Goals and Resolutions – 2018 Version

Every year around this time I sit down and work on my goals for the coming year.  Not New Year’s Resolutions per say but a handful of things that I plan to do on a regular basis over the course of the year to reach my major goals.

It’s a two-step process.

In accordance with the second of Steven Covey’s famous Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I begin with the end in mind.   What are my major goals for 2018?

1 – Complete an Olympic Distance Triathlon

The Olympic Triathlon is the official distance run at the Olympic games and is approximately one quarter of an Iron Man.  It consists of a 1500 m swim, 40 km bike and 10 km run.  World class athletes can generally complete an Olympic Tri in about 2 hours.  The world record is 1:39:50, set at the World Championships in Cleveland Ohio in 1996.  That record has stood for over 20 years and is the stuff of legend in the Triathlon community.  I’ll be happy if I complete my Olympic Tri in under 4 hours.

2 – Finish my Third Book

My first two books came relatively easily to me.  I poured a lot of pent up energy into those books.  My third effort has been quite a bit harder.  I’ve been writing a book on Leadership for about 3 years now and it’s just not working.  Probably because I don’t really have a lot of experience in leadership.  I’m more the solopreneur type so writing about leadership seems a bit disingenuous.  I have several other books sketched out so I’m going to return to my favourite topic – behavioural economics, and work on something along those lines.  I’ve also started writing a memoir of sorts, maybe that could be something, we’ll see, keep an eye out here for more information as these projects grow.

3 – Develop the Financial Coaching Aspect of my Practice

The Meekonomics Project, (financial coaching) has been near and dear to my heart and my plans since the very beginning.  For the past six years I’ve focussed on building my financial practice along traditional lines, Life Insurance and Investments for the family market, Disability Insurance and Group Health Plans for businesses and business owners.  But that’s not where my heart is.  I have a passion for the poor, disadvantaged and victims of predatory lenders.  The Meekonomics Project is my assault on the PayDay Lending industry and stewardship planning for the working poor.

4 – Grow my practice to $85,000 in gross income

Two years ago, I made $74,000, and I thought I was on my way.  The next year I struggled to make $60,000 and this year I will make about $66,000.  These past two years have been hard.  I made a few mistakes, missed a few opportunities and got drawn off on some tangents.  To hit these goals, I need to remain focused and learn to filter out the noise that could pull me off track.

So those are the major goals.  But how are we going to get there?

Covey’s third habit is to put first things first.  In other words, work backwards from the end goal and figure out what to do next.  As a result, I have figured out five daily goals that are going to move me closer to the four major goals every single day.

1 – Go to the Gym for an hour at least 3 days a week  

There are several different triathlon training programs on line.  Most of them say that you can train for an Olympic Tri in about 10 weeks.  They all require at least six days a week in the gym, but I don’t have that kind of time.  I’m pretty sure I can modify a program to work over a 3 day cycle and be ready to complete the distance in about 20 weeks.  In fact, I’ve been working on this for a few months already and should be ready to complete the distance by April.  If I do, great, if not I will save eight months to work on it and hit the goal by the end of the year.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

2 – Spend 30 minutes in prayer and meditation every day

Now I know what you’re thinking.  Why isn’t this the number one priority?  If I was a good Christian boy nothing should take precedence over spending time in prayer, but hear me out.

This list is semi-chronological, and I have learned from experience that if I get up early and do anything other than get out he door and go the gym, it’s not going to happen.  Therefore, for the three days that I plan to go and train for the triathlon, nothing else happens until I can check that off the list.  That being said; my 30 minutes of prayer is the only thing that I am committing to doing every single day.  It keeps me grounded and on point for the rest of the day.

There is a lot more I could say about the importance of connecting with a higher power, however you define it, but I think maybe I’ll save that for another post.  For now, I’ll just say this, releasing my stresses and worries to the God of the universe while at the same time expressing my hopes and dreams and confessing my short comings is incredibly relaxing.   Starting my day in a state of peace and relaxation is the best way I’ve yet found to remain centered, balanced and calm.

