How Diversified is your Diversification?


In November yet another firm fell victim to the growing Valeant fallout as Tiger Ratan Capital Fund LP fell 33% over the past three months, wiping out gains for 2015.

Those losses stemmed from the fact that Valeant accounted for 20% of TRC’s U.S. holdings. But they weren’t alone. Many well-respected funds, including the mighty Sequoia Fund, and hedge fund manager Bill Ackman’s Pershing Capital also had extensive exposure to long time Wall Street darling Valeant and suffered losses not only of value – but of face as well.

The dramatic losses came as quite a shock to many of the investors who own these – and other affected – funds, and who assumed that the funds were diversified – when in fact they weren’t. By going out on a limb and investing too much of their allocation in what has been one of Wall Street’s hottest stocks for years, many respected “hedge” funds experienced huge capital losses that it will take years to recover from.

In fact, of the 1,000 hedge funds tracked by Symmetric.IO, approximately 12% had a position in Valeant. A startling 32% of Valeant’s shares were held by hedge funds.

When Diversification isn’t Diversification

Having 20% of your portfolio in one stock is a huge risk for anyone. You never know when the next Enron or Worldcom may be and, because of accusations of unorthodox practices, it may very well be Valeant.

On the other hand, Valeant could still turn out to be a home run and deliver big time. No one really knows, which is why diversification is so key.

Many investors diversify with ETFs and mutual funds. But how many investors are absolutely certain that the mutual funds they are counting on to provide diversification, are, in fact, properly diversified themselves?

When that Hot Stock is Too Much of a Good Thing

When a “hot stock” or fund keeps climbing, it’s tempting to want to jump on the bandwagon, and the same is true for a hot sector. That’s no doubt why so many otherwise experienced fund managers over-exposed themselves to Valeant and to the health sector in general.

But while a portfolio with correlated assets that tend to do well together, is also a portfolio with assets that can tend to do poorly together when the winds shift. As Ben Carlson put it in a recent blog post: “Diversification requires finding the right balance between eliminating unsystematic risk (risk that’s specific to single securities or industries) and di-worsification by adding too many overlapping funds.”

Put another way: it’s not enough to put your eggs in different baskets, the eggs themselves need to be diversified, some plain, some speckled, and the speckled ones should be speckled in different ways.

A properly diversified mutual fund or ETF allow you to invest in a sector or a “hot stock” while mitigating risk. Which is no doubt what the investors who held Tiger, Pershing, and Sequoia thought they were doing.

The Moral of the Story

Due diligence. While you and your financial advisor are most likely diversifying your holdings, make sure that your holdings are also diversifying their holdings. Review your mutual funds frequently to make sure that their strategies, risk tolerance, and diversification standards align with yours and that they are not over-weighted chasing impressive returns from a couple of current wall street darlings.

The jury is still out on Valeant and on the funds that held it. It may in fact recover, although it would have to recover quickly to make up for the loss of momentum for the funds and investors that held it.

Nonetheless, it’s an important lesson for individual investors. A truly diversified portfolio is made up of truly diversified assets.




This analysis is provided for informational purposes only and is not to be considered investment advice. The securities mentioned herein are for illustration of the concepts discussed and are not a recommendation to buy or sell any security. Please see additional disclosures.

Robo Advisors vs Traditional Advisors: Beyond the Red Pill and the Blue Pill


When you hear the words Robo Advisors, what do you think of…? The Matrix?

And does Financial Advisor conjure up a swaggering DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street? Or maybe someone in a Brooks Brothers suit, describing products you barely understand?

If you said yes to either, you’re not alone.

One common fear about the new wave of robo advisors is that, once you take the “red pill” and dive in, you’re no longer in control. You’ve turned your money over to a mysterious series of algorithms with no human in sight to help you guide it.

Many investors – particularly younger ones – are also put off by the idea of bespoke-suited advisors from traditional firms who are trying to up-sell them investments and insurance products with hefty fees and commissions. And even if they were to opt for the more conservative “blue pill,” traditional advisories are often not interested in speaking with them because they can’t make the hefty minimum investment.

While there is some truth to both stereotypes, there are also big shifts going on in the financial industry that make this a great time to take advantage of both a new breed of independent financial advisor and the efficiencies that targeted robo-platforms can provide.

