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15 Seconds of Fame for a Tweeting Dog

TechGirl Financial is pleased to feature Victor Gaxiola as guest blogger for the day. Some of you know, Victor is the idea guy behind TechGirl Financial. Others know Victor because they worked with him at Gaxiola Financial Group in the past. While my husband Victor doesn’t work with me on a day to day basis, he is still a big believer in me, the work that I do for my clients, and spreading the news of what’s new at TechGirl Financial. Thanks Victor, for helping me out and always being there. I hope you enjoy this fun article about the use of social media today.

Provided by Kim Gaxiola

15 Seconds of Fame for a Tweeting Dog

Today’s blog post is by Victor Gaxiola, Subject Matter Expert: Social Media, Actiance. Follow Victor @VictorGaxiolaor connect with him on LinkedIn.

Meet Nano, he’s our family dog and has a Twitter account (@NanoSuperDog). Like everyone else, Nano uses it to tweet about his active life, deep thoughts, and experiences. He often gets in on social trends and uses Twitter to give him a voice beyond his backyard home. He’s also a BIG fan of Katy Perry.

For those that know me, it’s unlikely to be too much of a surprise that our family dog tweets, and the account was started to share with our kids the power of social media and the ability to communicate, share and connect. Sometimes, Nano will communicate directly with them, especially if he needs to be fed or take a walk (normal dog stuff).

Well…this past New Year’s Eve, we tried something for Nano that was a little different, and on a bigger stage.

I was watching a New Year’s Eve live stream from Times Square and a billboard in the background caught my attention. Having been to Times Square a few times this past year, I know that brands will provide people the opportunity to have their photo or tweets displayed in large lights if you use a specific hashtag. This year Bank of America was encouraging users to tweet a photo and use hashtag #TSQ14 for an opportunity to make the big board on Times Square.

On a whim, I used Nano’s profile photo, added some text and sent the following tweet and photo via Instragram using the hashtag #TSQ14. I figured we had a shot, but didn’t tell anyone what we were doing.

Hours later as I was celebrating with the family, I received the following tweet from Bank of America. To our surprise and the delight of the kids, @NanoSuperDog made the big board.

What made this experience special was that throughout the night the kids had been watching the New Year’s Eve festivities on television and witnessed the ball drop at midnight (9pm/Pacific). They were aware what a big deal bringing in the New Year is in New York and how Times Square becomes a focal point of the celebration. This little experiment made them feel like they in some small way had participated in the event LIVE in Times Square via an unlikely proxy- their little dog Nano, nay their now “famous” dog Nano.

Somehow, dressed in a bow tie and wishing everyone a happy and safe new year he had been part of the Times Square madness. It’s provided them a story that they have shared with all of their friends and repeated to anyone that will listen. It’s also made them look at Nano in a whole new light, and the possibilities that social media offers. If their dog can make it to the lights of Broadway via a simple tweet, what can they do and accomplish? What’s in store for them?

So as we start off 2014- I wish you all a very Happy New Year and challenge you to consider the possibilities of what’s to come and what you can accomplish this year. Nano may have already reached his 15 seconds of fame for the year, but like me, won’t stop there. How about you?


Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037

Money Concerns for Those Remarrying

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More women Focusing on Retirement Planning

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Financial Finesse, a provider of financial education for large employers, puts out an annual survey called The Gender Gap in Financial Literacy.

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College Funding Options – Saving Vehicles to Consider

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You can plan to meet the costs through a variety of methods.

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Ut ante augue, accumsan id gravida tristique, fringilla quis turpis. Vestibulum hendrerit, mauris sed feugiat lobortis, sapien turpis adipiscing risus, gravida scelerisque augue augue nec lorem. Nulla sit amet magna risus. Integer felis ipsum, elementum a elementum eget, molestie et orci. Ut nec dui ligula. Praesent tincidunt lectus ac massa vehicula vitae egestas ipsum suscipit. Maecenas nisl lectus, euismod in hendrerit vitae, egestas a velit. Nulla et porttitor nisi. Proin aliquet nunc sed eros dictum rhoncus. Donec dolor justo, volutpat vel fringilla eget, porta et dui. Pellentesque consequat aliquam nulla at congue. Nullam faucibus aliquet dolor sed pulvinar. Suspendisse gravida luctus magna, et euismod tortor pharetra euismod.

