Some readers may recall that the last Newsletter (Spring, 2018) had a lead article on planning for living arrangements as we age. We particularly discussed Continuous Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs). This issue of the Newsletter leads off with a related topic: anticipating and planning for how to deal with end of life issues. Reference is made to a book that covers many of the potential complications of aging – and we are again offering to send a copy of that book to all who are interested in reading it.

The second article is on Psychology and Money. It is a report on some of the primary emotional issues that can sabotage smart, long-term investing. We then turn to a quite different aspect of investing, namely investing that takes societal issues and problems into account, often referred to as Socially Responsible Investing.

The notion of putting the interests of clients and customers of financial services ahead of those of financial service providers (“the Fiduciary Rule”) is the penultimate article. And we always end with Office Matters.

David W. Otto, Editor



Finish Strong by Barbara Coombs Lee deals with how we want things handled at the end of our lives. Too often we have avoided thinking about this matter. It is also likely that we have not made our wishes sufficiently known.

Barbara Coombs Lee presents an excellent guide that surveys this terrain. In the Preface, Lee states that it was in May, 1994, that her thinking changed. At that time John F. Kennedy, Jr., said of his mother, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, after she passed away of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, “My mother died surrounded by her friends and family and her books. She did it in her own way and in her own terms and we all feel lucky for that.” When she knew that death was approaching, Onassis left New York Hospital and went home. She called those she loved to be with her as she passed quietly. “She died with the same grace and dignity with which she lived.” Reading those words turned on a lightbulb for Barbara Coombs Lee.

Lee notes that 25 years ago it was unusual to die on your own terms. While people were beginning to use advanced medical directives, these were often ignored, as the medical community “regularly continued to deliver unnecessary, painful, and unwanted treatments.” While much has changed, Lee cautions that people may still die in ways they would never choose. We must be proactive because “a momentous event, our death, will someday be upon us and we risk being unprepared.”

Finish Strong encourages thinking and talking when we are healthy so that we will be treated according to clearly articulated values. In that vein, Atul Gawande writes in Being Mortal, "Life has meaning because it is a story. And in stories, endings matter." (For more information on this book, see the O&A Newsletter of November, 2014.)

Lee orients her book to both those who want to form and express their end-of-life wishes and to family and friends of those looking toward death. Lee suggests meaningful questions: “What are the most pressing requests, concerns, and desires of the actively dying? How can we best provide authentic comfort and support to the loved ones preparing to cross this final threshold?" In her experience, many want assurance that their treatment decisions are well informed and don't subvert their primary values. Treatment decisions is an area where people may want to be very explicit as they make their wishes known.

One chapter in the book called "Talking About Death Won't Kill You (But It Could Improve Your life)" points to a study of 323 cancer patients which showed "that those who had end of life talks with family and loved ones were three times less likely to spend their final week in intensive care, four times less likely to be on breathing machines and six times less likely to receive CPR." Surprisingly, other studies suggest that patients who decide to focus on the quality of their life rather than the quantity find that their days of living are not actually shortened.

Over-treatment is still more common than it should be and Lee discusses some of the understandable reasons for this: a doctor's reluctance to deliver bad news, patients' and their families' desires for them to recover, and palliative care being viewed as giving up. Finances can also be a factor. Hospitals and doctors are incentivized to do more, not less.

The opening of the chapter called "Let Me Die Like a Doctor" could easily be called "Let Me Die Like My Dog," as Lee makes the comparison to when a dog is incurably sick, and suffering. At that point euthanasia is a common and merciful choice. But she goes on to note that this comparison is imperfect because dogs are not persons who can make decisions for themselves, after carefully considering options. She writes at some length, however, about doctors at the end of a terminal illness who often do not seek aggressive treatments. One doctor writes that if there is only a 15% chance of a benefit, he would forego treatment that would result in "misery we would not inflict on a terrorist."

The book includes other thoughtful guidance: Tips for Combating Overtreatment, What We Hope for Can Change as Terminal Illness Progresses, Vital Questions to Ask Before Consenting to a Test/Treatment, Creating a Video Supplement to Your Advance Directive, and How to Become a Storyteller.

Lee also stresses that if we care about this subject, we need to get involved in legislation. New laws already exist in eight states and the District of Columbia: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and in April, 2019, New Jersey. Compassion and Choices, the organization with which Lee has been affiliated since its founding in 2007, is committed to supporting changes that allow physicians to assist with dying throughout the country. Compassion and Choices was an important resource to the Vermont Death With Dignity legislation passed in 2017 and is active in moving similar legislation forward in New York and other states. Contacts and resources are listed in the book.