Here are the differences – as well as drawbacks and benefits – in a nutshell:

Robo Advisors:


  • Inexpensive compared to full-service portfolio management
  • Lower barrier to entry: lower initial investment requirements
  • Democratic: all clients benefit equally from algorithmic decisions, not just the big investors
  • Data-driven: driven by numbers, trends, and deep data – not emotions


  • Limited scope: robo advisor only handle investment management, not comprehensive financial planning
  • Generic: they categorize you using broad-stroke demographic – not individualized- goal and risk-tolerance profiling to build your portfolio
  • Automatic: selling or “rebalancing” can be triggered by pre-set formulas at times that you might be wiser to stay put
  • Limited opportunities: many robo-firms currently have a limited or “preferred” set of funds and options you can invest in
  • Impersonal: no human interaction for questions regarding your individual investment portfolio

Traditional Financial Advisory Firms


  • Someone who picks up the phone when you call or will see you when you make an appointment.
  • Flexible: can make real-time decisions about what’s right for you or when to buy or sell not rather than being locked into formulas.
  • Multi-layers of expertise to call on


  • Barrier to entry: many traditional advisories have high minimums and confusing requirements and may only offer enhanced services to “premium” clients
  • Conflict of interest: many advisories have a “corporate agenda” to promote certain products, or they follow a [Suitability Standard] that doesn’t necessarily put the clients’ interests above their own
  • Change resistant: larger organizations can be “too big for their own good,” and slow to incorporate new tech or new processes that add value for their clients or address clients’ individual needs.
  • Limited customization: established firms frequently use old-school models of demographics, risk allocation, and target dates without factoring in what makes each client unique
  • Impersonal: while customer service is available, traditional firms often don’t truly “meet you where you are” and customize services and portfolios for you unless you have a large portfolio

Enter the New Breed

A growing number of independent financial advisors are disrupting the traditional model and starting to create a “third way,” hybrid advisories that strive to offer all the pros and – hopefully – none of the cons. They offer clients customized fee-only services – unhindered by corporate agendas – and with a lower minimum investment. At the same time they are able to incorporate the newest tech tools that not only make it easy for new clients to get started, but also offer fast, best-in-class investment management modeling to make faster decisions about managing investments.

Or, as Josh Brown so eloquently put it in a recent blog post, “…innovation and creative spirit is fleeing from the Old World to the new one.”

So why haven’t all advisors embraced the new technology to offer enhanced services to their clients? The three biggest reasons are inertia, inertia, and inertia. It’s not easy to change entrenched business models, culture, and processes. Remember how Netflix caught the video rental business napping?

Why Not Just Go with a Robo Advisor?

Robo advisors generally only offer investment management, not comprehensive, goal-oriented financial planning. While both investment advisors and robo advisors can recommend investment direction, strategy, and allocation, a good financial advisor can help you identify goals, customize budgets and cash flow planning, and help you with insurance, credit, and debt management, things a robo-platform can’t do.

The most important thing about the integration of new tech with personal attention and a customized plan is that a user-friendly tech interface can allow clients to manage all the pieces of their financial plans, from cash flow to 401Ks, while allowing an experienced advisor to monitor it and give clients a call when that advisor sees an opportunity, a red flag, or wants to check in about goals and direction.

These days, clients can see through the bespoke suits; what they’re looking for is bespoke service. By embracing selected and appropriate technology, this new breed of independent financial advisors are able to offer all the “pros,” while creating a new model of more transparent, conflict-free financial management that’s available to everyone who wants to set – an achieve – financial goals.


The Most Important Question You’ll Ever Ask Your Financial Advisor


Does your financial advisor follow the Fiduciary Standard or the Suitability Standard?

If you don’t know the answer without peeking – or calling your Lifeline – you’re not alone. A surprising number of people don’t know what these very important terms mean and whether their advisor is acting in their best interest.

Aren’t all financial advisors required to act in their client’s best interest?

Surprisingly, not all financial advisors are.

Broker-dealers, insurance salesman, and bank and financial company representatives, for instance, are only required to follow a Suitability Standard. That means they must provide recommendations that are “suitable” for a client – based on age for instance, or aversion to risk – but that may or may not be in that client’s best interest.

Having a waiter recommend an expensive chocolate cake that is “suitable” for adults and for someone who is willing to risk trying chocolate with sea salt may not be that critical, in spite of the fact that having fresh strawberries may clearly be in your best interest. But having a financial advisor who is making recommendations primarily based on your age and risk tolerance – and who could be putting their own, or their company’s, financial interests ahead of your interests — could be disastrous for your financial future.