3 – Reach out to 40 Individual Clients and Prospects each work day

Working backwards from my goal of making $85,000 this year I need to make approximately 2 new sales per week.  Decades of statistical research in the insurance and investment industry has proven that it takes 5 face-to-face appointments for every sale.  Many of those appointments are simple policy reviews and service calls that don’t necessarily lead to anything new and of those that do require additional services it usually takes 3 or 4 meetings to move someone from prospect to client.  That means I need at least 10 appointments a week.

The same research has show that it takes approximately 20 client “touches” to book an appointment.  Again, many of those touches are simple check in calls or emails that don’t necessarily lead to a meeting right away.  All of this to say that I need to reach out to 200 clients and prospects a week to book 10 appointments.  Broken down over the course of a 5-day workweek that amounts to 40 unique “touches” per day.

4 – Initiate 5 Cold Introductions to new Prospects each work day

This is the law of attrition.  If I’m reaching out to 40 individual clients and prospects each work day it stands to reason that a percentage of those prospects are going to be non-responsive or say they aren’t interested.  All that research about the number of sales and the number of meetings also says that a little better than 10% of your prospects will die on the vine.   So, to keep the numbers consistent I need to be reaching out to 5 new prospects every day.

5 – Write 500 words or film 2 minutes of video each work day

I’m a writer and writers write, ‘nuff said.

Not everything I write will be worth publishing and not every piece of video I record will make it out of my phone but like training for a triathlon the daily discipline will help to improve the final results and hopefully lead to a lot more content on my blog and another book.

500 words is approximately one typewritten page and takes less than 2 minutes to read, the perfect length for a blog post.  2 minute videos get more views than 20 minute videos.  It’s about accessibility, short sweet and too the point, that’s what a blog or vlog should be.  Save the longer thoughts and more detailed analysis for the books.

This combination of major goals and daily goals aren’t exactly New Years Resolutions.  They are more like an execution plan.  I do have a few resolutions tough.  These are simple tweaks to my personality designed to boost my productivity, social capital and emotional connections.

1 – Just Do It

Procrastination is the enemy of productivity.  If a job takes less than 5 minutes to complete it should be completed immediately.  If it takes less than 15 minutes to complete it should be completed by the end of the day.  If it takes more than 15 minutes to complete make an appointment to work on it before the end of the week.

2 – Smile   

Happy people are proven to be more successful people, especially in sales and customer centric industries like financial services.  Even if you don’t feel happy, smiling has been proven to trick your brain into thinking you are happier and so becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Smiling puts people at ease and increases your credibility so that they like you more.

3 – Say Yes as much as possible

Defaulting to yes, even when it’s a yes, but or a yes, and is far better than saying no.  In difficult situations, starting with yes makes you appear as though you are a problem solver even when the eventual outcome is not what was originally desired.  Saying yes is collaborative, while no is confrontational.

So, there you have it.  My goals and resolutions for 2018.  What do you think? Do you have goals or resolutions?  I’d love to hear them, please comment back.

Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me???

Kicking the Fear of Missing Out in the Face!

Ever since mankind formed social groups we have always experienced a level of anxiety associated with being left out.  What’s the big deal about owning a wheel anyway?  Life would be so much cozier if I had a new stone fire-pit like that tribe over there.  Why didn’t Suzy invite me to the party?  But in recent years, with the advent of the internet and social media, this ancient anxiety has been ramped up to new and unprecedented levels.

In 2004 while finishing his MBA the soon to be world renowned venture capitalist Patrick J. McGinnis wrote an article for The Harbus (the student newspaper of Harvard Business School) entitled “Social Theory at HBS: McGinnis’s Two FOs”  in which he coined the phrase “The Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO.

FOMO is characterized by an almost manic drive to see and do everything.  But while you are rushing from one commitment to the next there is something else bubbling just below the surface.  You see it when people who should be engaged with their surroundings sit in the middle of a highly stimulating activity face down in their phones.  These are the people who abruptly change plans, never give a firm commitment and always seem to have one foot out the door.  They have graduated from mere FOMO, to the second FO – FOBO or the Fear of a Better Option.

