If you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? A lot of smart people ask themselves that question, especially as they struggle to keep up with the bills and worry about an inadequately funded retirement. In my work consulting with entrepreneurs, I commonly find that they spend so much time juggling the competing demands of their business that they take little time to analyze their personal saving, spending, and investing behaviors. And yet giving attention to these areas is vital if one hopes to achieve long-term financial success.
Here are some common mistakes that can derail even the smartest individuals:
1. The Status Chase:
You’ve worked hard, earned your degree and paid your dues. Now you want to show the world how far you’ve come. But the massive house, the new car every two years, and custom-made suits might keep you from building your nest egg. Instead of seeking status through material possessions, pursue excellence in your field or seek to free yourself from status concerns. Ultimately, it’s more satisfying and better for your bottom line. Warren Buffett lives in a very modest house and is hardly known as a snappy dresser and no one seems to hold it against him.
More than once, financial journalists have highlighted that some of the smartest people in the world have the worst performing portfolios; doctors are a classic example of this. This could be because smart people are used to being able to figure out the system and use it their advantage. They’re not used to playing in a game like the financial markets, where so much of the action is due to chance — and where an inability to admit mistakes is your worst enemy.
3. Target Marketing:
Some unscrupulous financial services firms target professionals, hoping to manage their cash, sell them complicated financial products, and make an unfair amount of money from them. In such cases, their victims would be better off managing their money themselves, or selecting a financial advisor more carefully.
4. Insufficient Time:
Investments require a bit of attention now and then. When you’re busy all the time, it’s easy to ignore things for years on end, to your detriment. It’s better to hire help than to simply ignore everything, but even hiring someone requires that you take the time to research your choice.
5. The Expert Trap:
Investing isn’t like neurosurgery. Investment managers with very impressive credentials often do just as badly — or worse — than those with more modest backgrounds. Because so much of market success depends on being able to buck the trend, exercise self-control and stay calm. The performance of a Harvard MBA may not be as good as that of a no-name university, newly minted graduate. Bright and accomplished people tend to rate others according to a scale of academic and personal credentials that may be largely irrelevant when it comes to managing money. One thing is certain, though: The people with the fanciest credentials will have the highest fees, whether their results justify it or not.
In short, smart people can do better with their nest eggs if they avoid overconfidence and stop seeking to buy status. They should choose their investment advisors carefully and not rely solely on impressive credentials.