March 27, 2013

Your Client’s Brain: Improving Financial Decisions With ‘Brain Extenders’

Paul Greenberg uses technology to supplement the memory abilities of older clients, leading to better decision-making.

This is the eighth and final in a series of new articles by Olivia Mellan and Sherry Christie that continue the discussion on Your Client’s Brain that began with Investment Advisor’s February 2013 cover story—Double Think: Getting Past the Conflict in Your Clients’ Two Brainsand a feature article—Second Thoughts: Making Better Decisionsin the March 2013 issue of IA. 

Because planning and decision-making are susceptible to the negative effects of stress, information overload and age-related declines in memory and attention, Brandman University psychology professor Paul Greenberg believes they are primary targets for computer-assisted thinking.

Greenberg built physical brain/computer interfaces for his doctoral work. Now, as CEO of Greenberg Educational Consulting Organization in San Diego, he partners with financial advisors to help clients enhance their mind’s natural strengths in a series of seminars called Mind Tools for Finance. He explained, “We train people to create a virtual extension of their mind using visual information mapping software, following neuroscience principles of learning, memory and attention.” (Some examples of top-performing and freely available software are Freemind, http://www.mindmeister.com, and TheBrain.com.)

“To guide the creation of personal information systems, we listen very closely to clients, then teach them how to capture, diagram and organize critical factors plus all supporting material, including links to web pages and files,” continued Greenberg. “By working with information in a flexible visual format instead of relying on memory alone, it becomes easier to see context and connections among elements and to have a natural understanding of where each part of your plan fits within your overall goals.”

Clients decision-making benefits from this “brain extension” process. “Given limited resources of time and energy, electronic systems help lighten the load on our precious working memory, leaving us more capacity for clear thinking,” said Greenberg. “The energy we don’t have to spend on searching for information can be spent on working with it.” Clients are encouraged to use this “mind tool” in combination with other health and wellness practices.

 In the short term, Greenberg pointed out, this personal information system can mitigate the effects of daily distractions, contributing to overall stress reduction and time savings. In the longer term, it may help offset age-related declines in clients’ memory and attention capacity. 

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We invite you to visit the Your Client’s Brain landing page on AdvisorOne for additional archived and ongoing coverage of this important topic.

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