Ep 026

The Psychology of Money, Rich vs. Wealthy, and AI’s Role in Finance


Brian Portnoy

Listen Here

Inside This Episode

Today, I’m talking with Brian Portnoy – Founder of Shaping Wealth, CFA, and one of the world’s leading experts at simplifying the complex world of finance.

In this episode, Brian breaks down the psychology of money and its relationship to happiness in a way you’ve probably never heard. You’ll learn how to help your clients rewrite their story around money and go from a constant quest for more, to building true meaningful wealth – or as he calls it, “funded contentment.” Rich is a number, but wealth is a mindset – and that is the theme of today’s episode!

3 of the biggest insights from Brian Portnoy

  • #1: The psychological relationship between money and happiness. Learn how to transform the way you speak with your clients and make them feel more seen, more heard, and more understood than ever before. 

  • #2: Why ego blocks so many advisors from future success – and how to adapt a true growth mindset and shift from solo advisor to business owner.

  • #3: Will AI replicate and replace financial advisors? Brad and Brian share some thought-provoking ideas around what the future could hold for financial services – and how you should be thinking in order to survive and stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.  


  • 00:00 The ties between wealth, happiness & psychology
  • 05:19 The happiness equation
  • 09:39 Why modern advisors need to be great storytellers
  • 15:17 The 3-step storytelling process
  • 22:33 A CFA’s perspective on numbers vs. emotions
  • 27:25 The emergence of psychology in finance
  • 33:35 How a Chief Behavioral Officer can help your firm
  • 37:29 Why few advisors have a true growth mindset
  • 47:31 How to check your ego and stay eager to learn
  • 56:09 Behavioral finance in the U.S. vs. abroad
  • 59:08 How will AI impact advisors?
  • 01:14:19 Being grateful even in life’s bittersweet moments





Want to leave your own review? Visit us on Apple Podcasts via mobile, scroll to the bottom, and give me your honest thoughts. I read EVERY review that comes through. Not only do they light me up, but they also make a huge impact on people who are considering listening. To leave your review, CLICK HERE. I might even feature it on the show 🙂


  • “If there’s one thing that sticks from the dozens of things that we share, it’s what I call the happiness equation: That happiness equals reality minus expectations.” – Brian Portnoy

  • “When you think about what’s the relationship between more income and more happiness or what’s the relationship between money and happiness, the answer totally depends on which of those two definitions of happiness you are relying on.” – Brian Portnoy

  • “My definition of true wealth is the ability to underwrite a life that is meaningful to you.” – Brian Portnoy

  • “Rich is a number and wealth is a mindset.” – Brian Portnoy

  • “How about we focus on what people are really trying to do with their lives and helping them as opposed to making up numbers about the market?” – Brian Portnoy

  • “Emotions are actually the richest source of information that we have.” – Brian Portnoy

  • As a business owner, probably the best thing that could have happened to me was ChatGPT because it is going to wipe the floor with advice firms that are just doing commoditized services.” – Brian Portnoy

Brad Johnson: Welcome to another episode of Do Business. Do Life. Excited to have Brian Portnoy here today with us. Welcome to the show, Brian.

Brian Portnoy: Good to see you, Brad.

Brad Johnson: Well, just before we went live here, we were talking a little Cubs baseball. You’re just down the street from Wrigley. And our family was just up there hanging for a few days in Chicago. So, love your city. Love the vibe. Just out of curiosity, how did you land in Chicago? Was that born and raised? Or did you just venture your way there?

Brian Portnoy: Ventured my way here. Born and raised in Pittsburgh. So, I actually bleed black and gold, not Chicago Cubs from a sports point of view, although I’m a Cubs fan now because of the proximity versus the Pirates. Yeah, no, I moved here for graduate school in the 1990s and met my wife and we had our kids and raised our family here. So, yeah, we’ve lived in the city of Chicago on the north side of Chicago for a long time. It’s home and it’s been wonderful.

Brad Johnson: Awesome. Well, yeah, Chicago’s just a short trip from the KC area where we hang out. So, love my time in Chicago. Well, as we dive in here today, I know we have some mutual friends, guys like Daniel Crosby that’s been on the show before. And I know we’re going to dive deep into behavioral finance and all of the work you’ve done there. We’ll also probably take some time to get into your book, The Geometry of Wealth.

But as I was thinking through, really, I look at the work you’ve done, it’s really the intersection between money and happiness and the psychology around that. And a book I read a lot, in fact, I’m on my sixth reading, it’s called The Daily Stoic, and I know you have some quotes from Epictetus and some other Stoics in your book. But one of the ones that hits me every year is the entry on March 25th of The Daily Stoic, and it talks about two ways to be wealthy, to get everything you want or to want everything you have. And I figured just jumping off at that point because you’ve done a lot of work around this, what are your thoughts just around wealth and happiness and just how the human psychology can often get in the way of that?

Brian Portnoy: Yeah, well, it’s a boil of the ocean type question and the best type of question. Let’s just sort of get into this question of money and happiness and wealth. And that quote is a great place to start. It speaks to the question of enough and how much is enough. And what I’ve really learned to appreciate over the years, not just as sort of a writer and coach and teacher, but just as a kind of normal guy in the world, that question of how much is enough and wanting what you have versus always questing for more.

We can put in the work, but these issues keep coming around again and again. We can have good, clear answers. But the fact is that life happens and we’re constantly put in a position to have to answer them over and over again. For me, the conversation starts with the fork in the road between being rich and being wealthy. And I have a very particular set of definitions for those. And it kind of speaks to the stoic quote that you just gave.

And to me, rich is a number, it’s a quest for more. And quests for more while important are ultimately satisfying. As Don Draper said in Mad Men in a famous scene, happiness is that moment right before you need more happiness. And so, we’re constantly on that so-called whodunit treadmill. That’s what psychologists would call it. And we can get into that if you want.

On the other hand, from rich, the other fork in the road is toward wealthy. And my definition of true wealth is the ability to underwrite a life that is meaningful to you. The phrase or term that I use is funded contentment. And that term seems to have landed well with just individuals all over the world from every continent. I’ve gotten kind of correspondence from people all over the world saying that this distinction between rich and wealthy, the focus on funded contentment as being to just that more stoic form of enduring wealth, I think it’s a great place to start and it’s a great place to land it. It’s a wide open area for conversation about a life well lived and then where money fits into it.

I’ll just sort of punctuate before moving on that when it comes to our money lives, it’s very easy to get wrapped up in the weeds of investing and saving and spending and insuring and all that kind of stuff. And if you do all of that without first examining the broader context, you can get sort of lost in the shuffle and then being forced to remind yourself what true wealth is, as opposed to starting with the big picture and moving from there.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Happiness is just such a– I mean, I think most people would say it’s a simple concept, but it’s not easy. And I don’t even know if I would define it as something because I think there’s so many different definitions of it. I was just watching a podcast the other day. A guy named– his name is Mo. I’m going to probably butcher his last name, Gawdat, G-A-W-D-A-T. He was the CEO of Google X and wrote a book on happiness after he lost his 21-year-old son.

And his definition, I thought, was interesting. And he looked at it kind of from a computer programmer standpoint. It was the difference between where you’re at and your expectations of where you should be. And I thought, that’s interesting because, I mean, there’s been studies, third-world countries, where people are actually really happy and they don’t have much, but they’ve got their family, they’ve got their loved ones around them. And as long as the basic life necessities are covered, food and shelter, people can actually be incredibly happy without a lot of money, per se. So, what additional thoughts do you have around that, just based on some of the studies and some of the work that you’ve done?

