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It’s Fine if Investing Bores You. Some Money Pros Feel the Same Way.


For a certain type of money professional, there is a particular question that is decidedly unwelcome, and it tends to come up in a variety of social settings: Got any hot investment tips?

No. The answer is always no.

To the financial advisers who feel this way and those in similar lines of work, investing is necessary, but it may not be particularly interesting and it doesn’t spark a whole lot of joy.

These professionals know how to invest, and they care about getting it right. But to them — and perhaps to you, too — investments are simply a tool that helps people achieve their most meaningful goals. And helping people define those goals and then achieve them is what makes the job satisfying.

There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, it may be the healthiest way to think about money management, whether you manage your own finances or are trying to find someone to work with who feels the same way.

Making goals — and the ongoing, deeply meaningful conversations required to set and refine them — a higher priority than detailed attention to the stock market may seem reasonable and even obvious. The financial services industry, however, struggles with it.

For decades, stockbrokers made more money when you traded stocks, which encouraged more trades and investment strategizing. Many financial planners still base their fees on the assets they manage for you, which tends to center too many conversations on how (and how aggressively) they invest those assets.

So it takes real nerve for a financial professional to deflect conversations about investing or admit that the markets are not scintillating.

“It feels risky to say that in the newspaper, for sure,” said Danika Waddell, a financial planner in Seattle who first said it out loud in response to a prompt from Joy Lere, a psychologist and executive coach. She and Dr. Lere were on a walk back from dinner at a conference when Dr. Lere asked her about the thing she liked least about her job and what drained the most energy.

Fortitude is also necessary for individuals trying to make their financial way in the world. You have to block out the noise about how everyone is supposedly making a fortune in Nvidia or whatever the hot stock or fund is.

But how do you do this?

“I think investing should be boring,” said Leighann Miko, a financial planner with offices in Oregon and California. “We don’t want to place too much emphasis on it.”

The big idea here is that you take what various markets — stocks, bonds, real estate — will give you. That means you buy mutual funds or exchange-traded funds that own every security in a particular segment. So a fund that tracks the S&P 500 stock market index owns all 500 of those stocks.

If you can handle more risk, you own more of the stock funds and keep less money in, say, cash. But you don’t bet too much on a handful of individual companies or one segment of a market, because that can lower your net worth quickly if you guess wrong. And it is a guess.

The virtues in this approach are many. These market-tracking funds have low fees, and the overall portfolio is usually less volatile than individual stocks. Over the long term, this approach is likely to give you better returns.

Buying dull, market-tracking index funds has come to be known as passive investing. There’s a logic to this labeling, given that you’re generally swearing off jumping in and out of markets when things get messy. Instead, you stay the course, with, say, 80 percent of your retirement savings in stocks for the first 25 years of your career.

The beauty of this is that it leaves time for more pointed questions for yourself or from an adviser. What sort of living situation would make you happier? What will aging relatives need from you, and how much do you have to give? How do you best help your grandchildren? But asking and answering these questions is the opposite of passive.

“We’re insuring that we are actively planning for things that are important when people express their deepest and most important desires in life,” Ms. Miko said. “If you don’t know what money’s purpose is, how can you come up with an investing strategy for it?”

Mike Zung, a financial planner in Lee’s Summit, Mo., has little to say about things like interest rate projections to the people he meets in social settings. “I’d rather hear about their first money memories and how partners do money together,” he said.

That’s a bit of an offbeat ask of a stranger, but it’s not out of bounds for a friend. A good friend to someone who does not have access to professional money assistance may want to probe — and try to help — when sensing the right conversational opening.

“I want to know what their present and future ideal life looks like and make sure that their financial picture is supporting that,” said Ms. Waddell, who recently talked to a client who thinks that working as a therapist may have been a better career choice.

Is a job switch too late for someone in his or her 40s? Maybe not. And other big life pivots?

“There will be one or two things that are pretty critical,” Ms. Waddell said. “And for most people, those are not going to be investing.”



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