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Mixing it up in Ann Arbor: Investors Lessons Learned

What’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan? I think of it primarily as a college town, home of the University of Michigan and its Big 10 college football team.

But I wasn’t there for the football. I had traveled to Ann Arbor, via Denver and then Detroit, to meet with my Mix colleagues. Mix is a group of me and six other like-minded fee-only investment advisors who formed a few years ago under the auspices of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA). We come together from across the country about twice yearly to share advice, wisdom … and growing friendship.

For the first time, we met at one of our group members’ home offices. (Until now, we’ve always selected a neutral location.) Frank Moore of Vintage Investments was our gracious host. He even picked me up from the airport.

Generally speaking when we meet, we swap ideas about common interests such as current market conditions, future expectations, complying with ever-changing financial regulations, and effectively applying technology into our practices. One of my favorite topics of conversation is the opinions of investors in our various communities. I’m intrigued by how we almost always discover that people all across the country have relatively similar feelings and experiences with respect to the economy, market conditions, political environments (regardless of party affiliation) negative news, and so on. My biggest take-away from this particular meeting was:

As investors, we are all in this together.

We all have been through a lot in the last few years. I probably don’t need to remind you of the biggest upsets. Yet, in comparing notes with my respected colleagues, I also felt a distinct air of optimism: Consumer spending is up, corporate earnings are at an all-time high and global markets continue to expand.

All in all I felt that, once again, my colleagues added a perspective I have come to appreciate and respect. My hope is that, collectively, we can continue to add real value to our clients’ investment experience, and as a result see our own businesses continue to grow. Our next meeting is scheduled to be held in May 2011, in conjunction with the NAPFA conference in Las Vegas. I’m not a betting man, but I fully expect another productive time. I look forward to reporting back with new insights and interesting topics.