The perfection complex

In the May issue of NY Magazine, there is an article which asks “Are You Suffering from Perfection Anxiety?” , which quotes an article by AA Gill in a recent Vanity Fair (I’d provide a link, but it doesn’t come up easily – too much traffic?). Though I assume the article is more than a bit tongue-in-cheek, it got me thinking about “comparanomics”(definition: having what someone ELSE has be the foundation for what YOU spend your time – and money – pursuing). As one art expert in the article points out: the return on a $60M piece of art is likely to be…below $60M – but doesn’t that assume it’s measured strictly in terms of $? What if the return was measured in impact: say the purchasers decided that the coast of installing complex security systems (or hire a manager or dedicated security person to watch over the painting) in their new LA home was more than they needed to pay – especially since they only intended to spend a month or so here and there in LA. So they decided to leave it in the museum where it resides – on the condition that they could close down the museum a few times a year for a select gathering of their closest friends and family – to get together, socialize and celebrate their great taste in art. So now, they have a beautiful painting, they have one less thing to worry about protecting, they will gain extra benefit (or at least studies show they have the potential to) and happiness by DOING something with the art instead of just HAVING it, and the museum will still have people flocking to see the art (in fact, attendance may rise because of the publicity). So: return = $ cost of art + impact? As they say in the MasterCard ad: “priceless”. How would that affect the perfection complex, I wonder?

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I’m just asking…

On Friday’s show with Helaine Olen, one of the things we talked about was fiduciary duty.  What is the fiduciary duty of a financial advisor? “To consistently act in the best interest of clients.” And one of the things you get to sort out for yourself when you hire an advisor is how much you are willing to pay for his or her advice – the same way you do if you are hiring any professional.  The difference in the financial world is that you pay for that advice in different ways: sometimes by paying a percentage of the assets the professional manages, sometimes by paying commissions on products the professional buys in your account.  So you can go price shopping for an advisor just the way you do for a car, if price matters most to you.  What I think about when I think about a financial advisor goes beyond money: do I understand what s/he is talking about? Is s/he listening to the answers to questions asked – or do I feel like I do when I get on the customer service line for my computer: the person on the other end is reading from a script and just knows they have to solve the problem and get off the line to reach their quota? Do I know others who have had experience with this advisor? Can s/he give me references? Are they a fiduciary? How do they get paid? How long has their longest client been with them?

We live in a consumer society and we’re being asked to make more decisions that may be out of our area of both comfort and expertise.  BUT we also live in a world that has more ways to find information and ask questions than we’ve ever had.  So go ahead, ask the questions – and keep coming back with the answers you get to join the conversation.  I agree with Helaine – we need to keep talking about our money so we can keep it, grow it and use it.