Wealth Podcast Post

Financial Resilience with Bradley Clark

George Grombacher April 20, 2023

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Financial Resilience with Bradley Clark

LifeBlood: We talked about financial resilience, the problems with the financial industry, a new model for advice that’s more beneficial and aligned, and how to increase confidence, with Bradley Clark, CFP, RICP, MBA, author, and Founder of Clark Asset Management.   

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You can learn more about Bradley at BradleyClark.com, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Bradley Clark

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
left with this is George G. And the time is right. welcome today’s guest strong and powerful Bradley Clark. Brad, are you ready to do this?

Bradley Clark 0:08
I’m psyched. Yes, thank you.

george grombacher 0:10
All right, let’s go. Brother is ECF P and Ric P and MBA. He is the founder of Clark asset management and the author of be the bird. It’s a book helping people to avoid the trillion dollar wealth industry Shakedown. Bradley, tell us a little about your personal life more about your work and why you do what you do.

Bradley Clark 0:29
All right, so I’m 53. I live in the sea coast of New Hampshire. Most people don’t know that tiny New Hampshire actually has a seat coast. If you blink, you miss it. But that’s where I live. I have three teenage kids, which I love. I mean, I love my kids, of course, but I’m enjoying being a father of teens, much less stressful for me than being a father of a little kids. I’m a tournament bridge player. So in my spare time I play competitive bridge, and then my vocation. My passion is really manifested in this firm that I created six and a half years ago. And I guess we could talk a little bit more about that mission. And some of the ideas you know, as you see fit, George,

george grombacher 1:15
I love it. So I’m 44 Radley. And I’ve never played bridge before. How did how did you get into bridge? How does how does that happen?

Unknown Speaker 1:24
Well, my stepfather was a player. So when I was a kid, I had some initial exposure. And then it kind of went dormant for a long time. And then my, my father in law is an expert player. So he kind of reawakened the interest. And it’s very strategic. It’s very logical, there’s a lot of inference. And it’s a game with a partner. So there’s communication. Buffett and gates are a team and one of Buffett’s when Buffett said something which I think made sense, which is, learning to play bridge is like wandering around in thick fog, for 30 hours. But then if you can stick with it that long, the fog slowly begins to lift. And then you fall in love with this game. So it’s a true lifelong pursuit like chess is where the more you learn, the more humble, you get, and you just keep exploring. And it’s so I’m an I’m, I’m addicted. And I guess the story I tell myself is that one of the ways as we age, one of the cons, one of the concerns is cognitive decline. And so some of these pursuits, like bridge, or crossword puzzles, or others, are ways to kind of stave off the inevitability of cognitive decline as we age. And so at least that’s the story I tell myself.

george grombacher 2:48
I love it. Now, do you get the best of father in law? Or how does that go?

Unknown Speaker 2:55
All right, yeah. So I’m actually divorced, but, but I’m still very close with my ex wife’s family. And I’m lucky that she and I are co parenting, you know, amicably and live in the same town and, and that she never put pressure on her family to sever their ties with me. So I’m actually pretty lucky in that regard.

george grombacher 3:16
100%. Excellent. So you have been, you’ve done some very, very impressive things. You’ve worked for some very, very large financial institutions that I think everybody knows. And I’ll leave it up to you if you want to share some of the names. And then you have some kind of an epiphany that says, I need to start a financial firm on my own.

Unknown Speaker 3:39
Yeah, it’s interesting. So I was at Stanford Business School in the 90s. And I, I took modern portfolio theory under Bill Sharpe. So so so this is Bill Sharpe, Nobel Prize winning Sharpe ratio, etc. I had no interest in getting into finance. But it was one of those life changing lectures where he was just kind of laying out active investing versus passive investing in this giant industry of people who purport to be able to beat the stock market. And he just kind of walked us through kind of the arithmetic of it and the evidence. And what I didn’t realize is that it became my destiny. Once I had that time with sharp but he didn’t know what at the time. I think the seed was planted, for me, ultimately, to do what I do today. But it took me a bunch of years in in business jobs, which is actually what I was training for, before I finally came full circle to this. So I ended up as publisher and Chief Marketing Officer at The Motley Fool which reengaged me in the topic, a topic of personal finance and investing. And I’ve always been an outspoken critic of the financial advice, industrial complex, and then I decided instead of criticizing it, why don’t I just put my money where my mouth is and Build a, in my view, an enlightened, futuristic wealth management firm that really challenges some of the four assumptions of the financial advice, advice, industrial complex, and I’m having the time of my life doing exactly that.

george grombacher 5:19
Well, I think that’s incredible. I think it’s easy to criticize things and try to tear things down, but way harder to do, as you said, Put your money where your mouth is, and actually go out and build it. So congratulations on that. So what are using evidence and, and good decision making? What are some of the how is what you’re doing different?

