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Visualizing the Attributes of the Best Financial Advisors

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best financial advisors infographic

Best Financial Advisors

This infographic is available as a poster.

Visualizing the Attributes of the Best Financial Advisors

What sets the best financial advisors apart?

New research from Founder and President of SHOOK Research R.J. Shook, renowned performance coach Dr. Kevin Elko, and NYL Investments examined the core attributes of those at the top:

  • Intrinsic Motivation: Creating purposeful work.
  • Boldness: Committed to a clear vision.
  • Resiliency: Being prepared for setbacks.
  • Connections: Building lasting relationships.
  • Goal-Setting: Documenting, articulating, and accomplishing goals.

Going one step further, they showed how a random selection of financial advisors compared to the top advisors. Across an ongoing assessment of roughly 400 advisors, this infographic from NYL Investments looks at where they align the most with top advisors, and where they fall short.

The Strongest Alignment

Here are the areas where surveyed advisors aligned the closest to the best financial advisors.

Connections

More than any other attribute, financial advisors were most aligned on the connections attribute. For instance, of the 400 respondents, 78% say that they take note of important events in their clients’ life. Expressing interest in them is an important part of the success of their business.

When it comes to the human interaction side of their job, 76% said that connecting with clients and colleagues is vital for their business.

Do you enjoy the human interaction side of this job?% of financial advisors
I enjoy intentionally connecting with clients and colleagues. It's key to my business.76%
I enjoy talking to a client, yet I find myself putting it off.21%
I find myself hiding behind my emails.2%
My time is better spent otherwise—studying the markets, etc.1%

An even higher number (81%) said that clients can call them anytime if they need help with issues outside of financial wellness, while 86% said that helping colleagues serves as a key opportunity to grow.

Intrinsic Motivation

Like the best financial advisors, the vast majority of advisors believe that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. By contrast, just 8% believe luck will fall in their lap if they work hard enough.

Additionally, most financial advisors stick to their guns. Almost 80% said that while they may find themselves on the same path as others, they won’t hesitate to create a new one that follows their goals and values.

Do you find that you often follow the path as set by others as opposed to creating your own path?% of financial advisors
I sometimes find myself on the same path as others, yet if it's not aligned with my values or goals, I don’t hesitate creating my own path.79%
Once in a while, I will create my own path, yet I find myself jumping back to the path others are on out of comfort.10%
I seem to follow others more than anything, yet I'm not afraid to create my own path and stay the course.10%
Creating my own path is so risky. I’m most comfortable following others.1%

This suggests that many advisors are often motivated from within as opposed to extrinsic, external factors.

Resiliency

Finally, 77% of financial advisors say they enjoy taking on new challenges as it makes them feel more valued and accomplished. Feeling a sense of value extends to their clients, with 78% saying they make a positive impact on their clients’ lives.

Do you feel what you do makes your clients' life better?% of financial advisors
What I do creates a positive difference in the lives of my clients. They often express so.78%
I believe my work makes a difference in my clients' life, yet I don't know to what extent.20%
I'm sure what I do makes some impact, but I can't imagine it's a whole lot.1%
I don't think my work makes a clients' life better.1%

The Biggest Gaps from the Best Financial Advisors

Where do surveyed advisors show the biggest differences from the best financial advisors?

Goal-Setting

Across all attributes, advisors had the most room for growth in the goal-setting attribute. What the researchers found was that just one in three advisors stick to their daily activity goals. At the same time, under 30% reread their goals after writing them down.

Do you write out daily activity goals before the day starts and stick to them?% of financial advisors
I create a couple of to-do's and try to accomplish those.43%
I create daily goals and stick to them for the most part.34%
My days are busy from the moment I open my eyes. I go with the flow.12%
I create daily goals that align with my 90 day goals and stick to them.11%

Here is how advisors connect goals to success, another key area with room for growth:

Do you believe a big part of your success is your focus on goals?% of financial advisors
When I make my goals a priority, I reap the rewards. I just wish I could focus more on them.48%
Focusing on goals eliminates my distractions and increases my success.40%
I don’t take the time to gauge my success. I don't know how goals impact any part of my success.11%
Goals are a waste of time. I, nor others, look at them anyways.1%

Nearly 50% feel they do not focus on their goals enough.