Instead, the Fiduciary Standard, which is the standard for registered investment advisors under state and federal regulations, requires that financial advisor act solely in a client’s best interest when offering financial advice.

Registered Investment Advisors – like Sherman Wealth Management – must follow – and are held to – the Fiduciary Standard. That means that a RIA must put their client’s needs ahead of their own, provide fully-disclosed, conflict-free advice, be fully transparent about fees, and continue to monitor a client’s investments, as well as their changing financial situation.

Here’s a potential scenario that illustrates the differences

Let’s say your broker-dealer has three possible funds to recommend to you. The first is a “suitable” index fund, offered by her own company, which pays her a 6% commission on the sale and charges a 2% annual fee. The second is a similarly suitable index fund that would pay her a 3% commission on the sale and has a 1% annual fee. The third is an index fund that has no sales commission and an annual fee of .5%. Under the Suitability Standard, she can recommend the higher priced fund and still satisfy the standard. Under the Fiduciary Standard, she would be required to recommend the third fund.

This is not to suggest that broker-dealers or others operating under the Suitability Standard don’t look out for their clients.  While many reps who follow the Suitability Standard give their clients excellent advice, they operate with an inherent conflict: the pressure to sell products that are more profitable for them and/or their firm can be important factors in how they direct you to invest.

So go ahead and let the waiter talk you into that chocolate cake (even though you know you’ll feel better tomorrow if you have the strawberries.) But when it comes to your money, think carefully about whose advice you are taking.



Donald Trump and the Benefit of Financial Foresight


Donald Trump’s current net worth – as he would be the first to tell you – is estimated to be between $2 and $4 billion, most of which he made through inheritance and real estate investments, along with other business dealings. An article in National Journal recently took a look at what might have happened if he had invested in an S&P 500 index fund back in 1982 when his inherited real estate fortune was estimated to be worth “only” $200 million.  According to National Journal’s calculations, if he’d invested carefully in index funds, Trump’s net worth would be a whopping $8 billion today.

Does this mean Donald Trump is a bad investor? Not necessarily: the oldest lesson on Wall Street is that everything is easy in hindsight.

While highly speculative, those numbers do highlight the ongoing debate over which is a better investment – real estate instruments or stocks. Both stocks have and the real estate market have had great runs in recent history and, depending on when you invested, you could make cases for both investments being the better choice.

But the stock market and the real estate market both experience volatility, dips, and extended recovery times so, for the average investor, a portfolio composed of mainly real estate or other fixed assets (like art or collectibles, for instance) poses some risks that should be hedged with proper cash flow planning, a diversified portfolio, and proper tax planning.

Cash Flow Planning

A good financial plan takes into account how much cash you need access to, or may need access to in the future. Cash flow planning should be a key factor in deciding whether real estate investments are part your individualized financial strategy.

As National Journal points out, Trump claims he is willing to spend upwards of $1 billion of his own money to fund his presidential campaign, yet his financial disclosure statements show that he may have less than $200 million in cash, stocks, and bonds. The rest of his fortune is tied up in real estate investments, which could be much harder to liquidate and use for his campaign.

Most of us aren’t running for president but, if something like the 2007 housing collapse were to happen again, any investor who is predominantly invested in real estate could have problems liquidating those – diminished – assets for retirement, college funding, or other non-presidential goals.

A solution: diversification.


Whether you are investing in real estate or the stock market, diversification is always a prudent way to address your own risk tolerance and use proper foresight in creating a winning strategy.

While with real estate funds, diversification can be achieved via many factors, including residential vs commercial investments, differing location focuses, and differing interest rates and financing mechanisms, it is still fundamentally one sector, subject to sentiment and swings.

With the stock market, on the other hand, diversification allows you the opportunity to invest not only in different asset classes, such as stocks, bonds, and money market funds, but in a variety of sectors and industries as well. Over the past 60 years, historically, the stock market has averaged an 8% annual return, so investors with strategically balanced and diversified portfolios, there is the opportunity for steady, while not spectacular gains, with the potential for less risk than investing only in the real estate market.

An investor who is properly diversified through multiple asset classes – including real estate if it makes sense for their own customized strategy – is potentially better protected against the short term results of one asset class experiencing a crash or a prolonged dip.


