Author Topic: Heretical Thoughts  (Read 5558 times)

chalime

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Heretical Thoughts
« on: April 09, 2015, 09:22:42 PM »
I'm pretty lucky in the grand scheme of things, but I'm going to share some pretty major issues that I'm dealing with (lots of navel-gazing ahead). Let's get to it.

1. I work at a wealth management firm, but I would never actually recommend for anyone to put their money with us.

It's not like we're straight-up stealing from these people, a lot of them are probably better off working with us than on their own, but still, it bothers me that I could take five minutes to set them up at Vanguard/one of the robo's and they'd be better off than engaging with us. To me, investment management should be a commodity service, at least for the vast majority of people. No one should be paying the 1% fee to have their assets managed, yet we continue to get new clients (even a couple people that have the job title of "portfolio manager", seriously). This industry is going to change with time, but RIGHT NOW the way it works is kind of eating me up. I spend 60+ hours a week at this place, and for what?

We play up the "planning" angle, and there probably is something to having a person to talk to about your finances, but I really cannot get past the cost. I know not everyone thinks like me, but there is just no way I would ever agree to these terms- that's a problem.

I don't even know why I care because most of our clients have plenty of money, so the fee really doesn't effect their lives in any way- if they want to pay it, who am I to tell them not to. I guess the whole thing just seems wasteful, and I'd rather not be a part of it.

I'm not quitting tomorrow because I'm young, new, and lack credibility/network/clear plan to fall back on, but I do know it is going to happen eventually.

Ok, next topic.

2. One of the most important things to me is my relationships with other people, yet I have no one that I'd feel comfortable sharing the contents of this message with.

It starts with religion- using the word heretic in the subject line wasn't an accident. I'm not looking to start a debate/flame-war, but I'm of the viewpoint that religion is bunk. The problem is that my family disagrees. The even bigger problem is that they don't know that I don't believe, and I don't ever want to tell them. I should tell them, but I don't want to.... I'm pretty much in the religion closet, and I'm not sure how I'm going to navigate out, if ever.

This shouldn't be as big of a deal as I'm making it, but it just is! It might not come up directly in conversation all that much, but when people's number one thing in their life (like it is with my family) is blindly believing/following some deity, I cannot relate to them on that level. Yeah, I can just talk about something else, but I cannot ignore this very important question/topic.

I know there are like 7 billion people on this planet, and my family is only 6 of them, so the answer is probably just to get out more, meet different people. I'll focus on doing that.

We're making progress, LAST TOPIC!

3. What are my priorities (how do I spend my time and my money)?

I'm running out of juice so I'll keep this quick. Like most people here, I save money now, so I have more options/freedom in the future. 

The bigger question I think about is what does that future look like. More specifically, how much to focus on myself and doing things I enjoy vs. trying to actually help people- trying to "make the world a better place."

This topic shouldn't be buried at the end of this post, but has anyone ever heard of http://www.effectivealtruism.org/? The short version is that they apply reason and evidence to try and make the biggest difference that they can. I'm not going to get into it in any depth, but to me, their message resonates. I admire the people who are truly sacrificing because they want to help.

As for me, I know this is the admirable way to go, but I'm still working on actually getting to the point where I take action. I think I care about my pile of money too much...

I'll end it there- this has been long enough. Kind of therapeutic for me. Thanks for reading.

Dee18

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2015, 10:04:05 PM »
You might find some like minded individuals, and some not so like minded who welcome different points of view, at your local Unitarian church.

bacchi

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2015, 10:41:26 PM »
This topic shouldn't be buried at the end of this post, but has anyone ever heard of http://www.effectivealtruism.org/? The short version is that they apply reason and evidence to try and make the biggest difference that they can. I'm not going to get into it in any depth, but to me, their message resonates. I admire the people who are truly sacrificing because they want to help.

There's an upcoming course on effective altruism at Coursera.

okits

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2015, 10:58:58 PM »
I'm a DIYer, but I don't think 1% for wealth management is bad if you have no interest in doing the work yourself.

