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Making a Good Life Happen – How Did I Get Here? (Part II)

by Jim Bell, CFP®, President and Founder

April 2010

In my last column, I wrote about one-on-one meetings in my office with college students, many of whom are the children or grandchildren of our investment management clients. I am very proud that we work with multiple generations of several client families. There are too many stories about second and third generations losing the wealth built by previous generations. We make a point to get to know and help the children and grandchildren of our clients.

I Got Professional Help.
The college students I meet with are beginning to wonder about their own careers after college, and this is what they all ask: How did you get here? Part of the answer, which I wrote about in the previous column, is that when I was stuck or confused, I was willing to get professional help. That remains true to this very day. Even when you’re on the right path, the next steps are not always clear. Getting professional help is always a viable option.

I Followed My YES Energy.
My wife Bonnie is an excellent career and life coach at Bell Investment Advisors. She often talks about YES energy–instead of “passion”–and people often ask her what it means. I have my own answer to that question because of my own experience of it.  

When YES energy shows up for me, it’s feels like the light has just turned green; I suddenly know what to do. I move out of confusion and anxiety and into an action step or plan that makes sense, is grounded, and that feels right. I can actually feel it in my body. I may not know what the whole path looks like, but if I proceed when the next step is clear, it takes me in the right direction.

Getting help from the financial planner not only helped me get out of debt and develop a spending plan, but it resulted in my feeling as if I could finally get on with the rest of my life. I became fascinated with the whole field of financial services and wanted to learn more. Looking back, I can say that I was filled with YES energy; I had inadvertently found a career direction that felt like a string of green lights.

I kept the full time job I had in the computer center at U.C. Berkeley, but took advantage of a part-time apprenticeship I found out about at Dean-Witter-Reynolds in San Francisco, and the rest is history, as they say.  

I Overcame Resistance.
As I was developing my investment career in the 1980’s, I observed that most professionals agreed that passive investment management (using index funds exclusively) was the only legitimate way to manage money. The passive investment philosophy asserts that individual investors cannot beat the market so they should only use low-cost index funds and avoid paying extra fees to active managers. In my own experience I knew that some active management strategies produced compelling excess performance.

I Developed My Unique Value Proposition.
The idea of following the herd by becoming another passive investment manager did not engage my YES energy. It left me cold. What did arouse my enthusiasm was the opportunity to develop an active strategy that provided significant help and was scarce in the marketplace. I found a mentor who taught me about momentum investing, and my distinctive path within financial services became clear.  I proceeded to the next step and the next, following the YES energy and getting help along the way.
I Declined Being a Commodity.
Many of our investment management competitors describe investment management as if it were a commodity. I tell the college students in my office, the children and grandchildren of my clients, that I got here because I was passionate about offering results and service that would exceed the norm. You can see what our results look like on our website at

In Part III, I will write about the importance of patience in career development and success.

Jim Bell, CFP® is President and Founder of Bell Investment Advisors, Inc. 1111 Broadway, Suite 1630 in downtown Oakland where he co-manages the business with his wife Bonnie. The firm has been providing customized financial planning, investment management and career & life coaching services since 1991. 510-433-1066

Published in Piedmont Post on April 14, 2010

Piedmont Post

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