FOMO is not really new.  Social Media and other forms of technology like text messaging have made it more prevalent and easier to get caught up in than ever before but the Fear of Missing Out has always been with us.  So has the Fear of a Better Option.  When I was a kid – before cell phones and social media, when phones had cords and hung on walls and computers weighed forty pounds, we called it something else.  We called it staying in touch, being popular or keeping up with the Joneses.  But whatever you call it – it’s FOMO.

As your Financial Coach it often feels like I’m fighting losing battle against FOMO and FOBO every day.  These two FOs are the main enemy of sound financial planning.  Keeping up with the Joneses when our every move is documented and published on social media is a losing game.  Especially when we think about the fact that people only post their best moments on Facebook and seem to go silent as soon as the credit card bill arrives, the bill collector comes knocking or the hydro gets turned off.  (That last one more out of necessity than choice).

We need a third FO that can over power and replace the first two.  And think I found it.  I call it FOOM, the Fear of Outliving your Money.  When FOOM takes over your every thought, FOMO and FOBO don’t stand a chance.

The Fear of Outliving your Money forces you to budget for today and save for tomorrow.  It used to be that the average person needed savings of about $1 million in order to retire comfortably.  But that’s not true anymore.  With longer life expectancy and lower interest rates that number is more like $1.5 million.

I looked at a projection for a 35 year old yesterday who earns $100,000 per year (slightly higher than the nation average) and his number was a whopping $1.9 million.  But FOMO and pressures placed on him by watching all his friends on social media has him overspending to the point that he has exactly $0.00 saved and only 30 years to go before his planned retirement date.  That means he needs to put away over $600 per month for the rest of his life starting immediately.  When I told him so he nearly fell out of his chair, not because he doesn’t have the money – he does, but because it would mean intentionally missing out on some of the life experiences he has become accustomed to.

FOOM kicked FOMO in the face!   After a little bit of bargaining because he wanted to have his cake and eat it too, (that’s FOBO) he got it.

So here’s my advice for all you people out there with a bad case of FOMO.  Go on a social media holiday – try it even for a day and see if you don’t start to feel a bit better about yourself.  At the very least stop looking at your friend’s latest vacation pictures and start a savings plan, even a small one will help.  And whenever FOMO starts to creep in look at the balance of your savings accounts and tell yourself that no what happens from now on you will always have at least that much.  As you discipline yourself and watch that money grow, FOOM will dissipate and FOMO will become irrelevant.

In many ways that’s what Financial Planning is all about.  I’m here to help you realign your priorities and help you eliminate all forms for financial fear , whether it’s FOMO, FOBO or FOOM fear has no place in financial planning.  In fact it’s the planning part the really kicks all forms of fear in the face.



Quick Tip #24 – The Value of An Advisor

There are a number of reasons why working with a financial security advisor can help you achieve your investment goals. A financial security advisor can take a holistic approach to your planning to ensure you have the right mix of strategically selected assets in your portfolio. The sooner you start, the more time you’ll have to beat inflation to help you achieve your short- and long-term goals. With the help of a financial security advisor and by investing in professionally managed funds, you can benefit from:

  • The expertise of professional investment managers with professionally managed funds
  • Broad diversification that’s not always possible when you invest on your own
  • Ongoing reporting, through regular statements, of your investments to help you track their performance and complete necessary tax reporting.

Quick Tip #22 – Value of Advice

Children are expensive – a new bike, the latest gadgets, a backpacking vacation and their future education – it all adds up. One of the most important parts is planning ahead, and, that starts with the right professional advice. That’s why 24 per cent of households with people under the age of 45 with an advisor had RESPs, compared to just 14 per cent of households without an advisor. Now that’s smart advice. [Ipsos 2011, Department of Finance, Canada]

Quick Tip #20 – The Value of an Advisor

There are a number of reasons why working with a financial security advisor can help you achieve your investment goals. A financial security advisor can take a holistic approach to your planning to ensure you have the right mix of strategically selected assets in your portfolio. The sooner you start, the more time you’ll have to beat inflation to help you achieve your short- and long-term goals. With the help of a financial security advisor and by investing in professionally managed funds, you can benefit from:

  • The expertise of professional investment managers with professionally managed funds
  • Broad diversification that’s not always possible when you invest on your own
  • Ongoing reporting, through regular statements, of your investments to help you track their performance and complete necessary tax reporting.