Another thing to consider is that options for investing in real estate in IRAs and other tax-deferred accounts are complicated and not every custodian will allow you to include real estate investments in a tax-deferred account.

Hindsight vs Foresight

While Donald Trump is an outlier because his high net worth shelters him from some of the issues with primarily being invested in real estate, it’s intriguing to consider “what if.”

In the case of a more typical investor, a little foresight can go a long way in making sure you are on your way to achieving your own financial goals. A sound financial plan should be tailored to individual goals and cash flow needs, with a customized cash flow plan, and diversified across multiple asset classes for the potential for steady and compounded growth over time.

Whether you are a Donald Trump with a large inheritance or a young professional just getting started, a solid plan and strategy puts the benefit of hindsight where it belongs: in a conversation over coffee or cocktails, and not as the basis for a winning investment strategy.

My Response To a Millennial’s Open Letter To CNBC


After the markets took an incredibly volatile ride on August 24th, published this letter to CNBC from a millennial named Ryan, who wrote:

“I’ve dipped my toes in the stock market this past year but after today’s action, I have to say I’m done. Forever. Gone. Don’t count on another dime of mine in the market.”

Ryan isn’t alone. A surprising 74% of Millennials surveyed said they do not own stocks. And that’s unfortunate for Ryan and his fellow GenY-ers.

Ryan’s letter is worth a read – and he’s makes a couple of good points – but he’s also misses a very important point: none of this should really matter to a Millennial.

Here’s why.

“I’m sure countless little guys had their stocks absolutely steamrolled this morning only to see the big guys scoop up the shares on a discount.”  

There is obviously a wide range of ways to experience the market: as a small investor, as a large investor, and as a robot.  Are other people going to do better than you sometimes? Sure. They’re also going to do better than you at sudoko, finding parking spaces, and – unfortunately in my case – Fantasy Football as well. But that shouldn’t matter to you, and shouldn’t keep you from investing in your own financial independence.

The stock market is volatile and, sure, some investors may make impressive bets while others experience much too impressive losses (all investing involves risk, including the risk of the loss of principal.) But, historically, the S&P 500 averaged a 7-8% return (after inflation)* each year and that’s value you’re missing out on if you’re not invested.

 “The only “people” who can react to those pricing distortions in real time are computers. This isn’t a place for small time people like me.”

Nothing beats human guidance and judgment to prevent panic selling or override a previous decision when a drop in a price is anomalous and not due to a fundamental loss in value. Having a plan and sticking to it is usually the best approach and there are great Financial Advisors ready to help you or sharing their insight on the web.

“The only reasonable thing that any little guy can do is sit back and say, “Wow there is a lot of distortion going on and I can’t even guess at these prices.”

Investing shouldn’t be guesswork and doesn’t have to be. A good financial advisor – or your own research – can help you select a diversified group of financial instruments tailored to your own financial goals and risk tolerance. With that in place, along with a well-thought-out plan for steady saving and investing, market price fluctuations should not disrupt your plan. If you’ve got a solid financial plan, investing in the stock market does not affect your ability to pay your rent, take care of yourself or your family, or add to that rainy day emergency fund.

I hope you reconsider, Ryan.

As Millennials, we’re in it for the long haul, we have years of disciplined savings ahead of us with interest that will continue to compound if we avoid reacting emotionally to the markets.

Once the uneasiness of August 24th has worn off (and much of that day’s paper losses have already been recovered,) I hope you and the millions of Millennials who are not yet investing, take advantage of the opportunity to invest while you are young, to maximize your options for reaching your own financial goals, whatever they may be.




3 Winning Strategies Investing and Fantasy Football Share

Fantasy Football Goal

As the NFL season begins, millions of fantasy football fans are busy researching and drafting their teams. And this season, as in previous ones, fans will be wondering why some fantasy team managers just seem to have a knack for finding those sleepers and high upside players, while other managers routinely fail to understand and predict player value.

Investors often wonder the same thing: why do some investors consistently get it right and prosper, while others are lucky if they even break even?

Coincidence? Maybe, but there are several important things successful fantasy football managers have in common with successful real-life investors.

Here are three important mindsets that can help you go the whole 9 yards, whether it’s on the virtual gridiron or with your own financial plan.