Too many people will see this as a book they should read, but then they won't get to it. Your author came close to taking that stance; I am now pleased to have read it. Of course there are many additional resources. One that has come to our attention is The Conversation Project which is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care: theconversationproject.org

We would like to send you a copy of Finish Strong. Please call or email and we will get it to you. We hope to engage in useful conversations following your reading of this significant book.

A final note. With the encouragement from O&A, some clients over the years have completed the “Five Wishes” plan. While we believe this vehicle is helpful, Finish Strong encourages more extensive conversations and documentation than this earlier form we were recommending.



The concept of behavioral finance was first discussed in the financial community in the 1970s, and investors have slowly become more informed about what it means and why it matters. Behavioral Finance is the science of looking at the ways humans act with regard to money in general and their financial investments in particular.

A simple example involves what is called “anchoring,” hanging on when doing so is irrational. Sam decides to buy a stock, and the stock declines in price. A rational approach would suggest that Sam continue his research on the stock to see if he made a mistake. But fear of losing money causes him to simply hope it will make a big comeback. How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t want to sell it before it comes back to what I paid for it”? Anchoring can keep an ordinary investor from becoming an intelligent investor.

An article in the January edition of the American Association of Individual Investors includes an interview with Daniel Crosby, a researcher in the field of behavioral finance. He looks specifically at psychological issues which affect investors.

Crosby begins with comments related to ego and acting overconfident. This problem is particularly tricky because it involves our egos. Humans who cover insecurity with bravado are typically unaware of how their feelings manifest themselves on a minute by minute basis. “People who appear the most confident are the ones who ought to think twice” because acting confident can be a cover for insecurity and a lack of full understanding. An interesting statistic Crosby has discovered is that more than half of the people who are certain that they have beaten the market have, in fact, trailed the market by a large margin.

His research also reveals that women often believe themselves to have much less confidence when it comes to investing. But the truth is that with investing “women [in the investment world] outperform men in every conceivable way….They are more likely to stay the course... [and] they are better at weighing probability….Yet, they lack confidence.” In this instance a lower sense of self-confidence appears to be, in fact, an asset.

A second problem Crosby cites is relying on feelings instead of knowledge and logic. Often the emotions involved are outside our awareness. Emotion, particularly extreme emotion, is the enemy of good decision making in investments.

At O&A we try to minimize emotions in making investment decisions. When the market is going up and up and clients are pleased with their investment portfolio, they are understandably reluctant to have us sell. But nothing goes up forever, so at times of strong markets, we sometimes want “to take some profit off the table.” Likewise, when markets are going down, it is easy to become fearful and want to sell so as not to lose more money. Our professional reaction may be more cautious, saying something like, this is not the time to sell, for nothing goes down forever. “Steady as she goes” is our guide.

Crosby then discusses a related issue: “While there are some people who suggest that you tap into your emotions almost as a sixth sense, or a premonition about what’s going to happen, I have not been able to find a single thing to support that in the literature.” Intuition does not work as a guide to investing.

Crosby points out that if someone is nervous about the stock market, turning on CNBC and getting spooked by the news of the day is not a good idea. That is like counseling “an alcoholic to spend a bunch of time in bars….So the biggest thing you can do is control your environment. That’s absolutely number one!”

Ultimately Crosby advises “conservatism.” For him, being “conservative” refers to not veering off course – sticking with the plan and not readily trying something new. Make a thoughtful decision about your investment plan and then stick to it. Reviewing investment strategies once a year is more than sufficient. There are several successful paths up the investment mountain, but switching from one path to another (read “changing investment paths with each new headline”) will lead to trouble.

“The great thing about finances is that you can – after reading, discussing, and developing a plan – lock in some really great practices and then let the natural tendency toward laziness and inertia take over in the best possible way.”

To summarize, we generally follow Crosby’s model in advising clients: avoid over confidence, cut through emotions when deciding on investments, and then stay the course. Crosby concludes with the following: “We found that simple rules beat frequent changes in investments more than 94% of the time.”



In our May, 2017 Newsletter we reported that O&A was becoming increasingly interested in Socially Responsible Investing (SRI). Since then our interest has continued and our field of knowledge has grown. Both Susan and Deborah have attended conferences and webinars, met with fund managers, and read countless articles on the subject. The result is that, for those who are interested in SRI, we are able to construct portfolios that offer good options.

The easiest SRI strategy is for a client to select the fund or funds he favors. As interest and enthusiasm for SRI grows, so do the choices that are available, the complexities of deciding, and the number of ways to define this space. And a fund that does one kind of responsible investing may be of less interest to some SRI investors because of its specific area of investment. Socially Responsible Investments include renewable resources, human rights, poverty, diversity, and income equality. While the areas that SRI can encompass may be wide and varied, the two main goals of these investments are consistent: social impact and financial gain.

