Sunday, January 25, 2015

Advisors Can Learn from Costa Ricans, Part 2

As we discussed last week, the Happy Planet Index consistently ranks the Central American oasis of Costa Rica No.1 in its tally of countries whose populations are content with their lives. My family visited recently (both resorts and some clearly third-world hamlets not likely to be on your travel agent’s radar).

Suffice it to say, the “Ticos” may not be nearly as wealthy as we are, but they're probably more fulfilled. Research bears that out. Based on a score compiled from the life expectancy, ecological footprint and wellbeing of individuals, the Happy Planet Index aims to show that what modern humans think brings happiness often does not – and perhaps we should pursue it differently.

As Shilo Urban observed, most measures of national progress truly just measure the economy, accounting for production and consumption. Although money can help alleviate sadness, it cannot buy happiness. According to Urban, “Sales of self-help ‘find happiness’ books are soaring in the United States, a country that ranks towards the bottom of the list on the Happy Planet Index. Perhaps it is time to see what a developing Central American country like Costa Rica, can teach us about the pursuit of happiness.”

Why are Costa Ricans so happy? 7 big reasons.

1. Costa Rica has no army. The Costa Rican government pours the money into education and health care. Educated, healthy people are more likely to be happy!

2. Costa Ricans love and protect their environment. Costa Rica is a leader in ecological sustainability.

3. Costa Ricans don’t dwell. A popular philosophy in this country is the idea that no argument or quarrel should last more than three days. Holding grudges, refusing to forgive and staying angry can corrupt a person’s happiness greatly. Learn to let go.

4. Costa Ricans have high life expectancy, 78.5 years. This high life expectancy is thanks no doubt in part to the country’s excellent health care system, which offers high quality care at an affordable rate – about 1/3 to 1/5 of the price of the same care in the United States.

5. Costa Ricans eat healthy and fresh foods with very few preservatives. Costa Ricans eat a fraction of the amount of dairy, red meat, refined sugar and processed foods that Americans do, and they avoid the sour mood swings associated with these products.

6. Costa Ricans enjoy a slower pace of life in a tropical paradise. A slower pace of life offers less stress than what you will find in many places in the U.S.

7. Costa Ricans like to please. Some Costa Ricans can be agreeable to a fault; for example if you ask a local for directions that they don’t know, they might give you the wrong directions because they don’t want to cause a disagreeable situation by saying they can’t help you.


Many of you live and work (a lot) in places like Chicago, Rochester, Winnipeg, Boston, Philly and New York, but you and your clients can still adapt elements of the Pura Vida lifestyle. Enjoy your successes, don’t dwell on your failures or hold grudges for more than 72 hours. And always keep in mind the importance of relationships with family and friends--on social capital over financial capital.

Best, HB

Our blog has more, as does the FREE Resources page of our website.


TAGS: Costa Rica, Happiness Index, Pura Vida, Shilo Urban, social capital vs financial capital

Monday, January 12, 2015

What We Can Learn from the Costa Ricans

As we discussed last time, our big prediction for 2015 is that we’ll continue to live in an era of extreme volatility. The highs will be higher, the lows will be lower, and there will be more unpredictable days on the horizon than predictable ones. As James Stewart opined in Friday’s New York Times, “volatility will be the new normal.” It’s not all bad. Just volatile. For instance, the equity markets, labor market and fuel prices (for consumers) are in better shape than at any time since the Great Recession. But the global economic slowdown, combined with meager wage growth and a new wave of terrorist gains continues to wreak havoc on the psyches of investors, business decision makers and consumers at large.

We’re not in a position to recommend solutions, only this advice—be ready for everything, stay on the alert constantly and seize opportunities when they arise.

There will be plenty of threats to your practices (and well being) this year--but also plenty of opportunities. Stay sharp and stay hungry. Just don’t assume the bait and lures that work so well today are the ones that necessarily help you land the right fish a few months from now. If you haven’t been fishing successfully for a while, do you know why? Just as important. If you have been reeling ‘em in for the past few years, do you know why you’ve been successful? If you don’t know how to replicate your success then you’re in just as precarious position as those on a losing streak.
More importantly, learn to enjoy life no matter what it throws at you—“Pura Vida” as they say in Costa Rica, where my family and I just returned from vacation. I’ve had more than my fair share of aggravation since returning, on top of crappy Northeast weather. But, that’s OK.

The benefits of being away from the daily grind for 8 days, combined with the adrenalin rush of zip-lining through the jungle at 80 miles per hour, surfing on the pacific, ATV’ing waist deep mud and watching a 500 pound Leatherback turtle lay eggs on a moonlit beach at 2 am, will pay dividends throughout the next 3 months of crappy weather, excessive taxes and endless deadlines.

Costa Ricans place a great cultural emphasis on family and friends as Nicholas Kristof once observed as well as a "higher priority on social capital than financial capital.”
Keep that in mind as you help clients plan for their life goals, not to mention yours.

More on that next week.

Let’s have a great 2015. HB