No. How Can I Help You?

Are customers always right?   Employees who work in the retail sector are trained to say “yes” to client requests and that they’re always right.  They sell the client what they want, not what they need. It’s hard to find a salesperson who says “no” to client requests.

If I order a triple bacon cheeseburger with guacamole, chili-cheese fries, and a chocolate shake the clerk is going to take my order, deliver my food, and move on to the next customer.  He doesn’t question my order or the ramifications it will have on my health.

My role as an advisor, however, is to recommend what clients need, not what they want. This means I regularly say “no” to client requests especially when it’s not in their best interest.  My goal is to make sure they follow their financial plan.  I want to say “yes”; I want to be the good guy but not at the expense of their financial wellbeing.

In December of 1999 I met with a client who wanted to know why he didn’t have a larger exposure to high-flying technology and internet stocks.  He was questioning his allocation to international, real-estate and bond investments.  He wanted to sell these holdings to buy NASDAQ traded stocks.  I told him “no” because of their rich valuations and that they didn’t fit into his long-range plans.  He didn’t like my answer, so he asked the branch manager to transfer his account to another broker.  A few months later the NASDAQ peaked and proceeded to fall 70%.

Today, investors are once again questioning the wisdom of diversification as bonds, real-estate investment trusts and value stocks underperform growth stocks like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google (Alphabet).  Investors are ready to abandon their asset allocation models to chase returns. Of course, the path of least resistance would be for me to cave into these requests and give them what they want, but is this prudent? Let’s look at a few examples.

  1. From October of 1989 to December of 2016 stocks averaged 9.38% per year. If an investor missed the 25 best days during this stretch his returned dropped to 3.98%.[1]
  2. In 2008 the S&P 500 fell 37% and long-term government bonds rose 25.9%.[2]
  3. From 1994 to 2016 stocks generated an average annual return of 7.3%. If an investor didn’t own the top 25% of performers each year, he lost an average of 5.2% per year.[3]
  4. In 2015, Denmark was the best performing stock market in the world and Canada was the worst. A year later they switched places.  Canada was first; Denmark was last.[4]
  5. International stocks returned a paltry 1.6% in 2016 but gained 25% in 2017.[5]
  6. In Barron’s 2017 Roundtable one prediction called for interest rates to rise and stocks to fall.[6] What happened?  Rates, stocks soared.

It would be nice to own investments that only went up, but this isn’t possible.  Markets rise and fall. Sectors move in and out of favor.  After all, if all your investments went up at the same time you wouldn’t be diversified!

A wise strategy is to follow your financial plan, diversify your investments and rebalance them annually.

“Never ask a barber if you need a haircut.” ~ Warren Buffett

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. ~ Matthew 24:36

Bill Parrott is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management an independent, fee-only, fiduciary financial planning and investment management firm in Austin, TX.  For more information please visit


Note:  Past performance is not a guarantee of future returns.  Your returns may differ than those posted in this blog and investments aren’t guaranteed.  Photo credit = lisafx



[1] DFA –  Investor Discipline – Reacting Can Hurt Performance

[2] 2016 – Dimensional Fund Advisors Matrix Book

[3] DFA –  Diversification May Prevent You from Missing Opportunity

[4] 2016-Dimensional Fund Advisors Matrix Book

[5], Ben Carlson, 1/14/2018

[6], Laurin R. Rublin, 1/14/17.

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