Brian Portnoy: Yeah. So, The Geometry of Wealth is an entire book on this. And now, as you know, I run a global coaching and content platform that really speaks to his definitions of happiness. A couple of things that we can jump off from, and I’m not familiar with that gentleman or the book, but there is kind of a well-worn idea, I don’t know exactly if anyone’s responsible for the phrasing, that happiness equals reality minus expectations. And that’s kind of what you just referred to.

So, we’ve found actually in, because we coach financial advisors, if there’s one thing that sticks from the dozens of things that we share, it’s that equation, what I call the happiness equation, that happiness equals reality minus expectations. And the neuroscience behind it is really powerful because our brains, we now know, are just sort of nonstop prediction engines. We’re constantly sort of anticipating the next moment, the millisecond, the second, the day, the year, the decade, the lifetime. So, all we do is sort of predict the future we anticipate.

And then, when reality happens, whether it’s in a moment or in a year from now, we sort of naturally, just sort of automatically map up that reality to what we thought was going to happen and the delta between them. If reality exceeds expectations, we’re happy for if only a moment. And if the world doesn’t work out in line with what we hoped would be, we are sad.

The second perspective I’ll share, in terms of you mentioned different definitions of happiness, you go to the thesaurus and you’ll find dozens of words that kind of map to something called happiness in the academic literature. And I think it’s quite useful and it’s what I do in The Geometry of Wealth as well, is just make a distinction between two definitions of happiness, what I call reflective versus experienced happiness.

Experienced happiness is that day to day, moment by moment, feel good, bad, good, good mood, bad mood. That’s experienced happiness. We don’t have a lot of control over it. It’s just just sort of the moods that come and go. Reflective happiness is very different from a neurological, from a psychological, from a sociological point of view. Reflective happiness is what I call the step back. It’s when you pause and you go into thinking mode and you say, “Hey, am I living a good life? What’s my definition of a life well lived? And is what I’m doing sort of measuring up to that?”

Those are two quite different ways of defining, not only defining happiness, but in a scientific context, operationalizing them. So, when you think about what’s the relationship between more income and more happiness, or just generally, what’s the relationship between money and happiness, the answer, Brad, totally depends on which of those two definitions of happiness you are relying on.

Brad Johnson: Okay, so let’s take this work a step further, because I know you work with financial advisors as do we. And so, if we look through what I would call the financial advising journey, which prospect comes in as a million, $2 million, $5 million, obviously, everybody’s situation’s a little different. And their definition of happiness is probably different. How do you start to coach financial advisors to work through a process where we talk a lot of finances chasing this imaginary number, whatever that is for them? Their million dollars in the nest egg, $2 million, $5 million. And most of it’s this pursuit, like you said, are basically your definition of rich, and where we get to wealthy and being fulfilled, that’s a very different definition.

And what I’ve seen advisors that have a process where it’s always about the numbers, the returns, they tend to have unhappy clients when obviously, the market goes into a recession or there’s a drop as opposed to goal-based planning, which is really just starting with the end in mind and retrofitting the plan to get them there in an efficient way. So, if you were a financial advisor that would start to try to manufacture happy clients based on the planning you do, how would you start to think about that process and what it should look like?

Brian Portnoy: Yeah. So, it’s a great question. And I’d start by saying, and maybe I said this before so maybe I’m repeating, but just want to punctuate it by saying that rich is a number and wealth is a mindset. And then, people have a number, right? I’ve thought of numbers, Brad. You’ve thought of numbers. It’s like, okay, well, what is the number, what is the amount of dollars that I need to do what? Fill in the blank. That numerical exercise tends not to be particularly satisfying over the long run.

I mean, there is an engineering problem in terms of which, not really the topic of today, or at least it’s a side note. There’s an engineering problem, it’s okay, well, I want to retire at age 63 with $3 million. Why? Well, I don’t know, because with a 4% withdrawal rate, I can have X number of dollars of income per month and that can sustain me or sort of so I can afford to do the things that I want to do. And that’s totally fine. That’s table stakes. That’s a commoditized service by financial advisors. If that’s all you offer, you don’t really have much to compete on.

And thinking about rich as a number puts us on that treadmill where, okay, you get to the number, and then there’s a pretty good chance when you get there, you’re going to say, “Well, I want more.” So, people who have a million dollars or $2 million sounds great. And you get to $2 million, huh, how about $3.5, $4 million? And it really doesn’t end. And there’s enormous amount of evidence to suggest that.

The much harder and I think more fulfilling task is to reframe wealth as a mindset. And let’s just do a little evolutionary psychology. Humans were not born as calculators. We were born as storytellers. We’re not a particularly numerate species. I could ask you, what’s two plus two? And you’d answer me, not because you calculate it, but because it’s part of your memory. I could give you something slightly harder and you do it. If I gave you something, what’s 117 plus 942? You’d probably have to take out a pen and paper, and it gets much worse from there.

So, we’re a very successful species. We’re the number one on the block, but we’re not particularly numerate. What we are, and from the jump in terms of how we developed as a society, as a species is through the lens of storytelling. We make sense of the world through narratives that there are heroes and villains and there’s adventure along the way. And anybody who’s familiar with the hero’s journey, which I assume you’re very familiar with it, knows that humans have more or less been telling the same hero’s journey story for forever across time and across culture.

It ends up that when we say rich is a number, wealth is a mindset, wealth is also a story. It’s about the story we tell ourselves about who we are and who we want to be. So, it goes beyond what we want. It goes beyond what we do. It really goes to the question of identity. And you already pointed it out very well.

If the refrigerator is full and you’ve got a roof over your head, you’ve got a warm, safe home, well, great. From a human history point of view, you’re in a relatively elite crowd. Now, what do you do? Well, now you sort of continue to write and edit your story through time, the modern advisor– and we can get into specific coaching techniques, but the modern advisor should be adapted understanding what somebody’s story is and help move that forward so that you can really understand what’s important to them.

What are these deep underlying sources of contentment or fulfillment? How does money attach to them? And how do you build a plan, and not just like a day one plan, but an ongoing adaptive plan so that people can continue through an unpredictable and sometimes tumultuous life, continue to afford the things that are meaningful to them?

Brad Johnson: I love that. So many ways we can go from there. But one of the things that I think of is just all humans have these biases and sometimes baggage, specifically around money. I look at like, how you were brought up in the world, the era of the Great Depression where everybody just scrimped and saved their whole lives. And so, we’ll focus back on the advisor because this is a show for advisors.

If you were going to go down a path and there were certain questions or approaches you would take, because I think many have been kind of hardwired on this, how to be rich path of here’s my number, here’s my rate of return, very analytical and almost like devoid of emotion. Well, although there’s a lot of emotion that drives that, but steer them down the path of wealth and meaning and money. How would you start to go down that path versus the one that I think a lot of society is wired to go down with just chasing numbers and returns?

Brian Portnoy: Yeah. So, the short of it is that we unpack the story. We actually do full-blown workshops called Storytelling for Advisors. So, let me kind of share with you kind of what the method is for how to unpack somebody’s story so that you can be a better planner so that they can become wealthy as distinct from rich.

And by the way, I just want emphasize, they’re not mutually exclusive. It’s not a bad thing to have a bunch of dough in the bank so that you can do a lot of things for yourself and for others. But we know, you know, that just if you have $5 or $10 or $100 million in the bank, it really does not correlate whether or not you’re going to have a wealthy mindset.

