Don’t Be a Spaver

Managing Clutter

By Noel LaMontagne

The clutter we all accumulate throughout our lives can stifle even the most focused performers. Think of clutter as a fog that makes visibility difficult or sometimes impossible, direction misleading, and progress undiscernible. Legal issues, daily routines, scheduling conflicts, relationships, financial confusion, living arrangements…the potential list of “stuff” that can get in the way of our most efficient self is mind-numbing. Unfortunately, the things that make us less than our best can pile up quickly and in so many ways that we are unaware it is happening.

Organizing your personal and professional lives into lists, to put scope and context to what you are dealing with, can provide a roadmap toward efficiency. The front and back of our mind can be very far apart from one another, and when something is on our mind, we should immediately write it down. The opportunity to forget something decreases if we have a tangible reminder of it. When something unresolved hangs out there unremembered it will slow us down and could cause a critical misstep in what we are trying to accomplish. Habitually updating and referring to lists, especially for extremely busy people, will help show us what we have done, are dealing with currently, and have coming up in the future.

As the complexity of our lives increases, lists can be separated into categories to differentiate between work, personal, networking, health or whatever correlation is most preferred. The idea is to create a more discernable and linear path to accomplishing what matters the most to us. By separating our lists into categories, we can keep a more conscious balance in our overall lives and make sure we are spending time doing things to be successful. The more we check off each list, the further along we get and the closer we are to the next big breakthrough that awaits us.

There may be items that are difficult to fit into any of our lists because they overlap multiple aspects of our lives, tasks that seem to never get resolved, or things that continually reemerge no matter how many times we check them off. When you identify anything like this, take note, because unlike collective clutter due to a lack of awareness or overall organization, this may be specific clutter in the form of a roadblock. Earlier we likened clutter to a fog that made it difficult to see to the other side of something, well this type of clutter is the wall that you walk into while you are in the fog.

The major impediments in our lives that require substantial resources to eliminate are why the organization of clutter is so vital to our success. The identification and resolution of positive and negative milestones are what free us to be able to accomplish all our other list items. These are the big things that absorb big chunks of time and energy and create the environment for smaller things to get cast aside, delayed or forgotten. By organizing everything, these primary barriers can be identified through the fog of life and eliminated systematically to clear up everything and keep you on track to succeed.

Controlling clutter in life takes a conscious effort to identify, categorize, and manage our needs, wants and responsibilities. There will be good and bad that go with each, and we may never fully declutter everything that comes our way, but the idea is to organize our lives and be accountable to ourselves to keep moving forward toward success.

How to Evaluate Your Financial Advisor

By Noel LaMontagne

While there is no exact right answer to finding a trusted advisor out of thin air, there are several ways you can arm yourself for the process and once you get on the path, feel good knowing when you have arrived.

In summary:

  • Embrace the process of developing a business relationship with your advisor over time
  • Learn about your advisor’s motives, credentials, and expertise
  • Ask how your advisor is compensated at all levels of their business and the total fee you will pay
  • Insist on transparency of your advisor’s actions and transactions
  • Find what resources, educational materials and professional network your advisor makes available to you
  • Continually review and hold your advisor to your high standard

The process, and patience with the process, is the first part of the approach. Good things take time and they are rarely easy. Today we have become accustomed to having access to everything we want whenever we want it. While this is convenient when you are ordering products online, but when you are establishing and building trust with someone who is going to help guide you through important aspects of your life and business, be patient. It is okay if things do not seem exactly right immediately, both sides of any relationship need time to learn about one another and work through their differences while not always relying on their similarities. Over time, the understanding that you develop for one another will start to form a strong foundation for long term trust.

Evaluate and make sure that your motives are aligned with your advisor. Your advisor is there to help you help yourself. We believe the best advice is unbiased. Determine if the advice outcome affects you the same way it affects your advisor, if it leaves the advisor unaffected regardless of the outcome, or if a negative for you leads to a positive outcome for your advisor. Compensation is a perfect way to determine if advice is conflicted, especially if an advisor receives higher compensation based on which advice is given. A simple way to look at this concept is to focus on the idea of what is in it for the advisor, and if the answer is anything besides finding the maximum benefit for you, the client, there may be an issue.

This leads directly to the ability to question things and seek transparency. Unbiased advice is vitally important, but that advice also needs to be delivered in a transparent way. If questions or disagreements exist, they need to be discussed, understood and resolved in a manner that is okay with you the client. The goal of seeking and receiving good advice is to be able to use it to help you make the right decision. This does not mean you will always go along with the advice given, it just means that you understand where it is coming from, you know it is sound, and you know that it is honest and in your best interest.