Quick Tip #5 – The Value of Advice

A financial security advisor will help you build a financial portfolio that’s right for you. According to Morningstar – an investment resource that specializes in investment planning – intelligent planning decisions made with the help of an advisor result in 29 per cent more retirement income. [Aug, 2013]

3 Things Canadians Need to Know Before Midnight on December 31st

1159Every year there are number of laws that go into effect on the first of January.

2017 will be no different. As a financial security advisor here are a few things I think you need to know in order to make sure you are ready when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.

1 – Life Insurance rules. It’s no secret that people are living longer. In 2011 the federal government under Stephen Harper ordered the life insurance industry to change the dividend scales we use to calculate the growth of certain life insurance policies (and subsequently the rates we charge for coverage) to better reflect this fact. As a result, starting in 2017 the dividends in these polices will assume an average life expectancy of age 90, up from age 85. They will grow more slowly and cost you more.

According to a 2013 survey life-insuranceby industry association LifeHealthPro, 85 percent of consumers agree that having Life Insurance is good idea, yet only 62 percent actually own any. That means that over 20 percent think that Life Insurance is a good idea but never get around to buying it! If you were planning on purchasing Life Insurance in 2017 or later, do it now! Policies purchased and put in place prior to the end of this year will be grandfathered on the old system and could grow an average of 10% faster than policies issued just one second later.

If you live in Ontario I can help, follow this link to book a no charge consultation.

2 – Income Annuities. Similar to Life Insurance, the income amounts for annuities are based on average life expectancy. You guessed it, with people living longer the industry is being forced to change the way it calculates payouts for income annuities. As with the changes to life insurance the difference between an annuity purchased in 2016 and those purchased in 2017 or later equal a difference to consumers of about 10%.

Annuities are often confused with RRIFs and other income vehicles but there are very different in function, guarantees and taxation. Depending on your needs for a secure income the differences are significant. A recent informal survey found that 4 out of 5 retirees who previously used only RRIFs to fund their retirement switched at least a portion of their income to annuities when they calculated their life expectancy and learned when the money in their RRIF accounts would run out compared to the life time guarantees available in an annuity.

Don’t let the rule changes come in 2017 leave you out in the cold come January.

Book your no charge consultation here

rrsp3 – RRSP Deadline. Okay so admittedly for this one you have more time. The actual deadline to make your 2016 RRSP contribution is March 1, 2017 but why wait? Seriously…

This year’s contribution limit is $25,370 or 18% of your gross income, whichever is less. If you have a pension or are contributing to a plan through your workplace the available limit will be offset so that you can never contribute more than the maximum to any retirement savings plans.

If you haven’t maximized your RRSP contribution yet for 2016 why not pull out your tax assessment from last year, find out what your total contribution limit is and make a plan.

Book your no charge consultation here.

As I said before, this is a busy time of year.  Enjoy the holiday season but don’t ignore the calendar, you aren’t getting any younger….




The Karpman Drama Triangle in Financial Practice

A psycho-analytic study of the roles of Creator, Challenger and Coach as they pertain to Financial Planning

karpmanAs a Financial Planner I have had to become a student of human behaviour. What follows is a detailed study of the psychology of transactional analysis and the so called Karpman Drama Triangle with specific reference to the ways in which the various roles and interactions play on one another and influence the ways in which we buy, sell and plan for our financial futures. This is a bit of a departure from what I normally publish in this space so please forgive both the length and depth of this post. As a Financial Planner and self-styled financial life-coach I feel it is important for clients to understand the interplay of personal psychology in the work I do here. I will return to a more personal, practical and hopefully shorter post on Saturday.