Unknown Speaker 5:44
Yeah, it’s a good question. So the financial advice industry has been evolving on how it charges for its advice. So it used to be all commission driven. And I think it’s pretty clear that if you are commingling product sales with financial advice, it creates a very difficult conflict of interest it Now there can be very reputed very good people with high integrity, selling the products, but they are still hopeless, hopelessly compromised with respect to commingling advice and sales, then we’ve been we’ve been shifting into an AUM model, where asset managers will charge 1% of assets. And yet it’s no longer a commission true. But it actually also is chock full, still chock full of conflicts of interest. Right. So if I’m running your money, and you say, Hey, I’m thinking about buying a vacation home, or buying an annuity, or paying off my mortgage, or retiring early or taking Social Security, deferring Social Security, all of these financial planning topics also represent conflicts of interest for somebody who’s charging, you know, 1% of assets. So, I believe, and that the tide is starting to turn and that ultimately, a wealth management service, for Financial Planning and Investment Management will be priced in a way that’s more consistent with how attorneys or life coaches, or accountants charge him imagine an accountant charging you a percentage of your income to prepare your taxes, right, it’s preposterous. And so I do think ultimately, the wealth management firm of the future, will be virtual, lightweight, low overhead technology infused, and will ultimately reject the 1% compensation model and shift to a retainer or flat fee. And I’m trying to be an example, to younger advisors that you can actually build a successful business exactly like that. And one of my lines is, think that think about nurses and counselors and teachers and doctors, they work in what is often referred to as helping professions. I work in an industry, right? The objective is for someday this to become a profession and maybe even a helping profession. And but we have to get past prevailing compensation models in order to have a chance of getting there.

george grombacher 8:36
That’s really interesting. Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever thought about nursing as an industry or this, this, this, this, this this complex, it is certainly a healthy profession or even a vocation. And why should doling out financial advice be any different than that? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 8:53
I think that’s right. So that’s, I would say, that’s, I guess that’s my soapbox ish box issue. But then there’s lots of other things that I believe that not everybody else, you know, believes in and and I think what I’ve learned in my years is that it’s actually very difficult to change a belief, it’s hard to change a belief in another person. It’s also hard to change your own belief, but it’s not impossible. Right? So this is about mindset and reward, rewiring your brain and, and being open to new information. But But belief is such a fascinating, it’s fascinating thing. And I think it’s difficult to change the beliefs. Let’s say you have an investor who believes that he’s smarter than the stock market and can can consistently pick stocks that outperform the stock market. It will be difficult to disabuse him of that belief. Right? Whereas you have other people who say, Hey, I think the evidence is clear. that if you beat the if you outperform the stock market, its luck and not skill. So that second person believes that it’s better just to purchase the returns of the stock market. Right? So those are just different beliefs that different people hold. And, you know, I happen to believe in that second one. But I don’t judge people, you know, who believed the first?

george grombacher 10:24
And how is how there’s probably also, I don’t know if it’s a belief or not, but people are accustomed to transacting with finance with with with the current financial industry. So when presented with an alternative model, or an alternate model, how is how have people been receiving it? Is it confusing? Does it make sense? A little bit of both?

Unknown Speaker 10:45
It’s a great question. I, it’s hard for me, I mean, I will answer, but recognize that there’s bias in my answer. We are growing very quickly, right? When people when people see what we’re doing, and how we’re charging, you know, we get lots of consult calls, and it’s generally easy to sign up new business, if you think about it, if somebody’s paying 35 grand, you know, 1% of 3.5 million, for instance, and then they see our price, which is 9500 bucks, they look at that, and they say, Okay, well, what’s going on there? What explains the difference? How is it possible that Brad and his team can provide this service at 9500. So some people who never book a call, probably look at that, look at it and say, Well, you get what you pay for. So there’s, there’s no way I’m going to even talk to this guy, because it must be like, it must be good, too good to be true. And then you’ve got other people who are starting to understand that although 1% look small 1% have a big number is a big number, and 35 grand per year over the next 30 years. I mean, that’s a lot of family vacations, and cars, and like all sorts of other things that are accruing to your financial advisor, instead of you being able to spend on your kids and grandkids and everything else. So we’ve had tremendous traction in the market with this single fee. There’s no gotchas. There’s no complexity fees, there’s no tiered pricing. We’re in the market with one fee, and it’s on the website. And so it’s kind of a breath of fresh air, and we’ve gotten a lot of traction with it.

george grombacher 12:25
I love it. And so what what are you performing for client? What what are you doing?