This is important to note, because research has shown that goal-setting has been linked to higher-performance, confidence, and autonomy.

The Power of Goal-Setting

Top advisors are driven by purpose and passion. But often, this can be challenging in the face of burnout. Here are key questions to help guide actions on a daily basis:

  • What did I do today that I liked? In one study, participants completed over 50% more exercise repetitions on activities they enjoyed versus ones that were seen as more effective.
  • What would I have done differently? Research shows that adversity and setbacks were important factors in performance development among Olympic gold medalists.

Creating a feedback loop helps with not only building momentum, but refining your results.

Learning from the Best Financial Advisors

Since the pandemic began, the value of financial advice has increased 52%.

Yet often, what distinguishes the very best advisors is their mindset. Harnessing the above core attributes can help improve the odds of success. To help create greater impact, advisors can take lessons from the best financial advisors and apply them to their own practice.

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Infographics

5 Key Questions Investors Have About Inflationary Environments

This infographic explores questions on today’s inflationary environment as the economy faces persistent price pressures.

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Inflationary Environment

This infographic is available as a poster.

5 Key Questions on Inflationary Environments

What does a changing inflationary environment mean for financial markets, and how could this impact investors?

While there are no clear answers, the above infographic from New York Life Investments looks at key questions on inflation and the potential implications looking ahead.

1. What Are the Main Factors Driving Inflation?

Often, investors closely watch core inflation since it doesn’t factor in volatile energy and food prices. In September, core inflation rose 0.6% from the previous month while headline inflation, as represented by the Consumer Price Index, increased 0.4%.

DateCore InflationHeadline Inflation
Sep 20220.6%0.4%
Aug 20220.6%0.1%
Jul 20220.3%0.0%
Jun 20220.7%1.3%
May 20220.6%1.0%
Apr 20220.6%0.3%
Mar 20220.3%1.2%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 10/13/22.

Earlier in the pandemic, surging second-hand car prices and supply-chain distortions were factors driving up inflation. But as dynamics have shifted, rising services costs, including housing, have played a significant role.

Along with these factors, a strong labor market is adding to price pressures. Nominal wages increased 6.3% annually in September, after hitting almost 7% in August, the highest in 20 years.

For this trend to reverse, unemployment levels may need to rise and interest rates may need to increase to cool an overheating economy.

2. What is the Effect of Fiscal Stimulus on Inflation?

In response to a historic crisis, the U.S. government allocated over $5 trillion in fiscal stimulus. The Federal Reserve released research that suggests that the fiscal stimulus contributed to 2.5 percentage points in excess U.S. inflation.

Specifically, the fiscal stimulus affected supply and demand dynamics, stimulating the consumption of goods. At the same time, the production of goods didn’t increase, which elevated demand pressures and price tensions.

As the short-term implications begin to unfold, the longer-term structural effects of record stimulus remain far from clear.

3. How Do Interest Rates Impact Inflation?

When inflation is running high, the Fed often hikes interest rates to cool an overheating economy.

Consider how in February 1975 there was a 17% difference between core inflation and real interest rates, an instance when the Fed got “behind the curve”. This shows that the real rate is far below the core inflation rate.

Sometimes, this prompts the Fed to raise rates to combat inflation. After several rate hikes, inflation fell to 4% by 1983, bringing the real rate and core inflation closer together. The table below shows when this gap rose to the double-digits between 1974 and early 2022:

DateCore InflationReal RateDifference
Oct 197410.6%-0.5%11.1%
Nov 197411.0%-1.5%12.5%
Dec 197411.3%-2.8%14.1%
Jan 107511.5%-4.4%15.9%
Feb 197511.9%-5.6%17.5%
Mar 197511.3%-5.8%17.1%
Apr 197511.3%-5.8%17.1%
May 197510.3%-5.1%15.4%
Jun 19759.8%-4.3%14.1%
Jul 19759.1%-3.0%12.1%
Jan 198012.0%1.9%10.2%
May 198013.1%-2.2%15.3%
Jun 198013.6%-4.1%17.7%
Jul 198012.4%-3.4%15.8%
Aug 198011.8%-2.2%14.0%
Sep 198012.0%-1.1%13.1%
Oct 198012.2%0.7%11.6%
Dec 20215.5%-5.4%10.9%
Jan 20226.0%-6.0%12.0%

Source: Peterson Institute for International Economics, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 03/14/22. The real policy interest rate is the Federal Funds Rate minus Core Inflation over 12 months.

