From the January 2008 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

New Year's Delusions

Here we go again... another brand new year. Along with a new number to forget to write on our checks, there are many positive things a new year can bring to all of us. For starters, it means a new beginning. And, in addition to another opportunity to put all the horrible things that happened in the previous year behind us, the new year gives us the chance to hope. To hope that this year won't be any worse than the last one.

Of course, there's one item in this yearly custom that almost certainly sets us up for failure. I'm talking about the dreaded New Year's Resolution. There's something about a new year that makes us all do crazy things. How is it that, on December 31, we can take a Tony Soprano-like blood oath with ourselves and then completely violate that oath the following weekend (i.e., "I'll never drink again . . . burp!")?

Those in the financial industry are not immune to this phenomenon. Advisors all across the country can be found making the same preposterous New Year's Resolutions over and over again. In fact, this is such a rampant occurrence that the Federal Securities & Resolutions (FS&R) agency has categorized some of these resolutions as delusional and not acts of free will.

So, how do you know if you are infected with this bug? It's simple. Read below from the government's own list of the financial advisor resolutions most likely to be caused by a serious mental illness. This isn't to say you can't sincerely make such resolutions. But if, at any time, you hear any of these voices in your head, it could mean you have a problem.

As a public service to my readers, here are some government-recognized resolutions (R) and their voice-in-the-head (VIH) responses that may signal trouble:

R: "This year, I resolve to convert my practice over to a fee-based model."

VIH: "Unless it looks like I might make less money or it's really hard."

R: "This year, I resolve to fire my three most annoying clients."

VIH: "Unless it looks like I might make less money or I chicken out."

R: "This year, I resolve to add more insurance business to my practice."

VIH: "The first punk that calls me an insurance agent gets one in the chops."

R: "This year, I resolve to come back to work at least one evening a week to make outbound cold calls."

VIH: "Unless it's too cold or something good is on HBO."

R: "This year, I resolve to make sure I talk to every one of my clients at least once a quarter."

VIH: "Except for those 273 clients I haven't spoken to or seen since they first opened their account."

R: "This year, I resolve to reduce my client's stock positions to a more manageable number, so I can closely monitor all of my client's holdings."

VIH: "Is it a put or a call where I'm betting the stock will fall?"

R: "This year, I resolve to send a very nice gift to anyone who refers a new client to me."

VIH: "Unless I'm having a bad month."

R: "This year, I resolve to have lunch at least once a week with a lawyer or a CPA."

VIH: "Just once I'd like to see one of those tightwad bastards reach for the check!"

R: "This year, I resolve to work my butt off to qualify for the Grand Awards trip to Hawaii."

VIH: "I bet that Amish place can't be more than five hours away."

If you recognize any of the above resolutions/responses as yours, the FS&R Agency has rendered them invalid. The pressure is off. The bad news is, you are, unfortunately, seriously delusional. The good news is, your local physician has some terrific hallucinogenic solutions available to help you.

Here's to a safe, happy, and prosperous new year. I hope it isn't any worse than the last one.

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Once a mildly amusing comedian and a recruiter for a top independent broker-dealer, Bill Miller now works as an industry wholesaler; reach him at writingbill@mac.com.

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