Research the Players

A good fantasy football manager knows that you need to study all the different variables – including roster positions, draft picks, and expected performance – to build a winning team. Understanding the available options is critical to determining things like how many players you need at each position and which players you think will be the best.

This same principal applies to investing. A smart investor or financial advisor starts by understanding all the different variables, such as capital, types of investments, and asset classes. Understanding the pros and cons of various investment strategies is critical in determining how to choose a strategy that is the appropriate option for your own goals and needs.

Never count on a couple of stars to carry the team

When drafting your fantasy team, you always want to diversify your risk. You might not want to draft multiple offense players from the Green Bay Packers, for instance, even if that team is loaded with talent, because, if Aaron Rodgers and company have a bad week, your fantasy team will be struggling too. Smart fantasy managers build a stable foundation and don’t just count on rising stars.

When building your investment portfolio, risk diversification is critical as well. Wall Street is littered with stories of investors who put all their eggs in one “sure” basket, only to learn the lesson of diversification the hard way. Even if you’re extremely confident that a certain sector is a good bet, it’s usually better to diversify and limit your amount of exposure to individual sectors. That way, even if the sector doesn’t do as well as you had anticipated, your investments are distributed across other asset classes, and your risk should be better managed.

When the going gets tough, the tough stay disciplined

Anyone who has played fantasy football knows the danger of making a snap waiver wire decision you’ll regret later. On one hand, you don’t want to panic and drop your star player after a rough few weeks, only to see him rebound to a MVP-caliber season (and on someone else’s team!) On the other hand, just because an unproven player has a great week doesn’t mean he’s more valuable than the player you’d have to drop in order to acquire him.

When the market hits a volatile patch, it takes a disciplined investor to trust their plan and avoid making snap decisions about buying and selling. A look at the history of the stock market makes it abundantly clear that investors who take a long term view do better than those who shift their investment strategies with every changing wind. This doesn’t mean that any plan should be viewed as foolproof; a good investor or financial advisor knows the value of reassessing and recalibrating appropriately and strategically. What it does mean is that, when the going gets tough, a prudent investor takes the long view, stays disciplined, and sticks to a strategy.

It’s a long season

The only NFL team in history to have an undefeated season is the Miami Dolphins who finished 17-0 in the shorter 1972 season. No NFL team has gone 19-0 to date so it’s highly unlikely that any fantasy team will achieve perfection either. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a great season and get smarter and smarter about putting together a winning team.

With investing too, there will always be ups and downs, touchdowns and penalties, fumbles and conversions, and a few Hail Mary’s. But with a solid game plan and clearly defined goal, you’ll be on your way to a putting together a strategy designed to stand the test of time and put you squarely where you want to be: heading toward your own end zone with your eye on the ball and your own goals in sight.




Has the Internet Replaced Personal Financial Advisors?

human technology

With the wealth of information readily available online, it’s easy to feel that we’re all experts about everything. From scouring the finance blogs and Twitter for the latest “surefire” ways to beat the market, to diagnosing our aches on WebMD, to grilling along with Bobby Flay on YouTube, it can seem like we have almost instant access to the same information as the pros.

So when it comes to personal finances, why is it necessary to have a financial advisor when financial news is so readily available, Twitter is flooded with “hot tips,” robo advisors are ready to automate the whole process for you, and comparison shopping is so easy? Why can’t you just use this treasure trove of information to make your own financial decisions? Or subscribe to an algorithm-based service that will make the best lightning-quick decisions for you?

A couple of reasons…

If you’re good and you dedicate a lot of time online, you can definitely pick up some great information and strategies that the experts are sharing (follow me on Twitter by clicking here!) The tricky part is making sure that the information and the strategies are actually appropriate for you and appropriate right now. We all know that, if we’re not careful, the instantaneous nature of the internet, social media, and impersonal algorithms can lead to impulsive decisions that may not support our own long-term goals and personal risk profile. Quick reactions to new stock market “darlings” or to sudden market volatility can lead to choices that are not the best for your long – or even near – term financial health and growth. In fact, there is a whole science called Behavioral Finance that addresses how personal biases can lead investors to make decisions that actually work against the goals they set for themselves.

A good financial professional is able to sift through the vast amount of information available to you and determine what is significant to your strategy and what may just be a distraction. A financial advisor who understands Behavioral Finance can help you see where your assumptions, habits, and biases about money and investing may be leading you to get in your own way.