Not everyone has the interest or aptitude for investment research and management or tax and estate planning.  Not everyone has the discipline and level-headedness to stick to a plan and not panic or get swept away with euphoria (buy high, sell low). 

Some people want to pay for the reassuring experience of going to an office, having someone hold their hand, summarize a lot of information, and take responsibility for making a plan that "everything will be all right."

You may even have clients who pay the 1% because they can earn more than that working their regular job with the time they would have spent DIY.

I've thought about switching to a career in finance and investments, but the easiest entry point is to sell mutual funds that charge MERs of 2-3% (or more).  Nope.  Ethically, I can't do that. If I do switch at some point I will need to find an acceptable entry-level job to the industry.

Taran Wanderer

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2015, 11:35:29 PM »
You're not the only one thinking these thoughts. I've thought about the Unitarian church option.  Unfortunately we don't have one here. Sounds like you need to reach out into some different community segments and connect with some like-minded folks on the charitable front.

Regarding your concerns about taking 1%, realize that people wouldn't be coming to you unless they valued the service and the relationship.  So, provide the best service and best relationship that you can. Provide value. Make people feel good. Make yourself feel good about the value you provide. Not all people are mustachian, and not all people want the least cost option. That's okay. If you can help them build their wealth, give them a great experience, earn some money for yourself, and use some of that money to help others who are less fortunate, is that really a bad combination of things?

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2015, 04:01:12 AM »
1.  How much return are they getting for that 1% fee?  Is that on top of mutual fund management fees?  If not, 1% total isn't all that bad for active portfolio management, if it's good management.  If the returns are beating the benchmark after the 1% fee, no problem.  Otherwise, yeah, they're better of going straight to a retail index fund.  If this bothers you, start looking for a job elsewhere.

2.  Check out https://richarddawkins.net/.  An internet community is not the same as talking to like minded people face to face, but it can help you realize there are plenty of other people out there who don't buy into religious BS.

moelac

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2015, 07:37:18 AM »
Thanks for posting. I struggle with the same issues in that I don't feel like I can be honest at work because I don't believe in the mission and I have differing political views than my family and don't feel like I can share them. It's taxing. Not being honest about what you believe is hard on a person.

I don't have any magical fixes to share but recently I've been trying to engage in activities that I enjoy and support that are not directly connected with my activism work. Honestly, this has brought joy back into my life. I know that sounds corny but life sucks without joy.  It's activities as simple as art projects and volunteering with a different group - and being able to see the impact of my efforts right away.

Your situation sounds similar so maybe try to find some stuff to engage in that has nothing to do with finances or atheism. Just a thought!


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chalime

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2015, 09:15:38 PM »
Thanks for the feedback guys.

A couple things regarding the wealth management business and our firm in particular-

I think we're pretty good in following best practices- doing things like rebalancing, tax-loss harvesting, asset location (tax inefficient assets in qualified accounts), always being cognizant of tax implications when trading, paying for trading costs ourselves, and the basics of being diversified, keeping the cost of funds low, and sticking to the plan. My bosses definitely have a background that isn't typical for the industry. One managed billions on the institutional side before doing this, has a CFA (very smart), and the other is an extremely successful insurance guy that has been moving up to this (yes, we get paid more to sell life insurance). They are very good at what they do (which is bringing in new business, collecting assets). That's all well and good, BUT let me tell you a quick story. My third week on the job, we charged a client 1.6% on a $160k account to be put in the standard, indexed portfolio that we don't even manage (home office does all trading). Granted that is a smaller account (for our business) but for that privilege the client is paying $2,560/year- we simply processed the paperwork and start collecting. The kicker is this was a former coworker and supposed "friend" of my boss's. I just don't see a way to justify that.

While I'm airing my grievances, here are a couple more: 1- Yeah, you have to know your stuff, but still, too much of this business seems to boil down to flattery/charisma/fancy clothes(?)/X intangible besides the deal making sense for the client. 2- I've modeled people's retirement plans who have spending "needs" of $20k/month for the next thirty years. I'm glad that they have been successful, but it's just hard for me to relate to that.

