.




Biggest Threats to Successful Families

Inspired by an article in Worth magazine (worth.com), I’d like to chime-in and affirm with my list of the biggest threats facing wealthy families.  

  1. Cybersecurity (theft, fraud, stalking, bullying, ransom, bodily injury)
  2. Personal security
  3. Travel (cyber, personal safety, medical)
  4. Climate-related losses (wildfire, flood, non-flood water intrusion, wind)
  5. Relationships (broken trust, isolation)
  6. Lawsuits

We treat these as real and serious because the goal is to control them in such a way as to be liberated from worry so attention can be paid to what life should be made of – more happiness!

Photo:  Polson, MT

Respond vs. Prevent

I see families of the future having different risk management choices than they do today.  Today, you can buy an insurance contract that promises to help you pay for certain losses for certain limits under certain conditions.  Buy it, put it on the shelf, wait for the loss, then see if it applies.

But as an alternative (or complement), I believe the day is fast approaching when you’ll have the ability to subscribe to a service that will predict and help prevent a loss from ever happening.  Buy it, adopt it’s guidance into your daily behaviors, and avoid the loss.

The reason I think this is going to happen is because people I speak with who are entrenched in the insurance industry don’t seem intrigued by the prospect of being in the alternative group.  And people I speak with who are outside of the insurance industry believe they can do a better job of predicting the future in order to lead you toward a desired outcome, unlike those who sell passive products.

The second group believes you’ll prefer to prevent the loss and need less insurance.  The people in the first group don’t think it’s worth the effort.  I don’t know who will “win”, but my experience tells me that when the new kid feels they can outdo the elder and the elder says “huh?”, change is already underway.

Photo:  Seattle, WA

Slow it down

Insurance agents and insurance companies have made big mistakes trying to convince consumers that insurance is easy, can be handled with simplicity, and takes only a few minutes.  Do you believe insurance policies are easy to read?  Do you know that sometimes what’s on page 20 changes what you thought was covered on page 3?  Does it scare you that 15 minutes to save on premium might impact whether a claim gets paid down the road?

We believe that trying to convince people that being able to print your own auto ID cards is more important than understanding your coverages is wrong.  We believe that listening to someone say that you can save money in only a few minutes while leaving you with huge holes in your coverage is wrong.  We believe that paying attention to anyone whose solution is an off-the-shelf product that they apply to everyone is wrong.

Instead, we say SLOW DOWN.  Treat your insurance decision like the major financial consideration that it is.  Remember that the test of whether you chose correctly will be judged in the future when you have a claim, not when you pay the premium bill.  And choose wisely from whom you will get advice.  Who wants to get to know you best?  Who will tell you the bad news and still stand up for you and not just be there for the sale?  Who wants to visit you in-person and at your home?

We believe the most important thing you can do is choose your advisor wisely and take your time.

Photo:  Amber McGraw  –  Flathead Lake, MT

A Fiduciary’s Response

Most all of the wealth advisors I’m fortunate to know and work with consider the fiduciary standard as the only real standard by which they’d ever want to work.  I would imagine my friends face particular difficulty responding as a fiduciary to the question “what insurance do I need?” because a) most of the expertise in insurance rests with agents (meaning they can’t be fiduciaries), b) insurance contracts are confusing (dare to read your own policies?), and c) the rating and underwriting of most insurance companies are neither transparent, nor intuitive.

The generally-accepted response to this difficulty is for a wealth advisor to align with an agent who does good work and then expect their clients to be well-advised and well-serviced, which works great when the client is new and the insurance-review is new and the policies are new.  But there’s danger to the fiduciary the day after new insurance policies are written because 9 times out of 10 they’ll be the first ones to learn of a situation where their clients have put their insurance in jeopardy, and have they developed the process to notice and handle it as the fiduciary standard might require?

I’ve kept track of 45 recent occurrences (I have a list to share with whomever wants it) when a family did something that put their insurance in jeopardy and we just happened to learn about it.  This means that in the time before we knew and responded, there was a problem that, had there been a claim, no one would’ve been happy.  The point is, I believe the secret to a better fiduciary response to a family’s insurance needs isn’t for fiduciaries to become agents and vice versa, it’s for a process to be adopted within a fiduciary firm that can identify, catch and respond to the everyday occurrences that ruin insurance coverage because insurance is way too complicated.  This is my latest passion and endeavor.