The new algorithm-based platforms are increasingly interesting and have a lot of merit, but the level of personalization is not yet very deep. That means that portfolios are based on broad criteria that may have nothing to do with your current situation, lifestyle, and goals. Again, this is where a trained professional will be able to view your unique individual needs and create a tailored strategy that is geared to you and not just everyone who matches your age and salary level. As more and more fiduciary financial advisors are starting to use smart algorithms as part of their offerings where appropriate, the key is “where appropriate” and “in the clients’ best interest,” the very definition of a fiduciary.

Think about it: would you rather grill along with Bobby Flay on your iPad or would you rather have regular meetings with Bobby, where he looks at the size and model of your Weber, the size of your shrimp, and the recipes you’re trying to learn, and works with you to make sure you become the master of your own grill? (and shrimp!)

The same goes for your financial future. While do-it-yourself is getting easier and easier, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s getting better and better. Look for a fiduciary financial advisor who also has access to the latest information online and is familiar with the latest algorithmic innovations, but who uses that information to get to know clients individually, and tailors a long-term growth strategy for them that will put them on the road to achieving the goals they have set for themselves.


With over a decade’s worth of experience in financial services, Brad Sherman is committed to helping his clients pursue their financial goals. Learn more about our Financial Advisor services.

Follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date with investment news and wealth management information.



What Should You Do in a Market Sell-off? Rule #1: Don’t Panic


Whenever there’s a crisis, it’s good to have an emergency plan, and when there’s a financial crisis, it’s good to have a financial emergency plan. When you’ve thought through a plan, it’s less likely that panic – or other “behavioral mistakes” – will lead you to react in ways you may be regretting for a long time.

While most investors say they’ll continue to hold on to their investments when there’s a sharp downturn (and many even say that they’ll add money when their investments go down), data tells a far different story. In December 2008, right as the market was near its lowest point, investors pulled out a whopping $10.6 billion from equity mutual funds alone.

Panicking during market bottoms is a form of “behavioral bias” that can have a devastating effect on financial health. While the S&P 500 has averaged around 10% a year, costly behavioral mistakes cause many individual investors to significantly miss those gains. That’s because, despite good advice, people still tend to put money in the stock market as it rises and pull money out as the market falls. The result: many investors buy at market tops and sell at market bottoms.

While none of us are immune to behavioral biases, there are several things we can do to help avoid costly mistakes.

1.  Learn From the Past

The first step is to understand that market declines are a normal part of investing and resist the urge to panic!

CRSP 1-10 Index

While the S&P has historically returned almost 10% annually since the 1960s, those returns are not consistent. One year the market could be up 20% and the next it could decline 12%! To make the ride even bumpier: the market also has streaks where returns decline for several consecutive years. That’s when investors often begin to panic and pull their money out. Unfortunately, that’s usually the worst time to do so, and when investors often should be increasing their investments instead.

Although the market can move up and down in the course of a year, or several years, it has historically trended upwards over longer periods of time (10 or 20 years.) So if your investment horizon is longer than just a few years, remember that it’s likely the market will recover its losses – and then some – over time.

Understanding that the U.S. stock market bounces back after its declines is a helpful first step in creating “un-biased” financial habits!

2.  Understand that Accepting Lower Returns May be Okay

Generally speaking, younger investors have more years ahead of them to invest. That means they are often able to put a higher percentage of their money in stocks and a very low, or even zero, percentage in bonds. How much you allocate to stocks will depend on factors such as your own investment objectives and your ability to tolerate risk.

If you know that you’re prone to panicking during market declines, however, you may want to keep your portfolio in more conservative investments than your age and investment horizon would normally indicate.

It’s much better to be a bit more conservative and hold on to your investments during market downturns, than to buy riskier assets and sell during market crashes!

3.  Speak with a Professional

If you’re like most Americans, chances are you spend more time researching your next car than researching your investments!

Investing can be a difficult – and sometimes dry – subject. Learning about the history of the stock market, your own risk tolerance, and behavioral biases that can trip you up is challenging for most people and probably something you don’t want to spend a lot of time on.

That’s where a trusted financial planner can help.

A good financial planner can help guide you along the path in planning for your own financial goals; explain difficult concepts; help you discover your own risk tolerance; recommend appropriate investments based on those risk tolerances; and help you avoid making the behavioral mistakes that ruin so many people’s portfolios.