Unknown Speaker 12:31
So So in my view, a true wealth management offering has two services bundled together. The first is financial planning. And the second is investment management, investment management’s relatively well understood, right? The adviser buys and sells securities on your behalf maintains an asset allocation, services, the accounts rebalances, them tax loss, harvesting, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. That’s relatively well understood. Financial Planning less well understood, you could ask 100 people to define financial planning, and you’ll get 100 different answers. But basically, it means taking somebody’s life goals and values, translating those into financial goals. And then using powerful software and spreadsheets and other decision making frameworks to articulate and implement strategies across insurance, estate planning, college planning, tax planning, investment planning, right budgeting to help clients achieve those goals. Right? And do so with a very resilient financial architecture and the term resilient, I really am focused on because resilience has become a very big idea, even in schools and with counselors and coaches like, like how are what can you do in your own life to be more resilient, because we will all face setbacks, and I learned the hard way in my life that I wasn’t resilient at all. Because I had a such a string of success, and then I fell off the proverbial horse. And I couldn’t get back on. And I found out that my own stores of resilience were empty. And this is about 15 years ago, and that that phase changed my outlook. So I, I really dived into positive psychology and mindset and optimism and resilience. And then fast forward to today. If you think about financial planning software, you know, there’s Monte Carlo analysis and all these analytic engines and everything where we can compute the probability of success of a financial plan, but why not think about that is the resilience of the financial plan and why not think about that as resilience being part analytical, but then also part what’s how happening kind of between your ears. And that’s what I ended up trying to do with my book. So I, so instead of just another boring book on financial planning, it’s really a book about confidence. As we approach retirement and live during retirement, it’s a book about confidence that happens to lean on or pull from a very strong reservoir of retirement income planning strategies. But in the book, I really get into psycho psychology as well. So that’s kind of part psychology part, retirement income, party planning, part memoir, kind of all all woven together into this idea that ultimately what we’re trying to achieve is the feeling of relaxed confidence as we approach retirement and live in retirement. So, so relaxed confidence is the objective. And then to what extent can the financial architecture support and reinforce the idea of relaxed confidence?

george grombacher 16:09
Well said, I love it, relaxed confidence. You know, that that gets immensely valuable, all the different tools that that you know, that you use and the evidence of it, but at the end of the day, I imagine that that’s what people really want, they want to know that things are going to be okay. And it’s we my financial situation is resilient. If there’s a bank collapse, or there’s whatever, whatever comes our way, it’s probably going to be okay.

Unknown Speaker 16:39
Right, and that you’re living your life in a state of readiness. Right. And I have been so much thinking about this. And you know, I was born a realist. And then I read all the Kahneman stuff and he said, If you could have one, you could have one wish for your unborn child. And it gives me shivers even to relay this. Kahneman says, If you had one wish, for your unborn child child, wish that he is born an optimist, because optimism carries the day for longevity and health and friendships and success. And so I’ve actually worked for the past 1515 years to shift from being a realist to an optimist. But in my business of financial planning, you also have to be able to think, catastrophically, right. And so, if you’re a client, the message would be spend 99% of your time living your life as an optimist, and then spend 71% of your time, either thinking catastrophically, or outsourcing that catastrophic thinking to a wealth manager that understands how to think about and manage risk, right, so that you can live your life with a positive mindset, and not being scared or fearful. But recognize that you or your delegate, actually has thought and does occasionally think catastrophically. So they said, so that you can put the things in place that drive resilience. And in my view, that’s the only way to truly enjoy relaxed confidence, there has to be a sliver of catastrophic thinking and planning in order to put you in that position.

george grombacher 18:30
Powerful. How is your shift from realist optimist blending?

Unknown Speaker 18:36
Well, as I said, a few minutes ago, it’s hard to rewire your own brain. So it has been an effort. But you know, it’s one of these things where you cannot measure it. day over day or week over week. But but the 53 year old version of Brad Clark, versus the 35 year old version of Brad Clark, I mean, there’s been immense progress on shifting my mindset from, you know, realism to optimism, and I used to look down on optimists as being detached from reality. pollyannish silly, right, so much judgment around that, and I look back on the absurdity of those things. And, and so I have made progress on it.

george grombacher 19:25
I think that that’s great. That’s great. And I appreciate you sharing and more. So I appreciate the the consistent effort and recognizing that it’s tough to measure it from yesterday or two days ago, or whatever it might be. I think that that’s such a big key and I love the idea about the importance of focusing and being 99% positive as much as you can be, but make sure that you have that 1% of time you’re spending on the negative to make sure that you’re protecting yourself or outsourcing that to somebody else is going to be doing that that work also. So very thoughtful. Bradley. Thank you. Sure. Line, I appreciate you coming on to where can people learn more about you? How can they engage with the financial with click Asset Management and where can they get their copy of be the bird?

Unknown Speaker 20:17
Great question. So, the website is simply my name Bradley Slark. And there’s no E at the end of Clark. So that’s where my firm is Clark asset management, there’s a bunch of freedom and stuff on there. There’s a video course people love. There’s downloads a bunch of free stuff, it’s all around the idea of retirement income planning. The book is not yet on Amazon, but will be there shortly. The name is be the bird. We also have an offer on the website, which is Bradley Clark, Ford slash podcast offer. And that would just be for people that actually want to speak with me. It’s not a sales call. It’s just a chat about retirement income planning. And if you do that, you know, we ship out a hardcover, complimentary copy a copy of the book.

george grombacher 21:08
Excellent. If you enjoy the switches, I did show brother your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, go to Bradley clarke.com bradleyclark.com. And check out the great resources Bradley has created. And then go to brother clark.com/podcast offer and get your hardcover copy of the book. Have a conversation with Bradley. And I’m confident that you will very much enjoy his perspective as I have today. And I’m sure you have as well. So, thanks again, Bradley.

Unknown Speaker 21:42
Okay, thank you so much, George. Until next

george grombacher 21:45
time, remember, do your part doing your best

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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