In the most admirable way, fiduciary advisors work for the best interests of their clients and as a by-product, wind up carrying more hidden business risk than they realize just by not recognizing the consequential severity of those everyday occurrences.  The blame lies with my industry for creating barriers that would otherwise make insurance easier to understand and address.

Photo: Joshua Tree, CA

Insurance is not risk management

A problem with insurance is that it’s a passive post-loss device that is often confused as “risk management”, which it is not.  Insurance just sits and waits to see if what just happened to you qualifies as eligible for financial assistance, but it does nothing to help you seek-out the risks in your life and defend your financial position with a plan of action.  And that passivity and insurance-company-centric focus has lead to a widening gap between what insurance can do and what you may actually need.

Insurance is neither revolutionary, nor evolutionary, and it’s easy to see its deficiency when you consider the risks of tomorrow that don’t relate well to the way in which insurance products are manufactured, priced, and serviced.  There are worries among families that don’t get addressed because insurance doesn’t have an answer for them other than, “if that happens, there may be coverage if…”, and many families and advisors then just stop and miss out on what might be a real solution.

We conducted a survey of families and their advisors and asked them to describe what they most worry about, or what they think will affect them most in the years to come.  A list of some of the most common responses are below, but note that very few are “insurancey”, like kitchen fires, toilet overflows, dog bites, or windstorms.  If your risk management process is simply to shop insurance and decide which deductibles are best, you’re not likely to be addressing some of these other concerns.  We believe a better way is to incorporate a truly holistic risk-management approach as your process, with insurance being just one small piece of it.  And it’s in the development of that process that we can help.

risk list table

Photo:  Rachael McGraw in Florence, Italy

The Power of Surrender

During a breakfast conversation today with a friend (thank you Peter Beeson from Fit Insurance), I was reminded of the importance in committing yourself to whom you are called to be, and then leaving the rest behind if you request the assistance of someone else’s calling.  It is tempting and habitual to try and possess responsibility for all decisions and actions, perhaps due to ego, arrogance, or mistrust, but real power comes from recognizing gaps in expertise and leveraging someone else’s ability to take over and help.

I’ve said many times that the clients with whom I work best are those interested in outsourcing intelligence to experts in various fields.  This willingness to draw a line on a subject across which they recognize the need to seek help is, in my opinion, evidence of one’s success and happiness.  The weight and burden of navigating the ingredients of a good risk-management experience, for example, need not be borne by a busy and successful family, but instead can be offloaded with high expectations to someone who stands ready and willing to take up the charge to deliver the right answers and the right results.

Self-serving though it may appear to be, I see everyday the consequence of families trusting no one, or trusting the wrong person in the design of their insurance and it is one of wrong answers, great worry, and inefficiency.  We think a better way (in insurance, business, and life) is to establish high expectations, find the right expert for the topic at hand, match decisions with personal values, and then rely on the strengths of others to deliver a more peaceful approach to complex and serious life issues.

Photo:  North Cascades, Washington State

The Cost of Worry

What never gets done because we give way to anxiety or unease?  What never gets invented, or created, or performed, or discussed because of interference of some concern?  Economists measure productivity based on the ratio of outputs created by inputs, and I wonder how much more we would do if we weren’t limited by worry.

It’s easy to joke that risk management is a worry business, but I think it’s a liberate-from-worry business.  If you feel like you know where you want to go, but you’ve got a list of worries, your two choices are either avoidance or dealing with it.  Planning around what you’re worried about is the only choice that’s going to move you where you need to be.

Every day I hear more reasons why people don’t do something (acquisitions, deals, job changes, vacations, delegation, school, etc.) than I have discussions about what can be done so that people can do something.  There’s no perfect unburdening of worry, and there’s no removal of all risks, but leaning on a plan that liberates and frees-up confidence of action is a better recipe than doing nothing at all.

Cost of Worry

Photo:  Wild Horse Island, MT