A good financial planner also understands the history of the market and knows that, while bull markets don’t last forever, declines are generally temporary as well. Knowing that, and having a plan tailored to your specific financial goals will help you to avoid panicking when markets go south, and avoid making the behavioral mistakes that ruin so many people’s portfolios.


Brad Sherman is a financial advisor based in Gaithersburg Maryland who is experienced in understanding both the history of the market, as well as how behavioral biases affect investor returns. He has a Masters in Quantitative Finance from American University and over a decade’s worth of experience in the financial industry.

If you think it may make sense for you to hire a financial advisor, call him today to see if you are a good fit.



Do You Share These 4 Habits of the Wealthy?

Wealthy Habits

In his book “Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits Of Wealthy Individuals,” author Thomas Corley outlines what he learned when he surveyed both wealthy and struggling Americans about their habits and attitudes.

Here are a few “rich habits” he identified that are worth integrating into your professional, financial, and even personal life, to help you on the road to achieving your own goals.

The Wealthy are Goal-Oriented

Corley found that 67% of the wealthy people he surveyed put their goals in writing, 62% of them focus on their goals every day, and a whopping 81% keep a to-do list.

It’s hard to reach your goals if you’re not focused on them and they’re not your top priority, and it can be daunting to have too many goals (one reason so few people are able to keep their New Year’s Resolutions.)

A more productive approach is to prioritize one important goal, create a plan of actionable steps that help you accomplish that goal, then add those steps, tasks and habits to your daily to-do list. These three simple steps will give your increased focus and will help you move closer to that goal.

Once you’ve incorporated them in your daily routine, identify a second goal and follow the same plan. The key to success is taking it one step at a time!

The Wealthy Use Downtime Wisely

At the end of your workday, do you like to relax with Netflix, video games, or YouTube? According to Corley’s data, 66% of the wealthy said that they watch less than an hour of television a day, 63% spend less than an hour a day on the Internet unless it is job-related, an impressive 79% say they read career and educational material each day, and an equally impressive 63% said “I listen to audio books during the commute to work.”

While we all like to relax and recharge with entertaining media, that time can never be recovered for things that help you become a stronger, more successful individual like reading, networking, exercising, or volunteering for a cause you believe in.

Time is the great equalizer: we all have 24 hours a day. What you choose to do with that time can either help you to reach your financial and life goals, or distract you from it, so choose wisely!

The Wealthy Invest in Their Future

Corley’s research also showed that the wealthy live within their means, pay themselves first, and don’t overspend.

Building wealth is not accomplished by upgrading to each new electronic gadget, leasing the newest model car, and living in an extravagant home. The wealthy, according to Corley, spend less than they earn, own and maintain their cars for many years, and save a significant portion of their income. While saving money and living modestly is not as sexy as a flashy smartphone, it will go a lot further toward providing a comfortable future.

Living within your means also includes not carrying credit card balances or heavy debt. When you are carrying debt, what you earn today is paying for yesterday’s expenses. Living within your means while saving and investing a portion of your income lets you invest in tomorrow, rather than yesterday, while learning to be satisfied with what you have today.

The Wealthy are Willing to Take Risks

Another fascinating finding of Corley’s research is that 63% of the wealthy people he interviewed said they that they had taken risks in search of wealth, while only 6% of the struggling Americans he interviewed said that they had taken risks.

For many, fear of failure is a great de-motivator and can be paralyzing. When you do not fully understand something, whether it’s a challenge, a potential project, an investment, or even a social problem, it can be easier to do nothing than to act. But without risk, there is often no reward.

What Corley discovered is that, instead, rather than fearing failure, the wealthy consider failure to be part of the process and – most importantly – an opportunity to learn.

How can you face risk without fear so that you can seize potential opportunities? Educating yourself is the key step. Researching the investment, the project, or the choice, and learning about the options and risks, help keep fear and anxiety about the unknown from clouding your decision-making process.

Even with the best preparation though, choices don’t turn out as envisioned. When that happens, take a page from the wealthy: learning from those failures and experiences will lead to more opportunities and better choices down the road!

Are Your Own Habits Setting You Up for Success?

While following each of these habits may not make you rich, they will certainly help you get into a success mind-set. 68% of the Americans on Forbes billionaire list consider themselves to be “self-made billionaires,” which means that they worked hard to reach their own professional and financial goals. The true route to financial success is through discipline and steady habits that grow your net worth over time.

