Happy New Year! My first word of advice for 2008 is to not let that New Year’s hangover linger too long. We have lots of work to do and there’s no time like the New Year to rededicate ourselves to those things in life that we love and care for so much.

I am glad to share one of my professional resolutions for 2008. I have resolved to continue to do what is necessary to stay on the cutting edge of all things relevant to my practice and this great yet ever-evolving industry. This really relates to my relentless quest for self-improvement, increased knowledge and skills, and the desire to be the best at what I do. Folks, two words come to mind in describing this resolution: passion and education.

There is absolutely no substitute for either word, especially in an industry that seems to reinvent itself every couple of years. I have always taken an academic approach to my career — thoroughly studying all of the variables that impact my practice — and then making the most sound decision based on the information I have collected.

I would like to share part of a conversation I had recently with a client of mine who I have worked with for about six years. During a regular review meeting, I summarized for him all of the various accounts we help manage for him, what their rates of return have been over the past year (as well as since the inception of the accounts) and what the overall asset allocation was. This is a report that I routinely provide for my clients as it provides a timely snapshot of their entire portfolio.

I proceeded to make several recommendations to this client. Specifically, I thought we should transfer one of his annuities entirely into a new one that would be a better fit for him and perform better moving forward. There were no penalties to move the annuity and frankly it had performed well for him. His question went something like this: “Why didn’t you recommend this type of annuity six years ago? If this new annuity is so great, I could have made more money in the last six years. What were you thinking?”

My response came immediately and was certainly not premeditated, as he took me by surprise with the question. I responded: “Mr. Client, I think you’ll agree that we have had a great run together. I promised to do certain things six years ago and I think you’ll agree that I have delivered on every promise. Everything I told you back then was the truth. I fully disclosed everything and laid out a plan I thought was most suitable for you at that time. Now I have something to tell you: In the last six years, I have been on an incessant mission to better myself and my skills so as to offer the most sophisticated and timely advice to my clients. Frankly, Mr. Client, I have evolved as a financial advisor since we first met. In fact, I am a much better advisor today than I was when we first met.” There was more to it, but I think you get the idea.

Many times in life, a spontaneous response to a tough question brings out the best in you and shows your true colors. I think my response highlighted the passion I have for my business as well as the role education has played in enhancing the advice and service I provide. Instead of focusing on something negative, my client commended me for being so forthright and very much appreciated my admission that I have improved over the years. He admitted that very few advisors would have responded the way I did. And so with a fresh new year upon us, this five-minute exchange with my client helped reinforce my professional mission as well as my perpetual resolution to bring the best ideas to my clients and deliver them with the sincere zeal I wear on my sleeves.

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