The breadth of the resources used to formulate the advice should be extensive and expert. All the prior characteristics of trusted advice will not amount to much if the basis for the information you are receiving is not customized and comprehensive. Any advisor that is worth their weight will also have an extensive and trusted resource base to tap into whenever needed. No one can be expected to know everything, but when information or expertise is needed in order to offer the best advice for the client, a trusted advisor will know where to turn. All the prior characteristics of unbiased, transparent and expert credentials should apply to this next layer of networked advisors.

Once you have held an advisor to these standards over an extended period of time, they have met your expectations, and you have continued to utilize their counsel whenever you have needed it and in whatever form, you should be able to rest easy in knowing that you have found and vetted a trusted advisory relationship. A trustworthy, unbiased, transparent, extensively qualified and connected advisor will help empower any client to be their very best and most productive version of themselves.

Advice and Decision Making

By Noel LaMontagne

Here are some concepts to consider and ways to make sure you are getting sound advice and how to approach making decisions:

The resources should be unbiased, independent and/or aligned with you and your best interests.

  • Ask how someone gets compensated based on the advice they are giving or what is in it for them and often their answer will speak volumes.
  • If someone is making money from one side of a decision or advice versus another, they may be biased, and while their advice may be sound it may not be aligned with you or independent.

Someone who is aligned with you succeeds when you succeed and their only motivation for helping you and giving you advice is that they have as much to win or lose as you do from his or her advice

  • If good advice is given, the relationship will grow strong and be built on trust. If bad advice is given, the relationship will grow weak and the failure will reveal that you need to seek better advice and find a new advisor.
  • Advice that compensates the advisor regardless of whether it is good or bad, through transaction fees and commissions, means that your advisor will make money no matter if you succeed or fail, and the advice is not based on you, the client, but rather revolves around the compensation received.

Money and finance are business topics and emotion should be avoided to keep a clear focus and perspective on the matter at hand

Remove emotion from the equation. Instead, look at the facts so you can see the root of the situation.

  • Advice should help you boil things down to their simplest form, and considering the cause and effect or the best- and worst-case scenario as they pertain to a decision is a good way to eliminate emotion.
  • Decisions should only be based on the relevant facts and not on assumed variables or wild predictions.
  • If you are calm and collected while discussing or deciding something, it can be a great indicator of your emotional involvement in the process and sound decision-making.

Financial Ignorance is a Strength

By Noel LaMontagne

Although it can be perceived as an ugly word, “ignorance”, by definition, is a lack of knowledge and information. Ignorance can be bliss, as the saying goes, but it can also be dangerous. When you talk specifically about financial ignorance, it most certainly is ugly and absolutely dangerous.

So, let’s turn this around a little bit and use ignorance as a strength as it pertains to your financial world. Knowing what you do not know about the financial world is one of the best weapons athletes and entertainers can have in navigating what can be one of the most intimidating aspects of your overall personal and professional wellbeing. Performers of all types are supremely confident in their craft and comfortable as the masters of their domain. After all, who else can do what you all can do without even a second thought?

Well, just because you might know it all in the arena or on the stage, it does not mean that you must know it all everywhere else. The personal perception that you always must know and be in control of everything can be intimidating. Our pride and egos as individuals do not want us to be perceived in a certain way if we do not know something or must ask a question to understand or get clarity. Think about it like asking for direction or coaching because you are not getting something right after trying to hit your mark repeatedly. If you have an awareness about where you are lacking, you know exactly what you need to ask questions about to learn and understand.

This is the same in the financial realm. Being open and honest with ignorance makes it easier to go to the right place to get the advice you need, and it empowers you to become a smart and more confident investor.

See how quickly a perceived weakness can be turned into a strength, so long as you are honest with yourself and your trusted advisor as to where you may need some help? There is nothing wrong with ignorance, it really can be bliss by helping you find the help and get the answers you need.

Why is Culture Important?

NCAA is Changing the Game

The NCAA has agreed to let student-athletes receive money for endorsements – but is this a touchdown celebration or a costly fumble?

By Leo Kelly, Founder/CEO and Noel LaMontagne, Director, Verdence Capital Advisors

Less than a month after California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law the Fair Pay to Play Act, the NCAA switched course and decided that it will allow student-athletes to receive compensation for their likeness, name, and image, signaling a major departure from its previous stance. Amateurism has long been a core tenet of the NCAA’s identity and bylaws, but in recent years, it has been challenged by some who feel the NCAA is taking advantage of these young players as schools make millions off of athletes who do not see a penny of that money.

