Stress affects everyone. Not even the most resilient and disciplined among us are free from the impact of stress on our daily lives. Balancing the demands of work, family, friends, and community while keeping stress to a minimum can be a challenge even during the best of times. Significant life events -such as an unexpected death, divorce or illness – are major disruptors that can push your stress-level into the red. Stress, and the increased anxiety that accompanies it, can have negative impacts on your body and your mind. While stress may be unavoidable at times, how you respond to it will determine how it ultimately affects your life. Stress-related symptoms can impact your decision making, and learning to understand and manage stress properly can help you make thoughtful and prudent financial decisions during life’s tumultuous times.
Recently, I came across an article in the New York Times in which I learned some behind the scenes practices of the financial firm TIAA and I must say, I was disappointed. TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association) has long been seen by educators, medical professionals, administrators and researchers as different than many other financial institutions in their commitment to putting their clients’ interests first. Although that may have been the heritage of TIAA, it appears that their current practices might be calling that commitment into question. “According to interviews with 10 former employees, TIAA management assigned outsize sales quotas to its representatives and directed them to meet the quotas by playing up customers’ fears of not having enough money in retirement and other “pain points.” In addition to this, whistle-blowers have alleged that the company willingly placed investors into products that did not offer additional benefit, were unsuitable and deliberately charged more in fees than other products.
We are not usually ones to bad mouth other financial institutions. Consider this simply passing along a public service announcement. The statement, truth is stranger than fiction, applies here. I could have never made up the depth and breadth of the behavior for TIAA. They are just one of many larger institutions who act in a less than favorable way towards their clients for their own gain.
For years we have helped professors navigate TIAA's labyrinth of options. We never understood how certain products would always be in the portfolio of a client when it may not be in their best interest. This exposure has helped answer some of those questions. TIAA is not wholesome financial institution that was a part of their original charter.
We encourage you to read the full article and don’t forget, we have been a fiduciary will always be a fiduciary. Without a doubt, our clients interest always come first.
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My family, like many other families, is very busy; between children, work and home, there are many chores and activities that must be fulfilled every day. To conquer all these responsibilities, we divide many of them up. We trust each other to ensure that they are responsibly managing their duty. This works well because we have limited time and different skill sets. One of my responsibilities is managing the family finances.
Recently, my wife, Stephanie and I had a conversation revolving around our personal planning. It went something like this:
Stephanie: What happens if you die?
Bob: Don’t worry, everything is in order.
Stephanie: What does that mean?
Bob: We have our estate planning documents, there is more than enough insurance and everything for the business succession has been planned.
Stephanie: What do I need to know or do?
Bob: Ugh, well that is complicated.
We all experience distractions in the media, uncertainty in the markets, or pressure to buy and sell from friends, colleagues, and so-called financial gurus. All these factors can directly challenge an investor’s ability to make consistent, rational and logical investment decisions. This barrage of information coupled with inherent behavioral biases can make investing a challenge for most people. How you behave and react to the information available will play an important role in your financial success.