What does firstname.lastname@example.org believe?
If you use any type of adviser – an accountant, banker, manager, coach or consultant – then the advice you receive is colored by that adviser’s core beliefs. It may or may not be important that those beliefs are in alignment with your own. In fact quite often it makes sense to have an adviser with significantly different beliefs for the specific purpose of effecting change in your life or your business. Change does not occur when you surround yourself with people who have substantially the same beliefs as yours.
My work with the OnlineAdviser* project significantly increases the number of people I interact with over time. I’ve provided personal advice in small doses to more than a hundred thousand individuals over my career. Often this is just a short phone call or an email (maybe 10 per day) or in person (a couple more each day) and this continues day after day, year after year, so that the cumulative impact is huge. Consider that 12 contacts per day x 365 days per year x 33 years =144,450 individual advisory contacts! This doesn’t even consider the even larger number of people who may have contact through a blog post like this, a newspaper or magazine or a broadcasted or recorded interview. Web traffic logs indicate that another 100,000 unique visitors see my advice columns or posts each year. A public adviser’s reach can be far larger than we tend to realize. Yet I wonder how many of these hundreds of thousands of people somehow impacted by the advice have ever considered what core beliefs their adviser may hold.
For what it’s worth, the advice I provide is swayed by these five core beliefs:
- We don’t have to be perfect. Being honest, clear, consistent and available is more important than being 100% accurate. Mistakes in business and personal finance are unavoidable and can almost always be corrected when detected. Denial of mistakes leads to disaster. Trust yourself and realize that it won’t be all smooth sailing.
- Both concentrated wealth and of conditions of poverty pose a large threat to our society. Powerful capitalistic forces – whether driven by corporations, individuals or government – lead the charge in a race to the bottom. And by “bottom” I mean destruction of our physical world, killing off of humans and other species, deletion of resources, and decay of our social values. We’ve witnessed that conditions of poverty can lead the same thing. The best hope we have as a society is to see more people secure in the economic comfort of the middle class.
- People are intelligent, it’s just that most of us do not take the time to think before we speak or act. We allow ourselves to be influenced by what we want to believe and we disregard the available facts. This causes us to be overly optimistic in thinking about our future. An adviser’s role in this case is to provide a healthy dose of skepticism.
- People are inherently ethical but those ethics are far too easily swayed. History shows us again and again that ordinary people can be swayed into terrible behavior. Question everything. Trust but verify.
- There is no longer any such thing as privacy. We should act as if everything we say, write and think is open to the public. There are additional benefits available to us if we strive for this level of integrity.
* OnlineAdviser provides limited free advice on a range of consumer finance issues. Most user questions over the past decade have been related to health insurance and the health care industry. The project intends to make independent professional advice available to the public quickly, easily and without the barriers typically present in the financial industry and professional service fields. OnlineAdviser service is primarily offered through a network of financial service web sites. After implementation of the Affordable Care Act, health care advice became the dominant topic of user requests and the service was switched to a separate trademark service OnlineNavigator that operates on a similar basis. Most of these services were provided by one adviser Tony Novak who formally named the program in 1995 since providing it from the early days of public access to the internet in the 1980s.