When it comes to the big question – should student-athletes be compensated? – the simple answer appears to be yes. But the question that follows is far more complicated – what does this compensation look like?


Where’s the Playbook? (or A Game Without a Game Plan)

California may have forced the NCAA’s hand, but now there’s the issue of figuring out what all of this means for the athletes and schools, and the unintended consequences that may result. The NCAA made this announcement without defining what, specifically, this compensation would mean in practice.  Nearly all of the details have yet to be worked out, with the NCAA leaving each division to come up with updates to their own rules by January 2021.

It’s hard to know yet exactly what this will look like for athletes, but the divisions within the NCAA will need to keep in mind the differences between higher revenue and lower revenue sports, the impact on Title IX, power schools versus mid-majors, and more. The dynamics of who gets money and the effect that has on recruiting could lead to further bifurcation of schools that are going after top talent. And, athletes need to make sure they’re not unduly influenced by following the money; the compensation should be an added benefit, rather than a distraction. The goal should still be to get a great education and to play the sport to the best of the athlete’s ability. And the term “compensation” itself needs to be clearly defined. Does this mean the athlete receives cash upfront? Or would it be put into a separate account – like a pension plan – to benefit the player later in life?

There are a lot of nuances to consider. Professional athletes already have specific financial needs that arise from things like longer retirements and uncertain career timelines. One of the greatest challenges in this industry is that these athletes are young and busy and don’t have as much financial expertise as others who’ve been able to learn over time. And now, this gets even more complicated as the professional athletes get younger and need help figuring out how to manage their finances at a young age.


Common Financial Fumbles  

Once additional money—beyond scholarships, room and board, meals, rent stipend, etc.—is added into the mix, new complexities will surface. In our years of advising professional athletes, we’ve found two common mistakes that overshadow all others.

First, athletes don’t always have a clear understanding of their relationship with their financial advisor. The bar shouldn’t be “don’t get your money stolen.” Because these athletes are young and often lack the financial understanding that comes with building up wealth over a much longer period, they don’t always know what to look for when it comes to a financial advisor. Rather than merely looking for someone who won’t take advantage of them, they should make sure they have a deep understanding of their advisor’s experience, particularly when it comes to their ability to manage large sums of money. If an advisor is used to managing $300,000 portfolios and they suddenly have a client with $20,000,000, they may be inclined to work with what they know – they’re likely to allocate assets the same way they would for a much smaller portfolio, which may not be in the athlete’s best interest. It’s also crucial to understand how the advisor makes money. While compensating collegiate-level athletes may be new, compensation for financial professionals has been long established. Simply asking an advisor, “How are you compensated?” can reveal most of what an athlete needs to know. If the advisor answers with anything other than “fee only,” we think the athlete should keep searching.

The second major mistake is a lack of due diligence when it comes to private investments. Given their social status and entrepreneurial spirit, professional athletes are frequently presented with lots of private investment opportunities, from family members, teammates, etc. Given their lack of experience, however, in evaluating these kinds of opportunities, athletes aren’t always properly equipped to determine which deals will end up paying off down the road. At Verdence, we might evaluate 100 different companies before finding one that we believe is worth investing in. That’s the kind of due diligence we want our athletes to use as well – ensuring that their money will last despite a short earning period.


Find Your Team

Knowing the primary challenges these athletes face, the most valuable advice we can offer is this – spend a lot of time on the front end understanding who is giving you advice. Just like these athletes spent time figuring out which teams and coaches would be the best fit for their athletic careers, they should also put in the work to determine the ideal fit when it comes to who is coaching them financially. This relationship is key to getting the most out of their money, something that will continue to become more important as younger athletes start earning money before they’ve learned what to do with their finances.

We encourage our athlete clients to think like business owners. And that’s how we treat them. Our practice has a clear focus on educating athletes, empowering them to make the best decisions, and offering unconflicted solutions for how to grow their wealth.

If you’re going to use a financial advisor, it’s crucial to ensure you have complete confidence in whomever you’re entrusting with your finances. And, if you choose to forgo the financial advisory path, you’ll have to put in the time upfront yourself when it comes to researching investments and where to put your money. Of course, we’re biased, but we think that rather than going it alone, it’s better to be part of a winning team. Finding the right team is especially important for younger athletes who will now be exposed even earlier to both the financial benefits and challenges of being compensated for their athletic ability.

You made it first. Now make it last.