Let's move on.

moelac- definitely appreciate your message. You're line - 
Quote
It's taxing. Not being honest about what you believe is hard on a person.
definitely hits home for me. Something that needs to change.

Biggest issue for me right now is how little time I have. Between work and studying for tests (CPA, series 7, 63) there's not much room for the fun stuff. For me that's bike rides, board games, and reading.... it's a work in progress, but like I said in my first message, in all reality, I'm actually pretty lucky. These things kind of suck and I'm highlighting them here, but there's a lot of good stuff too that I'm not talking about.

Grid

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2015, 10:47:01 PM »
chalime, what would be the consequences of being honest to your family about your lack of belief?  Would they disown you?  Think less of you?

I lost my religion in college, and I only had to deal with a little backlash.  I have a parent who's afraid I'm going to burn in hell forever and believes I'm a lost soul.  I also have a sibling that has psychologically bullied me for it. (It's a weird phrase.  I just made it up.  Just roll with it.)  Specifically I would periodically be told the reason why I was "sad" was because I didn't have a god to guide me.  Truth was, I wasn't sad.  It wasn't until I could firmly assert my happiness that my sibling admitted they were telling me these things because I wasn't a believer, and that seemed like a good way to get me to switch back.  How shitty is that?

I'm guessing your backlash will be worse.  I learn daily that judgment is a pretty shitty thing.  If your family will judge you for your beliefs, consider strongly how much that affects how happy you are and take steps to improve the situation.  Maybe that means you should stay closeted and parrot some prayers when told to do so.  *Shrug*

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #9 on: April 11, 2015, 04:32:00 AM »
My third week on the job, we charged a client 1.6% on a $160k account to be put in the standard, indexed portfolio that we don't even manage (home office does all trading). Granted that is a smaller account (for our business) but for that privilege the client is paying $2,560/year- we simply processed the paperwork and start collecting. The kicker is this was a former coworker and supposed "friend" of my boss's. I just don't see a way to justify that.

Unfortunately that sort of pricing practice is common in many businesses, not just the financial services industry.  It's called "charging what the market will bear."  A number of years ago, I moved across town and had to move my land line phone service to the new house.  Same phone company, same phone number, lines and equipment were already in place.  No one from the phone company had to come out to do anything, and they charged me $30 for establishing new service.  When I called to complain, I asked what was involved in switching my service to the new house.  After much mumbling and stuttering, I managed to get the customer service rep to admit that all they had to do was type a few keystrokes into the computer.  When I asked why they charged me $30 for that "service," more mumbling and stuttering followed, but it basically boiled down to "because we can."

That story may be a little off topic, but I relate it to illustrate the fact that your bosses probably aren't any more evil than most other business people.  As long as their customers aren't calling them on it, they will continue to charge as much as they can get away with charging.

Monkey Uncle

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2015, 04:39:54 AM »
chalime, what would be the consequences of being honest to your family about your lack of belief?  Would they disown you?  Think less of you?

I lost my religion in college, and I only had to deal with a little backlash.  I have a parent who's afraid I'm going to burn in hell forever and believes I'm a lost soul.  I also have a sibling that has psychologically bullied me for it. (It's a weird phrase.  I just made it up.  Just roll with it.)  Specifically I would periodically be told the reason why I was "sad" was because I didn't have a god to guide me.  Truth was, I wasn't sad.  It wasn't until I could firmly assert my happiness that my sibling admitted they were telling me these things because I wasn't a believer, and that seemed like a good way to get me to switch back.  How shitty is that?

I'm guessing your backlash will be worse.  I learn daily that judgment is a pretty shitty thing.  If your family will judge you for your beliefs, consider strongly how much that affects how happy you are and take steps to improve the situation.  Maybe that means you should stay closeted and parrot some prayers when told to do so.  *Shrug*

I've handled the family situation by simply not talking about it.  No point in having an argument about something on which we are never going to agree.  I haven't been to church in 25 years, and my wife and I never had our now-adult son baptized.  When we visit my parents for a weekend, we stay home on Sunday mornings and work on dinner while they go to church.  It's pretty obvious to them that we aren't the least bit religious.  I don't feel a need to make any proclamations about it, and they seem content to let it lie.  We get along great and have many other areas of agreement that we can talk about.

