Coming Soon! The FPA of MN Book Club

Scott Nelson, CFP®
Submitted by
Scott Nelson, CFP® - Professional Issues Committee Director

In the coming weeks, the Professional Issues Committee will launch a book club that will be open to all FPA of Minnesota members. It is our intent to launch the book club in November and coordinate the book choices and the meetings via an online forum on FPA Connect.

The purpose of this book club is to provide another avenue for FPA members to share ideas and build relationships while doing a bit of learning. To differentiate the book club from the study groups informally run by FPA members, the book subjects will be more general in scope and focused less on financial planning topics. FPA of Minnesota’s membership includes many financial professionals who support but do not provide financial planning services themselves. So potential subjects for the book club include behavioral finance and psychology, financial and economic history, and leadership. A good book on any of these subjects can be interesting and informative to any FPA member no matter if their primary vocation is sales, analysis or financial planning.

A good example of a book that the new FPA book club might decide to discuss is the recently released Think Like A Freak, by Dubner and Levitt, the authors of previous bestsellers Freakanomics and Super Freakanomics. The purpose of the book is to provide advice on how to approach and think about personal and societal problems and how to work towards solutions. Frankly, I did not find the book as interesting as their first two efforts but I found value in several of their stories and in particular Chapter 8 “How to persuade someone who does not want to be persuaded”. Civil public debate has suffered a steep decline as is evident in our government and media, to the extent that it is nothing more than posturing and name calling. We all could use some lessons on how to discuss differences of opinion and the authors provide the following advice if one is intending to try to change someone’s mind.

  • Appreciate from the outset that changing someone’s view on a topic is nearly impossible.
    • People are heavily invested in their point of view and may have a lot to lose emotionally, socially etc. by changing. Appreciate the paradox that the smarter someone is, the more likely that they hold very strong views that tend toward the extreme.
  • Acknowledge that your adversary’s view has some merit.
    • You need to understand why they believe what they do, acknowledging its merit creates goodwill. It is also a good tool for developing empathy.
  • Acknowledge that your own view is not perfect.
    • Understanding the weaknesses of one’s own view is essential.
  • Understand that what your adversary believes is based on biases that he does not even realize he has.
    • We are all blind to influences that we do not realize exist.
  • Never resort to name calling.
    • Negative statements have a far stronger psychological impact than any positive statement.
  • The most effective way to get someone to accept what you are saying is to tell stories.
    • Not just anecdotes but stories with a wide scope and are not overly technical. Stories that span time and involve a sequence of events that lead to the final outcome. Stories with which the listener can identify and see themselves in that situation.

 What I took away from Think Like A Freak is that I need to work on better stories if I want to persuade clients to take more risk with their portfolio or better control their spending or stop procrastinating on getting their estate documents completed. While Think Like A Freak is not focused on financial planning it is focused on problem solving. Problem solving is an essential skill in any financial professional’s vocation. So I really think that the upcoming book club can have value to all FPA members professionally, personally and if it’s the right book even spiritually.

Hope to have a civil discourse with you at an FPA book club meeting some time soon.