So, the method for storytelling, to keep it simple but also practical, is what I call read, write, edit. What we train advisors on is a three-step process where step one, read, meaning let’s appreciate the value of story. So, when I said earlier, hopefully not too clever that we’re not born as calculators but as storytellers, there’s a whole neuroscience and psychology to storytelling, like, well, why is it that story is so important to us? Why is it that there are classic narrative structures, classic tales like the hero’s journey that come up over and over again?

There’s something about who you and I are, but also people supposedly very different from us across on the other side of the world where we’re all sort of living some version of a similar narrative. The hero’s journey, if you think about Star Wars or The Hunger Games or The Devil Wears Prada, those are almost frame by frame, the same movie. I think the stats are that of the 25 most popular movies of all time, 18 of them are the hero’s journey.

Why is it that we keep going to the theater to watch the same story over and over again? The the answer is that there’s something about the sort of the challenge and the struggle and the motivation of the character that’s facing what seems like insurmountable odds, who then sort of transcends through, think of Lord of the Rings, it’s classic. So, step one of the process, read, is really taking seriously a very rich set of insights from psychology and literature and neuroscience about why story even matters. You can’t go forward until you come to terms with why that’s true.

But then the next step is write. Now, at the write stage, we engage advisors to write their money stories. So, Josh Brown, who you might know, and I published a book about three or four years ago at this point called How I Invest My Money. It should have been called Why I Invest My Money. We got to get over 25 financial advisors and other people in the industry like that to basically tell their money story in a relatively short format, 1,500 to 2,000 words.

And so, there’s a number of prominent people in there. There’s me and Josh and Morgan Housel and Christine Benz and Bob Seawright and Howard Lindzon and people like that. What we’ve found is that, in many of the advisors that we asked to, “Hey, tell us how you spend your money, like why do you do what you do?” It was really the first time that they had ever put pen to paper.

And now, fast forward to this company I run where we do this all the time with hundreds of case studies, I think 90% of financial advisors, people who for a living, they’ve devoted their careers toward helping others achieve financial well-being, they’ve never put pen to paper on why money is important to them. And Brad, what we consistently hear is, wow, that was hard, that was uncomfortable, but I’m really glad that I did it for two reasons, one, I got to know myself a little bit better. And now, I’m actually more empathetic about what my clients are thinking. I’ve sort of put myself in their shoes to some extent. And so, we can get into some of the questions that get asked, but we have structured exercises for the money story, so read, write, edit.

The third stage of edit is well, now, you’ve gone from the hero of your own journey to the guide for anothers. You’ve gone from Luke to Obi-Wan, you’ve gone from Katniss to Haymitch, you’ve gone from Bilbo Baggins to Gandalf. Again, these are all the same story, you’ve gone from hero to guide. And now, you’re going to guide others toward financial well-being, the term that I use is funded contentment.

Well, let’s think about what an editor does in a book context. Well, they create an environment where someone can express themselves. They ask good questions. They let that person set the agenda. They allow that first permit that even encourage that person to go down wrong alleys and explore different things. They know when to give feedback and they know when to let things ride.

And so, what are the skills as a “editor,” or we even say sometimes ghostwriter of other people’s money stories? How can you play that role? And here’s what we find. And I’ll stop there. What we find in terms of feedback is that clients in this context feel like they are more seen, more heard, more understood than they’ve ever been before because, again, we’ve gone from number to mindset. We’ve gone from rich to wealthy.

And now, the advisor is leaning in because it’s more meaningful to her to be honest. And the client is like, “Wow, we’re having the conversation I want to have.” Because you know what people don’t care about? The PE multiple in the S&P 500. What a lot of firms for compliance reasons but also just legacy reasons they talk about? They talk about the market. They talk about PE ratios. They talk about what is going to happen with inflation, as if anybody knows.

I mean, if there’s one thing we know is that we can’t predict the future, and the wealth management industry is just tied to this version that, well, we’re going to share a bunch of market insights as if anyone knows what’s going to happen next. How about we focus on what people are really trying to do with their lives and helping them as opposed to making up numbers about the market?

Brad Johnson: Well, and what I love about that statement you just made, Brian, that’s coming from a CFA. And so, if there’s anybody that should be all about the numbers and the PE ratios and everything you just stated, it should be you. So, how did you come to that realization, being a guy that, like obviously, CFAs geek out on all of that? You’ve got to pass really hard tests to be able to get that designation.

Brian Portnoy: Well, Brad, we’re all on our own journey, aren’t we, now? Let me share with you a little bit of mine. So, yeah, going back close to 25 years now, I started my career at Morningstar, fabulous company here in Chicago, as an investment analyst. And it was numbers oriented, but it was also narrative oriented. I analyzed mutual funds, so I talked to portfolio managers, “Hey, why do you pick the stocks that you do? How do you add value? How do you manage risk?” Those sorts of things. So, there’s numbers, maps with stories.

I moved from there to do a similar role in the hedge fund industry. So, the nature of the investments became much, much more complicated. And after about 15 years of that, I sort of concluded that no one really knows anything that, at times, managers show skill, but for the most part, it’s luck and circumstance versus deliberate skill.

And I wrote a book. Prior to The Geometry of Wealth, I wrote a book that was published in 2014 called The Investor’s Paradox. And it was a book in the behavioral finance context, the psychology of money, but right down the middle of the fairway in terms of how do we make better investment decisions. And that was a great exercise. And I really enjoyed it.

In retrospect, I realized that it was a book about getting rich. It was, let’s take the numbers, let’s think about all of the biases that influence us. We seek out confirming evidence. We don’t seek out new evidence. We anchor to something that we just heard. When we own something, we love it more than when we didn’t own it, the so-called endowment effect. There’s 1,001 of these biases.

So, I wrote a book in behavioral finance. It was a book about being rich. And by the time I got to the end of that exercise, 2013, 2014, on a professional level, I was like, “Who the hell cares? Is this really going to add up to anything?” On a personal level, my kids were growing up. I was asking about the world that they were growing up into and how they were going to thrive.

And that led to The Geometry of Wealth. That led to me stepping back and saying, huh, before we get to the investment decisions, before we get to the asset allocation plan and all of those details, how about we, like, maybe I could be brazen enough to say, well, where does money fit into a meaningful life to begin with? What is a meaningful life?

And before we officially recorded, I was joking that Geometry of Wealth is a prequel. It’s the book that I should have written first but couldn’t have written first had I not gone through the exercise of exploring what I did in the more straightforward investment vein. So, that exercise of writing the two books and really thinking through these issues, having amazing opportunities to do podcasts like this one with you, where I get to think out loud a little bit about what I believe because it’s a side note.

The thrill of writing is figuring out what you think. It’s not like you know what you think, and then you write it down. I think the act of writing is as wonderful as it is because it forces you to figure it out. A lot of people can pop off and just say things like, “Well, write it down, what do you really think?” And then they put pen to paper like, “Wait a minute, I’ve written one sentence here. Did I really believe that?” Oh, hey, welcome to writing. Not so easy, is it, right?

So, I think I earned the ride over the course of a decade. I’ve gotten to the space where I feel comfortable asking these big picture questions. One, it’s made for a really fun career. And two, I feel like I’m a better dad. As a result, I can have deeper conversations with my kids about the kind of things I think they should be thinking about, and as they grow older, they want to be thinking about.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, well, I see a trend that you are riding the wave of with your company, which I don’t know that we set at Shaping Wealth, which obviously fits well with Geometry of Wealth. There’s a crossover to that.