The drama triangle is a social model of human interaction which maps the type of potentially destructive interaction that can occur between people in conflict. It was originally conceived by psychologist Dr. Steven Karpman and published in 1968. Karpman was a part-time actor and member of the Screen Actors Guild while studying psychology and therapeutic counseling under Dr. Eric Berne, the father of transactional analysis. Legend has it that after reading the novel “Valley of the Dolls” Karpman conceived of the triangle with the role of victim at the bottom point, a persecutor at the top left and a rescuer at the top right.

The novel, written by Jacquelin Susann and published in 1966 tells the story of three relatively unknown actresses who meet and work together in New York City. The story tracks their careers over a 20 year period of highs, and lows fueled by poor choices, toxic relationships and substance abuse. After Karpman explained the story and the triangular interplay of the characters to Berne a whole new school of psycho-therapy, based on human interaction was born.

Simply put the Karpman Drama Triangle theorizes that people in conflict play one of three roles. They are either: the Victim, the Persecutor or the Rescuer. While we all tend to gravitate to one or another of the roles, it is possible for the roles to change depending on the situation. More importantly however, each role needs the others in order to function.

The victim lives by the mantra, “poor me”, and feels oppressed, hopeless, helpless, powerless and ashamed and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems or take any pleasure in life. Most importantly, the victim, if not being actively persecuted will seek out a persecutor in order to justify their feelings of hopelessness and general lethargy and also try to find a rescuer in order to avoid making any positive change on their own.

The rescuer’s mantra is “let me help”. They are the classic enabler. They need the victim just as much as the victim needs them in order to feel self-worth but the real motive of the rescuer is for a feeling of superiority over both the victim and persecutor. “Without me to hold the persecutor in check and helping the victim through their troubles the whole world would go to hell.” Or so they think. The fact is, in most cases at least, the rescuer has defined help incorrectly and given the victim permission to fail through their constant rescuing. In focusing all of their energy on the trials and tribulations of someone else they also tend to avoid their own problems.

persecutorThe persecutor is not evil; controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative and arrogant perhaps, but not evil.   The persecutor is often more fed up with the failings of the victim they are actively pursuing their downfall. Their mantra is; “it’s all your fault”. The persecutor is in many ways the antithesis of the rescuer but these roles are often interchangeable as the rescuer experiences burn out or the persecutor softens his heart when reminded of his own potential to be victimized.

In fact all of the roles are interchangeable and we tend to play each of them in varying measure throughout our lives.

What does all this have to do with financial planning? Stay with me, I’m getting there.

While the Karpman Drama Triangle was originally conceived as a way to analyze interactions in conflict and developed in group and family therapy sessions that centered around issues of codependency and substance abuse, in more recent years it has begun cropping up in the analysis of more co-operative efforts as well. In 1990 Alice Choy published “The Winner’s Triangle” in which the roles were renamed vulnerable (victim),   assertive (persecutor) and caring (rescuer). The thesis of the winner’s triangle being that conflict can be resolved when the actors begin to see their roles and each other’s roles in a more positive light. But the winner’s triangle is still about conflict.

It wasn’t until 2009 that the Karpman Drama Triangle was reconfigured in a completely positive light and turned into a tool for collaboration. The Power of TED (The Empowerment Dynamic) released that year is a self published work by David Emerald. (Not to be confused with the TED conference; which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design) Emerald is an executive coach who has spent his career working with corporate clients developing collaborative teams that have helped thousands of companies achieve stunning success. In The Power of TED, Emerald encourages readers to think of themselves and each other as either: creators (victims), challengers (persecutors) or coaches (rescuers) and in the process shed all the negative drama.

creatorThe creator is encouraged to become outcome oriented as opposed to problem-oriented. The challenger is encouraged to ask questions and push the creator to clarify their needs, focus on resolving tension between current reality and an envisioned goal and take incremental steps toward a desired outcome. The coach is encouraged to ask both the creator a challenger a different type of question intended to help everyone make informed choices. The key difference between the coach and rescuer is that the coach sees the creator as capable of making his own choices and solving his own problems and he sees the challenger as an ally in this process, not an adversary. The coach asks questions that enable the creator to see the possibilities of positive action, to focus on what they want, not on what they don’t want.

So what does all this have to do with financial planning? I’m glad you asked!