In January 2022, this gap reached 12%, hinting towards further interest rate action from the Fed.

Over the last 11 tightening cycles since 1965, six resulted in soft landings and three resulted in hard landings. Whether or not the recent tightening cycle will result in a hard landing, also known as a significant decline in real GDP, remains an open question.

4. How Long Will Inflation Last?

From the vantage point of 2022, the direction of inflation is as complex as it is uncertain. Below, we show where inflation may be headed in the near future based on analysis from the Federal Reserve.

 2022P2023P2024P
PCE Inflation5.4%2.8%2.3%
Federal Funds Rate4.4%4.6%3.9%

Source: Federal Reserve Board, 09/21/22. Reflects median projections for PCE Inflation and the Federal Funds Rate.

By 2024, inflation is expected to fall closer to the 2.0% target amid higher interest rates. What other key factors could influence inflation going forward?

 2023 Projection
U.S. Real GDP Growth1.2%
Interest Rates4.6%
Housing Price Growth-10.0%
Unemployment Rate4.4%

Source: Federal Reserve Board 09/21/22, Morningstar, 08/07/22. Interest rates represented by the Federal Funds Rate. Housing Price Growth represented by median U.S. home prices.

A combination of slowing GDP growth, higher interest rates, decreasing housing prices, and higher unemployment could potentially dampen inflation leading into 2023.

5. What May Lessen the Impact of Inflation On My Portfolio?

During inflationary periods, value stocks have tended to perform well, based on data from Robert Shiller and Kenneth French. In fact, value stocks saw nearly 8% annualized outperformance over growth during the 1970s and over 5% outperformance during the 1980s.

Similarly, tangible assets like commodities and real estate have tended to weather these periods thanks to their ability to increase portfolio diversification and stability across economic cycles. For instance, between 1973 and 2021, commodities have averaged 19.1% during inflationary periods while real estate assets averaged 5.0%.

The Big Canvas

Generally speaking, periods of high inflation over history are quite rare. Since 1947, the average U.S. inflation rate has been 3.4%.

Inflation (1947-2021)Percentage of Time Spent
Below 0%16%
Between 0 and 5%57%
Between 5 and 10%20%
Above 10%7%

Source: CFA Institute, 07/19/21.

Against a changing environment, investors may consider balancing their portfolios with more defensive strategies that have been historically more resistant to inflation.

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Infographics

A Visual Guide to Stagflation, Inflation, and Deflation

In this infographic, we show the key differences between stagflation, inflation, and deflation and how they impact the economy and investors.

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A Visual Guide to Stagflation, Inflation, and Deflation

Today, high inflation and slowing economic growth have contributed to stagflation worries.

As of August 2022, the U.S. inflation rate has risen to 8.3%, above the central bank target of 2%. Yet unlike the last period of stagflation in the 1970s, unemployment—a key ingredient for stagflation—remains low.

In this infographic from New York Life Investments, we show the key differences between stagflation, inflation, and deflation along with the broader economic implications of each.

Main Features of Inflationary Environments

What are the main characteristics of each inflationary scenario?

 Economic GrowthInflationUnemployment
StagflationSlowsIncreasesIncreases
InflationIncreasesIncreasesDecreases
DeflationSlowsDecreasesIncreases

The key markers of stagflation are weak growth, persistent inflation, and structural unemployment—meaning that high unemployment levels continue beyond a recession.

In a stagflationary scenario, inflation expectations continue to rise each year. This can happen when inflation stays too high for too long, enough for expectations to shift across the economy. This was the case in the U.S. in the 1970s, until the Federal Reserve fought inflation with steep interest rate hikes.

Here’s a closer look at some of the main causes of each scenario and how they’ve historically impacted households and businesses.