A different form of SRI strategy focuses on exclusion, rather than inclusion. This means that funds own stocks which generally meet certain SRI goals but definitely exclude all companies that are involved in selected industries. This may mean avoiding companies that invest in fossil fuels, alcohol, tobacco, guns, or other “sin” stocks”. To give the reader an idea of what SRI investments might look like, we’ll share three funds that we are currently investing in.

The first is Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Leadership Fund. This low cost index fund invests in the highest-rated companies in both domestic and international markets for advancing women through gender diversity on their boards and in executive management. From the Pax website: “Research indicates that companies with more women in leadership have higher returns on capital, greater innovation, increased productivity, and higher employee retention and satisfaction.” Investors can expect to benefit from investing in this fund by helping to close the gender gap while also getting a good return on the investment.

The second fund is also part of the Pax family of funds: Pax Global Environmental Markets Fund. This fund invests in companies that are developing innovative solutions to challenges in four key areas: energy efficiency and renewable energy, water infrastructure, waste management, and sustainable food and agriculture.

Finally, Calvert International Responsibility Index Fund covers a broader array of responsible investing. Calvert has had a social mandate for decades and has developed broad SRI principles that result in buying companies that demonstrate leadership and create positive impact in society through their business operations and overall activities, while producing competitive investment returns.

We will continue to explore other SRI investment options that will enhance our clients’ portfolios. As always, we welcome your questions or thoughts.



The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA) was founded in 1983 with the over-arching principle of putting clients’ interests first – referred to commonly as the “fiduciary rule.” For an organization to claim that as a first principle in 1983 was revolutionary.

NAPFA’s radical stance was a response to egregious problems in the investment world at the time. From the beginning, buying and selling investments had commissions which were sometimes quite expensive. Over time additional incentives which investors were not aware of motivated stock brokers and other people selling investments to push one product over another. Free trips and undisclosed monetary incentives too often guided sales. Thus, NAPFA’s stance. And slowly, over time, the entire financial services industry has moved in the direction of putting investors’ interest first by being more transparent regarding compensation and other incentives received by the sales force.

Often Government regulations have required a move in this direction. During the Obama administration steps were taken by the Department of Labor to require everyone in the financial industry who dealt with IRAs, 401(k)s and other work place retirement plans to put clients’ interests first. The final implementation of those regulations was not scheduled to take effect until after Obama was out of office. Subsequently, the new administration delayed implementation repeatedly and ultimately put the entire plan on hold indefinitely.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which gives oversight to virtually all other investments, had begun discussions moving in the same direction, but has also put this on an indefinite hold.

From our standpoint this remains a matter of ethics. It is imperative that all financial professionals have a first principle of putting clients’ interests ahead of other considerations.



Deborah, Susan, and David attended interesting and informative conferences since we last wrote. For Deborah and Susan, one was a United Nations Sustainable Investing Conference, where they learned about the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, a blueprint for countries to improve lives and equity by working on a shared vision. The goals include ending poverty and hunger, promoting economic growth and full employment, enhancing quality education, finding clean water and energy, and taking urgent action to combat climate change. The conference emphasized using Socially Responsible Investing to advance these objectives.

We always appreciate conferences and presentations from mutual funds companies when they’re in NY. The in-depth knowledge we gain is a good supplement to the regular financial information they send. Presentations by mutual funds managed by PIMCO, First Eagle, and Baron were recent highlights.

More personally, since our last newsletter Kathy Patton and family celebrated the marriage of their daughter Molly over the 2018 Labor Day weekend. The wedding took place in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and the Washington, DC, weather did not disappoint. It was close to 90 degrees and sunny, but that did not stop the wedding revelers. It was a very happy occasion.

We have also had graduations to celebrate. Deborah’s oldest, Joe, received a Master’s in School Counseling from Hunter College and Susan’s son, Carter, graduated from Bates College with a B.A.

On July 13, Susan, David, and Mary, along with other family members will participate in the annual fund raiser for cancer research at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center by joining in the Prouty bicycle ride.

O&A has a new telephone system that connects our two offices seamlessly. You can now call the number we have had for 28 years and get anyone in either office. That number is (914) 232-5379. However the newer number that has been associated with the Vermont office – (802) 649-1946 – works just as well. The fax number for both offices is: (914) 232-5378. Staff in either office will be able to view all faxes that come in.

During most of July and August Susan and David will again be working in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. That office is also connected to the new phone system. If you are visiting Maine and want to see one of us during that time, we welcome you. Please call ahead.

Finally, although I (David) continue to be listed as the Editor of this Newsletter, others in the office have an increasing role in the content of this document. The reader is the beneficiary of this evolution.