Chapter 2: Becoming a financial virtuoso
If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music.
I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. Albert Einstein
I have always been intrigued by the relationship between music and math. It’s well known that Albert Einstein loved playing his violin. Musical structures are mathematical in nature. Music theory is numeric in nature and its vocabulary can be directly translated to the language of math.
I have been a professional financial advisor & financial planner for the last 15 years. Long before I entered the profession, I was a music educator and music technology consultant. While working as a music technology consultant, my most famous clients were Emmy & Tony award winner, singer, and songwriter Barry Manilow and Doris Duke (the heiress to the Reynolds tobacco fortune whose family helped fund Duke University).
I suppose Barry and Doris hired me for the same reason that my clients hire me today: They liked me, trusted me, and thought I was competent.
I bring the same passion I have for music to my financial profession. I have completed the course work for a Financial Planning Certificate, and I am a Certified Wealth Strategist®. I’m a prolific writer, and over the years I have conducted hundreds of financial education talks at NY colleges and cultural institutions. I’m also creator of Sound Financial Decisions powered by MoneyCapsules® a simple visual process designed to help our clients organize and understand all aspects of their financial life, necessary to make values-based financial decisions.
Still I have not abandoned my passion for creating music. I practice every day, I regularly lead the music service at my house of worship, play weekly at a jazz workshop and I have entertained patients at Sloan Kettering as a volunteer with Musicians on Call.
While leading a retirement education class at the 92nd St. Y, where I used the guitar to perform music parody, I came to a realization: My two personae, Musician and Financial advisor, weren’t terribly different after all.
The habits that I have developed over the years as a guitarist have helped me enormously as a financial advisor, especially when interacting with my clients. Having the discerning ear of a musician has allowed me to hear each client’s unique voice, imperative when implementing a financial plan. Moreover, I have discovered that using the guitar to explain financial concepts is a great way to make talking about money less scary and easier to digest.
As a financial advisor who also plays music, there are 7 parallels I have found between mastering the guitar and becoming a financial virtuoso.
“To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.”
Ludwig von Beethoven
Before the student of guitar plays the instrument, he must learn to listen to his own voice, the source of his passion, necessary to bring inner harmony to his music.
Before the student of financial harmony can make sound money decisions, she must learn to listen to her personal values the source of her passion, necessary to bring inner harmony to her financial life.
2-Rhythm/ Cash Flow
It don’t mean a thing if it aint got that swing.
If the rhythmic flow stops, the guitarist’s beat is dead.
If cash flow stops, the seeker of financial harmony becomes a dead beat.
To master the rhythm of music, the student of guitar must learn to keep his right strumming hand in play, responsible for creating a steady rhythmic flow, even when the left hand is not quite developed.
To master the rhythm of cash flow, the student must learn to balance income with expenses, necessary for creating a steady cash flow, even when emotions overwhelm reason.
My own thing is in my head. I hear sounds and if I don’t get them together nobody else will.
For the student of guitar there are three factors which go into performance; the music you select, the level of your technical skills, and most important, the reason why you perform. You will underperform if any one of the three is lacking.
For the student of financial harmony there are three factors which go into investment performance. The asset managers which are selected, the quality of their technical skills, and most important, understanding why you invest, driven by the purpose of your money. You will under-perform if any one of the three are lacking, but when all three components are working in unison, the return will be gratifying, just like the roar of the applause the guitarist receives when he’s successfully connect with his audience.
It takes a lot of devotion and work, or maybe I should say play, because if you love it,
that’s what it amounts to. I haven’t found any shortcuts, and I’ve been looking for a long time.
Practice can be painful, but necessary to improve guitar performance skills. Striking the right balance between practice and performance is key.
Tax can be painful, but necessary to pay for government services. Striking the right balance between sharing wealth with our family, friends and Uncle Sam is key.
Unexpected things happen when the guitarist performs.
Strings break, guitar goes out of tune, chords are forgotten. Stuff happens. Be prepared.
There are risks inherent in the life of the student of guitar which can negatively impact the on stage performance. Know the risks that you perceive, and either self-manage it or transfer the risk to someone else.
There are risks inherent in life of the student of financial harmony, which can negatively impact your financial life. Know the risks that you perceive, and either self-manage them or transfer it to an insurance company.
A parent of a guitar student once asked me if it would take a long time for her daughter to play the guitar.
I said it wouldn’t take a long time, but it would take its own time.
As the student of guitar learns to master his instrument, he must exercise control and patience over the tempo by first playing the song slowly, then increasing the tempo as his muscle memory builds. The patient guitarist is eventually rewarded.
When it comes to investing, the student of financial harmony must also exercise control and patience over her emotions and continue to stay in the market. It’s not about timing the market, but time in the market—the patient investor is eventually rewarded.
Most of us go to our grave with our music still inside of us.
We are meant to serve something greater than ourselves, in that alone consists
our happiness and our well-being on earth and beyond the earth-
The student of music must respond to two questions. What can I give? What was I meant to give?
The student of financial harmony must respond to two questions- What can I give? What was I meant to give? Answering these questions is an important first step in becoming a financial virtuoso.