1. Stagflation

The term stagflation is the combination of ‘stagnation’ and ‘inflation’.

The primary causes include the expansion of the money supply feeding into higher inflation, as well as supply shocks, which can drag on economic growth.

During periods of stagflation, consumers spend more on items such as food and clothing, while earning less—reducing their purchasing power. Less purchasing power can eventually cause people to buy less, leading to falling corporate revenues, which can ripple across the economy.

Case Study: 1970s Stagflation

The stagflation of the 1970s saw inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, increase from 1% to 14% between 1964 and 1980.

Price pressures, driven by skyrocketing energy prices in the 1970s, contributed to a sharp economic downturn. By 1980, unemployment reached 7.2%.

YearAnnual
Inflation Rate
Unemployment Rate
(December)
Annual
GDP Growth
19641.3%5.0%5.8%
198013.5%7.2%-0.3%

In response, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates as high as 20% in 1981. Soon after, inflation sank to 5% by 1982 and unemployment levels improved.

2. Inflation

Inflation is the rise in the price of goods and services across the economy. Broadly speaking, low and stable inflation is associated with periods of economic growth and low unemployment. It can be driven by rising consumer demand.

The expectation of predictable inflation allows consumers and businesses to prepare for the future, in terms of both their purchases and investments.

Case Study: 1990s-2000s

Over the 1990s and 2000s, the U.S. saw relatively low and stable inflation.

Rapid global population growth, the absence of oil shocks, and expanding global trade contributed to falling costs across industries. Between 1990 and 2007, inflation averaged 2.1% compared to 8.0% during the 1970s as price pressures became less volatile.

YearAnnual
Inflation Rate
Unemployment Rate
(December)
Annual
GDP Growth
19905.4%6.3%1.9%
20072.9%5.0%2.0%

Today, several central banks adhere to a 2% inflation target to ensure prices remain stable and predictable.

3. Deflation

Deflation is the fall in prices of goods and services in the economy.

In many cases, its main causes are demand shortfalls, reduced output, or an excess of supply. For households, spending may stall as consumers wait for prices to fall. In turn, declining prices may lead to a lag in growth for businesses.

Sometimes, deflationary periods raise concerns of slower economic growth. However, supply-driven deflationary periods may be associated with lower prices, raising real incomes and boosting output as exports become more competitive.

Case Study: 1930s Great Depression

Prior to WWII, deflationary episodes were more common than today. One prime example is the Great Depression of the 1930s, when real GDP fell 30% between 1929 and 1933 and unemployment spiked to 25%.

YearAnnual
Inflation Rate
Unemployment Rate
(December)
Annual
GDP Growth
1930-2.7%8.7%-8.5%
1933-5.2%24.9%-1.2%

Tightening monetary policy contributed to this environment. In fact, between 1930 and 1933, the U.S. money supply contracted roughly 30%, while average prices fell by a similar amount.

Historical Asset Class Performance

Which asset classes have historically tended to perform well across different types of inflationary environments?

Average Real Annual Total Returns
(1973-2021)
GoldilocksDisinflationReflationStagflation
U.S. Equities16.1%8.4%14.6%-1.5%
U.S. Treasuries4.3%8.1%-2.0%0.6%
U.S. T-Bills0.8%1.7%0.0%0.4%
Commodities0.4%-5.6%21.0%15.0%
Gold-2.5%1.3%-1.1%22.1%
REITs18.1%3.5%14.0%6.5%

Defensive assets like gold and commodities have historically performed well during stagflationary periods, with average returns of 22.1% and 15.0%, respectively.

Meanwhile, U.S. equities have typically performed well during moderate inflation, or ‘goldilocks’ environments, characterized by falling inflation and rising economic growth.

Both U.S. equities and Treasuries have shown the strongest real returns in deflationary or ‘disinflationary’ periods of slowing growth and inflation, at over 8% returns on average each.

Understanding Different Inflationary Environments

Today’s inflationary period is jarring for investors after an extended period of low and stable inflation. With this in mind, the economy has historically cycled through different types of inflationary periods.

While central banks aim to influence price stability and employment through monetary policy, investors can influence their portfolio by adjusting their asset allocation based on where the inflationary environment may be heading.

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