Financial planning is a collaborative process.  In my financial practice, Emerald’s Empowerment Dynamic forms the framework of our day to day interaction with all of my clients.

I view my clients as creators – the business plan calls my ideal client a “person with big dreams and an even bigger heart, who may or may not have experienced financial hardship in their past”. It’s easy for people like that to play the role of victim, beaten down by circumstance. “What’s the point of dreaming if we can’t even keep our bills paid?” It’s my job to help you see beyond your present situation, visualize a brighter future and help you find the tools to get there.

If you haven’t already guessed, I view myself as your coach.

Challengers come from every angle. They could be a bill collector, a family member or your boss. They are generally people who just don’t have the tools or the patience to help you out of your financial predicament. They also tend to be people who need something from you, a bill paid, your time or other physical task completed. But challengers don’t always come in the form of human beings; they could also take the form of a medical diagnosis, a lack of available work or any other circumstance that is causing hardship and difficult circumstances.

The client’s role as the creator is to look for and implement solutions to the problems the challenger gives them. My role as the coach is the make suggestions, provide tools and stand on the sidelines giving encouragement. A good coach is at once a devil’s advocate, mentor, personal assistant and cheerleader.

winning coachHave you ever watched the Super Bowl? Who cheers the loudest in the last seconds and leads the charge onto the field in the moment of a victory? That’s the coach! And that’s me when you reach your financial goals. Nobody celebrates like a victorious coach.

In 2005 I filed a consumer proposal in bankruptcy.  It took 4 long years to pay off that debt and get discharged and a few more years to get on a solid financial footing. Now, over a decade later, I have not forgotten the pain, mental anguish and personal shame that come shrouded in debt.

In many ways hiring a financial planner is like finding a coach. Good coaches are the ones who have played the game. The best coaches are the ones who have both won and lost, understand the difference and can see the warning signs well in advance of a spectacular loss.   I’ve been there, I get it, and I can coach you through it.

Contact me for more information on The Karpman Drama Triangle and how my planning approach can help you achieve financial success.

How to Fail in 2015

The gleaming mountain of success is actually a pile of trash – a pile of mistakes we have made. The difference between the successful and the troubled is not error-free living; it is that by discovering and implementing a life calling the successful stand on their pile of trash while the troubled sit under theirs. – Dave Ramsey; forward to Dan Miller’s 48 Days To The Work You Love

happy new year 2015

Let’s cut to the chase shall we?

It’s the end of another year and everyone is busy planning what they will and won’t do in the coming year. Statistically we know that most so called “New Year’s Resolutions” will be broken within the first week, a few will make it through the first month or so and even fewer will make it about halfway through the year. The actual number of New Year’s Resolutions that survive an entire year however is infinitesimally small. So let’s fast forward to the last quarter of 2015 and pretend we made it.

I want you for a minute to forget about what the actual resolutions or goals are. That’s not the point here. I’m sure you don’t need my help to dream about what you want for the coming year. I want you instead to think about what your plan is to get there. Stephen Covey said in his famous “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to begin with the end in mind so that’s what we’re going to do.

It’s now December of 2015 and you are one of the few people who actually kept your New Year’s Resolution. How did you do it? What was your first step? Then what? And most importantly what did you do when you failed?

Mark my words; you will fail at some point. If your resolution is to run a 5k every day and on day three you get up to a foot of snow and you think, “what’s one day?” you will have failed. The question isn’t if you will fail or even when you will fail but what you will do with that failure.

If your definition of success is 100% perfection you will fail. If your definition of success is continual growth and development then you should welcome failure, it’s the only way you will learn what doesn’t work.

I actually love it when I fail at something. (Okay that’s a lie, nobody likes to fail, it hurts too much but,) Failure is the only way I can learn what doesn’t work. The key is to fail early enough in the process that you can learn from it, adjust course and still achieve the results you were after in the first place.

If you view failure as a learning opportunity and a stepping stone to success did you really fail at all? I don’t think so, you just eliminated one pathway to success.

So get out there and fail. Just don’t make the same mistake twice. That’s how you become a success and, as Dave Ramsey so aptly put it “stand on your pile of trash” in victory.