Catomi

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #11 on: April 11, 2015, 06:47:04 AM »

I've handled the family situation by simply not talking about it.  No point in having an argument about something on which we are never going to agree.  I haven't been to church in 25 years, and my wife and I never had our now-adult son baptized.  When we visit my parents for a weekend, we stay home on Sunday mornings and work on dinner while they go to church.  It's pretty obvious to them that we aren't the least bit religious.  I don't feel a need to make any proclamations about it, and they seem content to let it lie.  We get along great and have many other areas of agreement that we can talk about.

Same here, with the exceptions that we had to push back some when my husband (athiest) and I (agnostic) got married, and some re: not raising our children religiously. We feel it's very important to be honest regarding what we do/don't believe, but that does not mean it needs to be a source of contention. I think my ILs pray for us daily, but as long as they don't bring it up I don't care.

I have to admit, I'm curious how much time you spend with your family. Losing my religion was a much bigger deal in high school/college when my life still felt very entwined with my parents. That was ::cough harrumph:: years ago, I have lived for extended periods of time away from my family, and have separated my life from theirs. This makes theological differences much easier to bear (it helps that I am sometimes willing to attend church/sing songs when I am visiting - I just skip the prayers). If this is something that you have to deal with on a weekly or more-than-once-a-month basis, I would suggest spending less time with them. If they are aggressively bringing it up, learn to change the topic ("oh, that's interesting, I'll think about it. Bean dip?").

mozar

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2015, 10:44:14 AM »
I'm always sad to see how much time is wasted on religion. Imagine if you didn't have to worry about what your family thinks, you would have more mental energy to knock out those tests and get back to what you enjoy.
So about that "friend" who set up an account with your company. This is going to sound weird but wealthy people enjoy giving each other money. It's a whole different mindset. The friend was thinking that they had this 160k sitting around (in their pocket probably) and it needs to go somewhere, so I'll give my friend 2,500 to manage it. Win win.

chalime

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2015, 07:11:11 PM »
Quote
I have to admit, I'm curious how much time you spend with your family. Losing my religion was a much bigger deal in high school/college when my life still felt very entwined with my parents.

I just graduated college a couple of months ago, and while I'm living on my own now, my parents are only an hour away. I'm usually back home at least once a month to see them and the rest of my family. I do value those trips- I like to go back and catch up with everybody, get outside on the farm, see the nephews, etc. even though it means I have to go through the motions at church (easy to do, but frustrating)... There is definitely some distance between me and my parents in that I'm not going to share with them all the details of what I'm doing in my life, but they are still very important people to me and I don't want to shut them out. That's why I don't tell them- it'd just bring a lot of pain and sadness for everybody- especially for my mom. She would be very very sad.

Sibley

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Re: Heretical Thoughts
« Reply #14 on: April 13, 2015, 12:37:45 PM »
I empathize on the religion aspect. I come from a fairly to extremely religious family. Mom's family is pretty laid back about it, but generally are regular church goers. Dad's family - well, his cousin is a monk. The rest are pretty religious. Overall, everyone is fairly traditional. Gay marriage does not go over well with a large chunk of the family. I'm just waiting for someone to turn out not straight and to watch the fireworks. I'm pretty sure it would work out ok in the end, but cause a ton of drama in the process.

My sister is now an atheist, though she doesn't advertise it. Mom knows and (outwardly) accepts it, dad does not know and never will. I believe in a deity, though I'm not exactly canon and it's also not a big part of my life. I mostly just stay quiet. It usually works pretty well. I vocalize and have a "live and let live" philosophy. My friends who are religious are fine with me.

To keep the peace... It may help if you can see organized religion as a way to be part of a community, aside from just religion. The teachings of all the religions I'm familiar with are pretty good things to live by - ethics, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, charity, not doing bad stuff, etc. Focus on that aspect, and tune out the faith pieces. There's a lot of good that can come out of churches, independent of the religious aspects.