Brian Portnoy: Yeah, one led to the other, right?

Brad Johnson: Yes, which is really cool because you’re doing some Outsourced Chief Behavioral Officer, which I feel like wasn’t a thing. I mean, when I got into the space in 2007, I don’t know, were Chief Behavioral Officers a thing? I feel like it’s a newer trend, but I also feel this trend of psychology. My sister-in-law, she’s sports psych at K-State, a Division I school. And that’s a new trend too to where you look at financial advising and it’s typically been on performance, you look at sports and athletics typically on performance, but it’s now the thinking and the mindset that’s required to be able to unlock this performance or unlock this pursuit of happiness and whatever that endeavor is.

Let’s talk about that, because I feel like that’s a new trend, where back in the day, it was a lot more taboo, especially for dudes to talk about your feelings and the meaning of things. So, what do you think’s causing that trend just in society?

Brian Portnoy: Yeah, yeah, let’s talk about dudes and feelings because a lot is changing. And did you say sister or sister-in-law at K-State?

Brad Johnson: My sister-in-law. Sister-in-law, yeah.

Brian Portnoy: So, it’s really helpful, Brad, that you brought up that example because it points to a much bigger trend of what’s taking place in the world. Do wealth management firms have Chief Behavioral Officers? The answer is mostly no. The wirehouses do, Merrill Lynch does, Wells Fargo does. JPMorgan private bank does. We can get into the weeds a little bit on that in a few steps from now.

But starting with your sister-in-law, starting with behavioral science, starting with fill in the blanks psychology, sports psychology, money psychology, the psychology of spirituality, we about a generation ago entered the golden age of behavioral science from a variety of different disciplines, neuroscience, many different fields within psychology, sociology, anthropology, a lot of what’s going on with computer and cognitive science. We have now so much more profound, not just profound, but rigorous insight into the way our minds work, the way we make decisions, the way we form habits, what motivates us, what demotivates us. We really are sort of a step function ahead of where we are, call it 20 to 30 years ago. Okay, so that sets the stage.

And we know that mindset is almost all that matters. Yes, you’re born a certain way, but the way you’re born is not your fate. There are some elements to it. Okay. I’m not 6’11. If I were, there’s a pretty decent chance I would have at least played a little college ball. I don’t know if I would have made it pro, but by virtue of that situation, that what happens.

So, we have a fair amount of control over the positive or negative outcomes in life. A lot of that is related to mindset. And now, we see across all these different fields. In the world of the psychology of money, which is another way of saying behavioral finance, we have progressed dramatically. We have. You made the reference to dudes and feelings. I think we’re now on the much better side of the river, where we’re like, that’s okay. This is a deeply emotional topic.

And in fact, the neuroscience of emotions, what we know about it now is radically different than what we knew even 15 or 20 years ago. The old line from Descartes, “I think, therefore I am” is literally incorrect. It’s literally incorrect based on modern brain science. The accurate statement is “I feel, therefore I am.” Emotions are actually the richest source of information that we have. So, rather than take emotions out of investing, out of money life, what we want to do is put emotions into money life. By doing so, we need to have an appropriate vocabulary and set of frameworks and mindsets for including it.

So, the idea that we’re going to be rational actors or rational investors, we jettison that. In fact, at Shaping Wealth, my company, we kind of have a joke that no one’s ever allowed to use the word rational or irrational. The only word that you can use is normal. And if you want to sound fancy, you can use the word adaptive. My partners are fancier than I am. They say adaptive, I just say normal. I’m from Pittsburgh.

So, when it comes to the Outsourced Chief Behavioral Officer, it’s an original idea by us. And reflecting on 10-plus years of working with coaching, counseling, financial advisors on the psychology of money, the question that’s come up literally hundreds of times, Brad, is how do I use all this cool behavioral finance stuff, whatever it is, to help my clients better, to help me better build my practice? Shaping Wealth, which is a coaching program that stems from The Geometry of Wealth, is the broad answer.

The specific subscription service that we have, the Outsourced Chief Behavioral Officer delivers hundreds of bite-sized insights and coaching moments and prompts and scripts and shareable content all based on advanced behavioral insights and science that the advisor doesn’t need to worry about. We just sort of hand-deliver it to you so that you could use it in your practice in one way or another. Some of it’s asynchronous content that you can download. Some of it is synchronous coaching engagements that you can do with us and a whole variety of things. And so far, it’s been great. It’s been a blast and it’s been very well received.

Brad Johnson: Awesome. So, let’s dive in there a little bit more because I think, most advisors listening to this, they kind of understand. Most of the founders are the CEO, right? So, kind of in charge of the vision of the firm and where they’re headed. They may have a COO depending on how big the firm is scaled, kind of a day-to-day ops and overseeing the team.

But if they hear CBO, what I just heard is what you’re doing there is providing almost mindset coaching along with maybe questions or frameworks that can be shared to the advisor team that’s meeting with their clientele. So, is that coaching, do you see it? The CBO, is that more of the coaching the financial advisor team that then in turn meets with the clients? Or do you sometimes go to the clients as well to coach that mindset around the money or the financial plans? How does that kind of trickle down?

Brian Portnoy: Yeah. So, where we are, so we’re an Outsourced CBO, right? I mean, mostly everybody listening to this has never ever even thought of a CBO, let alone has one in-house. At the same time, who’s not thinking about making better decisions, forming stronger habits, achieving higher levels of well-being? We’re doing that all the time. The question that we’re posing to the industry is, well, who’s responsible for thinking about that and structuring it in a process that’s scalable to help your business succeed and to your employees thrive and your clients thrive.

Most people wouldn’t even begin to think about that. We’re kind of showing up and saying, in one way or another, we can help you think through these issues. For us, it starts internally when we think about building modern cultures of wealth. It starts with a look inward. I sometimes like to describe us as an advisor engagement platform because we work with the advisors first, and then they can show up with the clients more whole, more engaging. And it just creates this virtuous flywheel where the advisor, remember the advisor is the hero of her own journey first before she becomes a guide. She’s Luke before she becomes Obi-Wan.

And therefore, when we work with advisors on positive psychology, meaning sources of happiness, work with advisors on emotional intelligence, self-awareness, empathy, those sorts of things, it creates a lot of positive energy. And what we found through feedback so far is that the advisor then shows up in the client engagement, leaning in, asking better questions, listening more clearly to what’s being said because they’ve been trained and primed to think a little bit differently about rich versus wealthy number versus mindset.

Now, you know as well as anybody that different advice firms are structured in countless different ways. You got one-person shops, 10-person shops, 10,000-person shops. Is there a division of labor across different functions, sort of everybody is a jack of all trades? It happens. It’s sort of whatever you want to do, our perspective is that there’s someone responsible for the portfolios. That’s the Chief Investment Officer. There’s someone responsible for keeping all the trains running on time, the Chief Operating Officer, and so on and so forth.

Who’s really thinking about better decision making from a systematic process driven point of view? Probably no one. Everyone’s thinking about it from one perspective or another. We like to show up and say, “Hey, we can kind of add some structure to what you’re doing in a light way where you get a few different things.” And then we have deep dive coaching programs where people really get into it.

Brad Johnson: So, I love the Star Wars reference, the hero and the guide. Might actually get my kids to listen to one of my podcasts if we talk about it.

Brian Portnoy: Yeah, I’ll keep going on the Star Wars, too. Just ask.

Brad Johnson: So, everybody, I think, has seen Star Wars at this point, the original. And you’ve got Luke who’s kind of battling some demons, right? And you’ve got the dark side that keeps trying to lure him over. So, with that, if I look at a financial advisor and kind of use the same analogy, you’re the subject of the school of thought you grew up in. To your point, the distribution, there’s wirehouses, there’s fee only, there’s insurance based. And so, I’ve seen that a lot in my career where there’s just different biases based on the school that they came up in.

And then, I’m sure there’s psychological gaps based on their own personal baggage around money. What are some of the most common gaps or biases you see at the financial advisor level that you almost have to work your way through so they can be better advisors? Or there’s some common ones that come up over and over?

Brian Portnoy: Yeah, well, that’s a really good question. I’ve actually not been asked that before, so I love it. So, let’s kind of set the stage historically and just at least mention generational shift that’s taken place because you made reference to wirehouses, independent broker-dealers, independent RIAs, insurance broker-dealers. There’s a lot of different ways to skin this cat, right?

The general trend over the last 25 to 35 years is broadly a move in our industry from being transactional to being more relationship oriented. And that sounds kind of generic, but when you get into the weeds, it’s a material shift in the way that we collectively do business. Sometimes I’ll call it the arc from Gordon Gekko to Brené Brown. So, the Horseshoe loves Anacott Steel. Bud Fox was a financial advisor. He put his best clients into his best ideas, and that was financial advice. He was just selling stocks. This was a brokerage business 25, 30 years ago.

Financial planning, in the way that you and I understand it, that all of our friends understand it, yes, the first CFP certificate was given out, I think, in 1973. It was a nothing part of the industry until 15 or 20 years ago in terms of true financial planning, comprehensive planning. And even to this day, a lot of firms are still just figuring out, well, how do I put my clients into a plan? How do I sell them a plan for $1,300 or $2,700? And then in a year from now, how do I get them to renew that plan and it becomes a recurring revenue thing?

Other firms are years ahead in terms of true, ongoing comprehensive planning. There’s no charge for the plan, per se. It’s just all that happens. So, you see, one, a general arc from transactional to relational. You see still to this day, different firms. And we work with firms on five different continents. So, we’ve got this really cool global perspective. And this framework applies to everybody that we work with.

So, general trend, and then within the trend, some people are further behind and some people or some groups are moving at a different pace than others. Everyone’s generally moving in the same direction. Yeah, there are old school brokers out there and that’s totally fine. I would only say, if the product or service being sold maps to what the customer prefers, great. That’s a really good outcome.

But broadly speaking, the space that we’re now in, that approach to comprehensive financial planning, it’s everywhere and it’s going to grow. In terms of challenges or you referred to biases, one thing I’ll point out, and it’s a little bit critical and maybe even some people get offended, which is kind of a good thing because it starts a good conversation, is that we see a pretty big line between advisors who have a growth versus a fixed mindset. You know the research from Carol Dweck on mindset does, even if they don’t know her name, they know growth versus fixed mindset.

It’s like sense of humor. Everybody thinks they’re funny, but most people aren’t. Everybody thinks they have a growth mindset, most people don’t. You know why? Because growth requires pain and loss and sacrifice, and most people don’t want to go there. We work with or we encounter at least advisors like, “Oh, I get this. I’m already really good with people.” They’re like, “Okay, well, I did all this training on how to build a portfolio,” as if they’re adding value through their investment selections. They’re not.

They know how to structure an estate. They know how to optimize for taxes. They know how to do all the engineering tasks. And everything related to the people part of the business, they’re just relying on common sense and high ethics, but that’s table stakes. And I made reference to it before, everything we now know from behavioral science, we have dozen scores, hundreds of insights into what make us tick that can be applied to the financial planning process because we have a thriving business. We have plenty of people that we work with that have a growth mindset that are willing to say, “Huh, I’ve been doing this for 27 years, but I still want to learn. Share with me this stuff.”

And we learn from them and we update and adapt our programming based on all these amazing interactions we have. But I’ll tell you, there’s a number of guys, and they tend to be guys, who act like they know it all. They say they have a growth mindset, but they don’t want to do the work. They don’t want to engage in the material. It’s like the analogy between financial well-being and physical well-being is quite strong.

And so, we talk about offering coaching programs, not courses. And I say, well, if you’re going to go to the CrossFit in a gym and you say to the trainer, what are you going to give me, which is the question we get in one way or another, well, that CrossFit trainer is going to be like, “What the hell are you talking about? Why are you here? You want to be thinner, faster, stronger? Do you want to sleep better? Do you want to be more successful at home or at work, have high energy to feel more vital? Why are you here? And maybe I can help you.”

I mean, there’s sample bias because most people talking to us want to go to the gym and they want to do the work. But it’s interesting to still see a material residue in the industry of advisors who believe in coaching their clients but won’t admit that they themselves can do some work on their skills. And it’s a big world and we’re a small firm, so it’s totally fine. But I’ve seen this now for two or three years. It’s been really interesting.

Brad Johnson: Well, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, I got into the business in 2007, kind of my evolution. I started as really a product wholesaler. And what’s interesting was the same shift you just talked about, transactional versus really the value and the relationship proposition. It’s exactly what I experienced. I started out cold calling financial advisors, 100 dials a day, smile and dial, that whole system. And what I found over the years is why clients actually worked with me was the coaching and much of it was behavioral. And I will tell you, the growth versus fixed mindset, one of my favorite books of all time, by the way. Carol Dweck made me a better parent, by the way. There’s a lot that applies to parenting in that book.

But you can’t teach a student who already thinks they know it all, and I’ve seen that in coaching. And by the way, that’s what I love about podcasting because I find growth-minded financial advisors tend to listen to a lot of podcasts because they’re seeking wisdom. They’re continuing to grow and evolve. And that’s how some of my favorite relationships have started is just advisors that listen to podcasts that we end up connecting.

But back to that growth versus fixed mindset, I mean, I’ve seen it another way too. I’m curious if you’ve seen this. I’ve seen the young advisor that doesn’t know anything that gets into our space, very growth mindset because obviously, they’re seeking to learn an industry they’re unaware of, but I’ve seen it where they reach a certain level of success and experience, and then this ego starts to come out that wasn’t there in the beginning. And the ego starts to block their future growth.

And I’ve seen firms that take off. They go from $5 million of new assets gathered to 20, 30, 40, and they’re just like a rocket ship. And then all of a sudden, boom, they hit this glass ceiling because their ego gets in the way. And you’ve seen these firms that kind of a solo firm that like the guys capped out, he has no more time. He’s doing as many appointments as he can. And like you said, it is typically the guys.

And the next evolution of the firm is to build a business. It’s bigger than them, that’s bigger than just them, the individual advisor. And that shift from financial advisor to business owner, where now you have to grow and empower a team, it’s a big leap for many and it takes a lot of growth because what got them to the success of financial advisor does not apply. It’s not all about them anymore. And I see the ones that struggle, they’re the ones that just don’t have that growth mindset.

And so, so much of my decade and a half of coaching just completely supports what you said there. So, I couldn’t agree more. What are ways from your experience to check your own ego, make sure it’s not getting out of control, and just consistently maintain a growth mindset just throughout life?

Brian Portnoy: Yeah. Well, I’m deeply flawed. So, I’ll start with that premise and thinking about myself and then others. I feel like I got lucky from a genetic lottery point of view that personally, I’ve been curious from the jump. I think the world’s a fascinating place. I like learning. I did a PhD earlier in my career that was sort of the culmination of just exploring a lot of topics that I wanted to before moving on to investing and writing and now coaching.

And so, when I translate that into how I relate to others, work with others, I’m personally just looking for what natural curiosity they have because most people have some– people that you and I are going to run across in this industry who are listening to podcasts, they’re at conferences, they’re building their business, they’re trying to figure stuff out. So, that’s always kind of a good first step.

But then, to your point, you can’t build muscle without breaking muscle. What are they willing to challenge about themselves about who they are? And being critical of one’s own identity, it’s just not disturbing. It’s almost like physically painful. You kind of have to lean into that pain and say, “Well, how do I want to be different? How do I want to be better?” Those sorts of things.

People who are willing to engage in those exercises, they’re going to be successful because they’re going to be able to adapt. People who don’t adapt tend not to succeed unless they happen to just nail it right at the beginning of their career and got into a good lane. But people who have that innate curiosity and they’re willing to ask hard questions of themselves and then of the world, they tend to end up in an okay place.

And one of the joys for me in building Shaping Wealth has been the ability to kind of come across a lot of those, or not a lot, but people with that mindset. And again, it’s just not the US, it’s Canada, UK, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Germany. It’s been wild to see that growth mindset percolate throughout the global wealth industry, and so many firms begin to experiment with ways that they can improve.

To your example, the guy who built a great business, but he struggles to actually build a team, and look, I’m an entrepreneur, which is, I think, a fancy word of saying I don’t really know what I’m doing. So, I keep trying things and seeing what works. We’re very much out there as a learning and development platform, and I talk to advisors, heads of advice firms all the time, just asking, “Well, how are you thinking about attracting and retaining talent? Who do you want to bring on board? Who do you want to be a culture carrier? How are you taking your mid-level employees and motivating them after 10 or 12 years in the hopes that they’re going to be there for 20 or 22 years?”

And it leads to some great conversations and it also leads to some blank stares, in part because this really wasn’t much of a profession until that recently, which you know as well as anybody. This is really becoming a profession. The firms are getting bigger. The organizations are becoming more mature. Their study of bull in a business school case context versus just a dude with a shingle who just provides something called financial advice. So, it’s really interesting to see how learning, development, training lands in the industry as it’s maturing so quickly and people are competing with each other. Your listeners, my friends, our audience, they’re not only building their thing, they’re looking at what everybody else is doing.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well, I feel very fortunate on that note. I’ve sat in a chair, I kind of call it the 30,000-foot view, where I was looking at all these independent financial services firms all across the US. And I just had an accelerated learning curve, where I think most advisors, you’re kind of in your world, maybe you go to a few conferences here and there, but it’s kind of like experimentation with a really small data set. And what I was able to see was 500 experiments all running at the same time of like, oh, this marketing from this guy running public seminars in Chicago, that’s working. We should apply that to these other firms. Oh, this sales process to where this way to run a first, a second, a third, oh, that works. That’s really dialed in. That would be scalable to other firms.

And many other lessons I learned over the years that I was really, like just in this beautiful spot where I could observe and learn, I’m also a very curious individual, so I’m constantly just asking questions and taking notes. But I want to expand on that because my data set was the US. Now, your data set is five different continents.

So, if you were to look at your lab as you’re overseeing all these different firms on five different continents, and if you were to look at let’s exclude North America, let’s go other places, what lessons or things that you’ve observed? In other financial services industries and other parts of the world, what lessons would you take and pluck and steal and say, “Hey, this should be inserted into the United States of America’s financial services industry”? What are some of the common– I’m sure there’s got to be at least one or two of those. What are your thoughts there?

Brian Portnoy: Yeah, again, an original question. It’s a good question. And I truly don’t have a good answer because generally, I see way more similarities than differences. Like, the old social scientist in me is always thinking about, what’s my population or my sample here? And there’s absolutely sample bias because the firms that are coming to me from South Africa or Australia that are finding me on the web or seeing me on Twitter or listening to podcasts, because it’s not like we do much marketing and that sort of stuff, they’re already kind of in the channel. They’re already thinking about human centric or human first advice. How do we really connect with other human beings in order to help make sense of their money lives within the context of a broader search for a life well lived?

So, I would say, if the lesson is, and it’s not the answer you, I think, were asking for, but it’s what I believe to be true is that there’s one human experience of money. There’s more about humans regardless of where they live that’s similar versus wildly different. Yes, industries are at different stages of development. But the firms that we’re talking to tend to be on the leading edge of kind of human centric or human first behavioral advice because they’re talking to us about kind of a good-to-great-type context as opposed to more of a remedial thing.

Just like in the US, there’s countless broker-dealer platforms that probably find what we’re doing to be like, woo-woo, whatever. Definitely, a ton of firms, but maybe disproportionately even more overseas that don’t see a ton of value in what we’re doing. And as I mentioned earlier, it’s a big world. And we’re looking forward to working with a handful of good-to-great-type situations as opposed to trying to please everybody.

Brad Johnson: I always feel the podcast has been really cool. I mean, for me, I started in 2015 and it was just small town Kansas kid talking into a $60 mic he bought off at Amazon and trying to have interesting conversations with people I could learn something from, like yourself. And one of the things that just blew me away was like when Australian advisors started listing, there was a guy in Sweden and Denmark and it just blew me away the reach of a podcast.

And one of the things, as I started connecting with a few advisors over in Europe, they said that the environment in the US for financial advisors, there’s just a ton more conferences and places for advisors to get together and learn and connect. And I’m just curious like, have you seen that as well? And do you feel like the US has kind of led the charge when it comes to behavioral finance? Or are there other pockets that– yes.

Brian Portnoy: No. 100%, because the US industry is so massive compared to any other market, in Canada, even the UK. I mean, I think the US market for advice is 10 times the size as it is in England. And we have a pretty robust business in England, so we know that space pretty well. One of my co-founders, Neil Bage, is based in the UK. He’s British. So, you’re absolutely correct. Ours is by far the largest segment of the industry. It is by far the most advanced in terms of exploring these different psychological and behavioral dimensions. And I think you’re seeing some of these other countries and cultures draft off of us a little bit in a good way.

Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight over how big United States of America is. It’s a third of a billion people. It’s incredibly wealthy. Most of these other countries, which are advanced countries that are rich and safe and prosperous and all the good things, they’re tiny compared to us. So, there simply aren’t that many advisors. The wealth management industry is quite different.

I mean, probably the best contrast is Canada because you probably know that market well also. It’s a market that’s dominated by five big banks. There’s really not much of an independent RIA market there. There are some that are emerging. We work with some of them. But a lot of the financial advice that’s given sits within these huge banks or brokerage houses and it’s very product driven. They’re not having these sorts of conversations. But again, that arc from Gordon Gekko to Brené Brown, from the transactional to the relational, from the analytic to the empathetic, that’s also happening there. It’s just they’re further behind and moving more slowly.

Brad Johnson: Okay. I wanted to make sure we get to this. So, I’m going to switch topics here. And I’m sure this is not the first time you’ve been asked this, but I’d love to go a little bit deeper down this rabbit hole. So, AI, ChatGPT, just this evolution, and I think everybody knew it was coming. And then ChatGPT hit, it was like, oh damn, I didn’t expect it to hit that fast.

And one of the things I look at when it comes to just what you said, transactional to relational, if it’s just stacking Lego blocks, if you look at finance, it’s just stacking Lego blocks. Computers are going to be much better than humans and much more efficient at doing that. And so, that is not the moat around the castle I would be building if I was a financial advisor out there.

What are your thoughts on just AI? Looking out the next three, four or five years, how that will impact the role of financial advisors? And if you were a financial advisor, how you would be thinking about that because I’m going to guess it goes a little bit down the path of connection and relationships and behavior? So, I just love to hear your thoughts on that.

Brian Portnoy: Yeah, thousand percent. And as a business owner, probably the best thing that could have happened to me was ChatGPT because it is going to wipe the floor with advice firms that are just doing commoditized services. We’re all in the same boat. I mean, this thing’s only a few months old, right? Yeah, I mean, we could trace AI back to the mid to late 40s, and there’s a whole long, interesting story, I suppose.

But this didn’t really become real for almost anybody until these easily accessible free engines like ChatGPT or Bard or Bing, whatever. We’re at our fingertips. And like you, I’ve used them a fair bit and I’m just sort of blown away. I mean, you have a conversation. We’re both curious people, want to figure out some stuff about the world, like type it in, get going, have a conversation, learn how to prompt better and better. And you get better and better answers.

And my friends who are 100x tech savvier than I am, their ability to put data and images and PDFs and spreadsheets into ChatGPT version 4 and spit out unbelievably sophisticated answers to complex questions, it’s literally mind-blowing. I mean, this, I think, is a revolution on the order of the invention of the Internet. And it speaks specifically to this question of what does it mean to be a human being, which, again, big philosophical question, frankly, my favorite types of questions. It’s one we’ve been grappling with since the dawn of civilization.

I don’t think it’s ever been harder to come up with a succinct, comfortable answer to the question. Just going back a little bit, the advent of social media has us questioning our empathy and our tribal loyalties. We’re a bunch of jerks to each other, to be honest. The pandemic has called into question our mortality. I mean, we had a legit biblical plague that swept across the world, feels like last month.

And now, AI is questioning our relevance. I mean, I grew up in Pittsburgh. You grew up where you did. We saw what happened to manual labor in our hometowns and what robots can do to replace that. Well, fancy guys like us, it’s like, okay, well, that’s not me. Well, guess what, knowledge worker? Now, it’s your turn to maybe confront someone outsourcing you to replacing you, specifically in the context of financial advice. There is so much from an investment management point of view, from a client communication point of view, from a back-end operations and accounting point of view that can be outsourced to this sort of engine.

Now, it’s all details, right? So, there’s a lot to sort out. I don’t know, because of the firms we work with, I’d say 100% of them are thinking about, not 99.9%, 100% of them have task forces thinking about how they can use AI to better serve clients, better increase profitability, better compete, and more scary just how to survive. Where I sit specifically running a learning platform focused on providing human centric advice, that was our tagline a year ago.

Now, we’ve got something challenging this whole idea of what it means to be human. I kind of like the fact that we’re working with real people on emotional intelligence, on cognitive psychology, on the true sources of happiness in life. I actually do believe that these engines can be trained to be empathetic voices. I’ve experienced it on ChatGPT. I’ve experienced it on Bing. It’s like, wait, am I talking to a person because it sure as hell feels like one?

And so, that is all creeping into our daily lives. I think it’s going to be super impactful. Predicting the future isn’t my thing. It’s impossible. But I am making a bet, and the bet is, is that it’s going to change our industry structurally. And we should figure out, well, what is it that we can do that the robots can’t do? And let’s focus on that.

The more that this comes into fruition, the more from the demand side, not just us saying, well, what do I want to put in the world as an advisor, but as the consumer, the individual investor, them saying, wait, I’m going to go work with some dude and pay him 1% and then pay another 1% for investments. I got this whole other thing. And maybe it’s in 2026 or 2029, but those aren’t that long from now. ChatGPT as we sit here in June of 2023, it’s like, what, five months old? Maybe it’s seven, I don’t know. It’s less than a year. And it seems to be accelerating.

So, anyway, I’m on a little bit of a soapbox because I have thought about this a lot, I’ve had tons of conversations about this. We’re actually folding in conversations about it into our coaching programs because we want to give advisors a platform to think out loud about what’s happening. I think it’s a game changer. Capital G, capital C, game changer.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Well. I think any financial advisor that says differently is completely naive. And where my head goes, have you happened to see the movie Her with Joaquin Phoenix?

Brian Portnoy: I was just talking about it this morning, Scarlett Johansson and Joaquin Phoenix. It’s unbelievable.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. So, those that haven’t, basically, human falls in love with an AI robot that has a personality and really interest– number one, it’s a great movie. Number two, it’s quite the– there’s actually two movies that come to mind. There’s that one and then there’s– oh, gosh.

Brian Portnoy: Ex Machina?

Brad Johnson: Yes, that’s the exact one I was thinking of, which is scary itself.

Brian Portnoy: Dude, we’re on the same page. We’re on the same page. Yeah, both of them are mind-blowing.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, that one has a complete twist ending we won’t really hear.

Brian Portnoy: No, don’t give it away.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, but if anybody that has not seen those two movies that’s thinking about AI should watch both of them. But like Her, specifically, it’s really interesting because you brought up the fact that AI can train to be empathetic and have human-like qualities. And I do think, if I’m looking what is like when they can have the same conversations, in fact, have better, more empathetic conversations than a human because they don’t have to fight the own emotional baggage that many of us have, I’m just like, what will be the last horizon? And I truly believe it will be the physicality of a human, right?

Almost like if you look at the generation today, my parents, the physical touch of a newspaper is something that they’ve grown up with. And actually, there’s almost this romanticized thing of leafing through a book or a newspaper. I don’t have that as much. I’ll read my news on an iPhone and be completely fine with it.

But I think if we look at us and as we age, I think there will be that same sort of nostalgia with just human conversations and interactions. And I hope that never goes away. But who knows how it could evolve? But I see the financial advisor of the future, 20, 25, 30 years, I see it a lot more as like a psychologist sitting down and just talking through much of the mindset and the emotions around money, just like what you’re talking about. And even if a computer can potentially do it better, I think many in humanity would prefer the face-to-face, skin-to-skin element of a human, not just kind of my, as I look out into the future of what good could be. Any additional thoughts along those lines on your side?

Brian Portnoy: I don’t know if I’m compelled by that. I think the ship has sailed because post-pandemic, you’ve got boomers who are comfortable with Zoom because they had to learn how to use it to talk to their grandkids, let alone Gen X. Forget Millennials and Gen Z. So, the human face to face, that’s done, Who does that anymore?

Brad Johnson: Well, even this right here, I mean, obviously, computer graphics could replicate all of this. You’ve got Deepfake, where you’ve got fake video, all of that. So, you’re basically making the argument that none of that may matter either.

Brian Portnoy: Yeah, maybe, I mean, I think there is a pretty clear path toward that because one thing I could do, and I have a friend who can flip the switch when I wanted to, I could take everything that I’ve ever written and said and put it into ChatGPT-4 and it will recreate me and my voice pretty reliably.

And then, with other technology, basically a free app on the App store, I can speak a handful of sentences into it and it’ll pick up my voice and my cadence because I speak in a particular way, and forget my physical embodiment. But basically, all of my brain and my actual live voice can be replicated by tomorrow, literally.