Do you already share these four habits of the wealthy? If so, congratulations on your focus and your commitment to success. If not, try adopting one – or all four – of these important habits and see if it doesn’t get you closer to achieving your own goals!


With over a decade’s worth of experience in financial services, Brad Sherman is committed to helping his clients pursue their financial goals. Contact Brad today to learn more about how you can better pursue yours.

Learn more about our Financial Advisor services.

Follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date with investment news and wealth management information.


Not Investing Yet? Here Are 4 Simple Steps To Get You Started


Close your eyes for a moment and envision where you’d like to be in 30 or 40 years… Are you sailing to Tahiti? Writing that book? Running your vineyard? Building a new company?

If you had trouble envisioning where you’d like to be, you’re not alone. But unless you can visualize it, unless you’ve got your destination planned, it can be hard to get there. That’s why it’s so important to start thinking about what your goals currently are – whether it’s for yourself, your career, your startup, your art, and/or your family – and take the first – or the next – steps to invest in your future.

What does investing mean? Very simply, it means putting your money somewhere you expect it to grow. It can be traditional stocks, bonds and mutual funds, or real estate, collectibles, annuities, and other things that are expected to gain value over time.

When you’re just starting out, thinking about – and setting aside money for – your future can feel like a challenge; when you’ve just set up your first lemonade stand and barely breaking even, it’s hard to think about re-investing part of your profits in lemon groves that will someday produce income for you.

The trick is to overcome inertia, get started, and make a commitment, even if it’s just a tiny first step.

Inertia is not your friend

Inertia is one of the biggest reasons people waste opportunities to started investing when they’re young.

Objects at rest tend to stay at rest:

If you’re not investing yet, or if your money is sitting in a non-income producing bank account it can be hard to get started or get moving.

Objects in motion tend to stay in motion:

If your money is constantly in motion, if you’re spending everything you make, or if your money is following the crowd to the next big glamour stock, it can be hard to slow down and take stock with a Financial Planner to build a solid foundation.

A study by Hewitt Associates found, for instance, that only 31% of employees in their 20s invest in their company’s 401K plan¹. That means almost 70% of young employees who could be investing in a matching 401k plan haven’t started taking advantage of what is essentially free money. Whether inertia is keeping them from getting started, or inertia is keeping their money in motion so that there’s none left over to invest, they are not only leaving free money on the table, they’re not letting that money grow through compounding.

According to an article in US News and World Report, if you start investing just $100 a month in your 20s, increase contributions as your income increases, and make good financial decisions along the way, you are on your way to potentially retiring with over 1 million dollars.²

How Do You Get Started?

Here are four simple steps to get you past inertia and get you started.

  • Find your motivation

We are all passionate about certain things. The more you care, the more focused you are about achieving your goals. Make a list of the things that are important to you and the things you want to achieve.

  • Find extra money

There are only two ways to “find” money – spending less or making more. While it may seem daunting – inertia again! – you’d be surprised by how easy it is to discover places you can cut back a little or spend a little less. And, while you have a lot more control over your spending than your earnings, you can also look for ways to find extra sources of income, work more hours, or even get a better paying job.

  • Move financial goals up

If you plan to save “whatever you have left” or “whatever you’ve saved” at the end of each month, don’t be surprised by how little that actually is. We all have a tendency to spend what we have, and spend more as our income goes up. You can avoid that pitfall by paying yourself first. When you prioritize saving in your budget and take that money “out of circulation,” your spending will fall in line.

  • Get advice from an adviser you trust

The world of finance and investing can be complicated and confusing. Don’t let fear of the unknown keep you from getting started. You don’t need a large amount of savings to meet with an adviser who can answer a lot of your questions. Getting a roadmap from someone who knows the territory will help you get started and may allow for a smoother journey.

Investing in your future is an investment in yourself. If you take these four simple steps, even with limited assets, you’ll be laying the foundation for a lifetime of investing in your own plans and goals, and your own vision of financial freedom.


All investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. There can be no assurance that any investing strategy will be successful. Investments offering higher potential rates of return also involve a higher level of risk.

Learn more about our Investment Management services.

Related Reading:

What is Dollar Cost Averaging?

5 Things Investors Get Wrong

5 Big Picture Things Many Investors Don’t Do

Behavioral Investing: Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus!