By Jerry Wagner My involvement in politics as a volunteer, employee, and consultant stretches back more than 60 years. During that time, I have always been an advocate on behalf of specific candidates. In all of my political interactions over the years, I think the rejoinder voiced most often has been “What’s the difference? The [candidates, politicians, political parties] are all alike.” And even as a political zealot, I have to say that there were many years and many candidates where it was hard to disagree with the citizen making that argument. Traditionally, the parties and their candidates have covered a wide spectrum of political ideologies and positions on the issues. So, in such cases, or when the choices were bad, I usually fell back on the differences in the founding principles of each party, and on how they matched up with the citizen’s own beliefs, to justify the candidate for whom I was advocating. That approach has become easier to justify over the years as the parties seem to have become narrower, and the party members of each party have become more alike than different in their beliefs. We seem to have formed into two tight circles that don’t listen much to those in the other circle. But these two circles are very different—2016 demonstrated how different. And they certainly are different this year. I could go on and on about these differences and only focus on philosophy and accomplishments and not on the personalities of the candidates or their supporters. But the important concept is that these differences matter because the differences lead to different outcomes. And when the differences are great, making the right decision is even more important because the outcomes will likely be very different. So I hope this year, in this election, we work hard to understand the differences and the possible outcomes and then exercise our right to vote, because, once again this time, there is a difference. In investing—as in life—differences are important Two weeks ago, I wrote about differences in an article titled “There is a difference!” I wrote about how there was a significant difference between the investment-management services that we provide at Flexible Plan Investments (FPI) and those generally offered in the financial-services industry. Today I’d like to address why differences are important. Just as differences are important in politics, they are also critical in both mundane life decisions and extraordinary situations. If two bowls of condiments are on a table and you have a bag of french fries, for most of us our next action is likely to be determined by noticing that the sauce in one bowl is yellow and the other one is red. They are different and the taste outcomes are different. If you plan to hike in the southern parts of the U.S., my trainer and friend, John Zilli, would remind you that “Red ’n yellow, deadly fellow; red ’n black, friend of Jack.” This easy mnemonic, which he never seems to forget, is designed to help hikers determine the difference between a nonvenomous mimic snake and the deadly coral snake. The order of the color of the bands can be the difference between life and death. I hope and believe that choosing the right financial adviser and investment manager is not as critical as correctly identifying a snake. But it is certainly more important than the choice of condiments. The FPI difference: Dynamic risk management Financial advisers know that one of the hardest jobs in financial services is differentiating their business from the person offering financial advice down the street. However, if they work with us here at Flexible Plan Investments they know how easy it can be to show that they are different, to differentiate what they have to offer their clients. Flexible Plan offers actively managed strategies and has been doing so exclusively since 1981. Our methodology of dynamic risk management focuses on both risk and return—not one or the other. The goal of this methodology is to always reduce risk while seeking opportunity for growth. Both are at the forefront of our many strategies. Flexible Plan advisers know that no one strategy works in every market environment, nor will one strategy work all of the time. To deliver a more robust solution to their clients, they realize that portfolios must be diversified by more than just asset classes to survive in various market environments. They know that it is essential to also diversify among actively managed strategies to give their clients the best opportunity in the long run to survive and thrive in whatever situations the markets offer. Advisers working with Flexible Plan know that it’s not just a matter of reporting performance—it’s also critical to set the proper goals and expectations. Comparisons to the S&P 500 or other passive indexes just won’t cut it anymore. Few people invest only in funds that track one index. And few can stay invested in anything that, like the S&P 500, can plummet 50% or more in a short time. In contrast, advisers working with FPI offer their clients OnTarget reporting, which compares their performance in real time to a personalized benchmark based on the original metrics of the investments they were sold and invested in in the first place. What better to track performance against? Finally, with Flexible Plan’s long history of service, advisers know they can rely on our team to go above and beyond to assist them and their clients. FPI believes in actions over words. We seek to always have someone our clients can call whose only role is to help them. *** It’s an election year, and, for the most part, it’s true—politicians are just politicians. As a friend of mine who recently retired from that business always says, “Just wait and there will be another batch coming around to choose from.” But when it comes to the results of the policies of the candidates we choose, there is a difference. Voting matters because the path the candidates will take us down matters. Some will say that financial advisers, too, are all alike. Hopefully, after this short read, you know that if your adviser brought you to Flexible Plan Investments, your adviser is different. It’s easy to differentiate your adviser’s business and recommendations from your adviser’s competition. Your financial adviser recommends Flexible Plan Investments and knows that there is a difference—and that the difference matters!