So, we have this Outsourced Chief Behavioral Officer platform, OCBO, subscription based. It’s really cool. One thing we’ve talked about is whether my partners and I basically recreate ourselves, and you could show up and you could talk to us, even though it’s not us. And the answer that you’ll get by me, obviously, who test it and refine it and all that, but from what we’ve seen elsewhere, it can be pretty reliable. I could go sit on the beach, I could come up to Kansas City. We could have a nice steak dinner while Portnoy bot is in the ether, answering questions from clients all over the world.

I mean, I don’t want to wrap up our conversation today with me sounding like a lunatic. But it does appear that a lot of basic human functionality can be replicated. And I’m not sure if we value authenticity as much as we say we do. We love to say that we love authenticity. But if you can talk to a computer and it gives you the answers you want with a tone and a mood that feels right to you, keep in mind, it’s not like– let’s use the analogy of self-driving cars and the alarm that people have when a self-driving car has a crash. Oh, my God, this is terrible. It’s the wrong baseline. It’s the wrong benchmark. The base rate is well, whatever human beings get into in terms of percentage of crashes.

Brad Johnson: Right.

Brian Portnoy: Okay. So, it’s not like every human being, let alone every financial advisor, is so deeply empathetic. Quite the contrary. That’s why I have a business because we train people in these sorts of things. So, you could, from a pretty advanced starting point, just get there on a lot of these so-called people or human skills with a bot.

Brad Johnson: Now, we’re getting into Black Mirror territory.

Brian Portnoy: I know, I know. I don’t want to be that guy because I’m not like…

Brad Johnson: No, I love it. This is what makes this show fun, is being able to explore what could be. And I think you’ve made so many good points. I mean, the first thing that AI will be able to do is construct a financial plan in a very seamless and smart way, right? Just like a mechanical version of that, of what are all the moving parts to accomplish, because it’s math at the end of the day, and a computer is going to be able to do math better than a human because they can crunch all the different scenarios.

I think the last frontier will be that super empathetic human conversation, which eventually that AI will cross that, too. But I think if you’re looking of what is the frontier as a human, you need to make sure you’re on the front end. That’s what allows humans to connect and actually make smart decisions. Is that safe environment where you can ask the right questions, and going back to where we started this conversation, the mindset around money and happiness, and how to create a financial plan that delivers on that in the most efficient way possible?

Brian Portnoy: Yeah, so that’s a good way to package it, is that if there is a stable ground, it’s on mindset. The stable ground is not found on numbers. So, full circle of rich is a number and wealth is a mindset, we’re going to have to focus on mindset. We’re going to have to have those conversations. As a practical matter, most people, most of the time, globally, are not going to have this conversation with Scarlett Johansson in Her. Okay. It’s an unbelievable kind of thought experiment as to what could be. It’s not happening tomorrow.

It might happen in a few years. But the fact is that where the industry now is, and it’s a massive and complicated industry we know, that the threat is real. We can articulate the threat and we know where the fortress is, and the fortress is found on the human side of advice, not on the numerical side of advice because the ladder is going to be replaced, already is. It’s already been replaced to some extent by computers. And now, it’s just going to be the next level of that.

Brad Johnson: Yeah, couldn’t agree more. All right. Well, last final question. This show is called Do Business. Do Life. And one of the pursuits, one of the missions we’re on at Triad is to help financial advisors not only do business, but do life. And I’ve seen unfortunately too many times over the years where incredible financial advisors, incredible entrepreneurs have built a business. They’ve gone independent to build a business that deserves to exist. And then over time, it’s unfortunately become their life versus blessing their life. And so, I know obviously around happiness and you have a family, there’s a lot of other things, we talk a lot of business today, but I know obviously, there’s Brian Portnoy, the dad, the husband. I’d love to hear your definition of what that sounds like, Brian, as we wrap here.

Brian Portnoy: Yeah. So, my wife, Tracy, my kids, Ben, Zach, and Sarah, and my dog, Freddie, some days it’s hard because building a business is hard, but I almost never lose sight of the blessings that they are. And my sons, they’ve gone away to college. They’re home for the summer now. And I’ll tell you, Brad, it was just a few days ago and it was a nonevent, but the five of us, plus Freddie, the dog, were in the living room and kids were kind of on their phone. And Tracy’s putzing around in the kitchen, and I’m probably watching Seinfeld again for the 9 millionth time.

But we’re kind of like all in the same relatively small space. And I kind of had this flash of both joy and anxiety that like, wow, this isn’t going to last. And it was a really bittersweet moment because the boys are going to graduate college, Sarah starts college in a couple of years. We’re already at the point where there’s no spring break to share because people have different schedules. Now, we just have summers and Christmastime together. And that’s going to disappear when they start their own families, not disappear, but change significantly. So, I have no idea if I’m answering your question, but when you asked it, my mind flashed to my living room about four days ago when the five of us were just there, and I was cognizant of the fact that there aren’t many more moments like this that will happen in my life.

Brad Johnson: That one’s sinking.

Brian Portnoy: And by the way, it was a joyful moment. Bittersweet because I think life is bittersweet. I think that we learn lessons. We live life deeply through struggle and through loss, the anticipation of regret. There’s things that we can do about that. But at moments like this, it’s like, God damn, I’m just a really lucky guy to be here in this moment, knowing full well that an element of the joy of the moment is that it is ephemeral, just like life in general.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. Where my head goes, because you’re talking about being present in that present moment and being aware. And back to Stoicism, which is pretty good for that, there’s a passage in the Daily Stoic and it’s almost like a mental framework, and I forget. It was Seneca, Epictetus, one of the famous Stoics. And he did this mind exercise. He had this favorite teacup. And he said, I’ve in my mind, I know that the cup is already broken. It’s already gone. And it was his favorite possession. And he said, “Because I’ve already gone through the mental exercise of the cup falling off the desk and breaking, it makes me appreciate it that much more when it’s here and in my presence.”

And what you just shared right there, that’s where my head went because it’s like in this moment, I’ve got my whole family, and someday, this won’t be possible because they’ll be their own parents, their own families. And because of that mental exercise, you’re in that moment just loving it for everything that it is. And that’s where my head went on that one.

Brian Portnoy: Huh, it seems like a perfect fit. I wasn’t familiar with that particular story, but yeah, I guess that was it. That was it.

Brad Johnson: Well, thanks for sharing that. That one hits home with me as a dad and husband, and I try my very best. The iPhone sure can get in the way of being present in those moments, but I think that’s a good reminder for everybody that’s listening. Put the iPhone down, be present with those you love because the moments are fleeting. They don’t last forever, so.

Well, Brian, as we wrap, man, thank you so much. This was such a fun conversation. Really enjoyed it. I know you brought a lot of value for the advisors listening in. And hopefully, someday, we’ll get a chance to connect in person next time I go to Chicago.

Brian Portnoy: I love that. It’s overdue. It’s overdue.

Brad Johnson: Yeah. You’re always welcome. You come down to Kansas City, you let me know. All right?

Brian Portnoy: Excellent. I really appreciate you, Brad. Thank you.

Brad Johnson: You too, Brian. Take care.


These conversations are intended to provide financial advisors with ideas, strategies, concepts and tools that could be incorporated into the advisory practice, advisors are responsible for ensuring implementation of anything discussed is in accordance with any and all regulatory and compliance responsibilities and obligations. TP08233061259


Get yourself some DBDL Swag by clicking below

Become a dbdl insider

Get your copy of and access the rest of the DBDL Library

Claim your private coaching session

Apply today to schedule a coaching session with brad

Live Coaching with Brian Portnoy

Sign up today to attend a coaching session with Brian