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Can I Afford to Get Divorced?

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To some who have never faced divorce, this appears to be a ridiculous question.

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Weekly Economic Update August 20, 2013

Weekly Economic Update August 20, 2013

Provided by Kim Gaxiola


That was exactly the increase that analysts surveyed by Briefing.com expected, and it was a relief after the 0.5% rise in the Consumer Price Index for June. As for July’s Producer Price Index, it was flat – a welcome contrast to June’s 0.8% jump.1


“If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.”

– Donald Rumsfeld




July didn’t see as much car and truck buying as in spring, so the gain was 0.2% compared to 0.5% in May and 0.6% in June. The impressive news was the 0.5% rise in core retail sales (excluding auto, gas and construction purchases). That particular indicator hadn’t been so positive since December.2


Sometimes a sector or industry is touted as the “wave of the future” or the next hot trend. Beware of shifting your investment mix in response to hype or headlines – you may end up with a less diversified portfolio and greater exposure to risk.




Analysts polled by Briefing.com expected August’s preliminary University of Michigan consumer sentiment index to be unchanged from the final July reading of 85.1. Instead, it dropped to 80.0 – a 4-month low.1,3,4




Housing starts were up 5.9% in July, according to the Commerce Department; building permits rose 2.7% last month. Both increases were in line with the estimates of analysts surveyed by Reuters.4




Shares fell during a week in which 10-year Treasury yields hit a 2-year peak of 2.86%. The S&P 500 (-2.10% to 1,655.83), Dow (-2.23% to 15,081.47) and NASDAQ (-1.57% to 3,602.78) all pulled back. The Dow suffered its poorest week of 2013.3

THIS WEEK: Urban Outfitters announces Q2 results on Monday. Tuesday, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Medtronic, BHP Billiton, Home Depot, Best Buy, TJX, Barnes & Noble, JCPenney, Saks, Analog Devices and La-Z- Boy come out with earnings. Wednesday, the July 31 FOMC minutes will be released, and NAR comes out with July existing home sales numbers; earnings arrive from Target, JM Smucker, Lowe’s, Staples, American Eagle, Toll Brothers, Hewlett-Packard and L Brands. Thursday, we get a new FHFA Housing Price Index, the Conference Board’s July index of leading indicators, new initial jobless claims figures, and earnings from Abercrombie & Fitch, Gold Fields, Hormel Foods, Dollar Tree, Gamestop, Sears, Autodesk, Gap, Marvell, Ross Stores, Aeropostale and Pandora. On Friday, quarterly results from Foot Locker and Ann complement July new home sales figures.

















S&P 500






8/16 RATE









Sources: cnbc.com, bigcharts.com, treasury.gov – 8/16/133,5,6,7

Indices are unmanaged, do not incur fees or expenses, and cannot be invested into directly.

These returns do not include dividends.

WEEKLY RIDDLE – There are three cups of flour on a counter and you take one away. How many cups of flour do you have now?

Last week’s riddle – A cat falls into a hole 14.5′ deep. The cat can jump 3′ high, but she slides back 1′ with each jump. How many jumps does it take her to get out of the hole?

Last week’s answer – Every 3′ jump accompanied by a 1′ slide equals jumps of 2′ high; at that rate, the cat’s seventh jump, starting at 12′, will put her 15′ above the bottom of the hole and offer her an escape.



Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037


1 – briefing.com/investor/calendars/economic/2013/08/12-16 [8/16/13]
2 – nytimes.com/2013/08/14/business/economy/july-retail-sales-rose-0-2-despite-a-drop-in-auto-sales.html [8/14/13]
3 – tinyurl.com/l27dgrz [8/16/13]
4 – reuters.com/article/2013/08/16/us-usa-economy-idUSBRE97E0KS20130816 [8/16/13]
5 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=8%2F16%2F12&x=0&y=0 [8/16/13]
5 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=8%2F16%2F12&x=0&y=0 [8/16/13]
5 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=8%2F16%2F12&x=0&y=0 [8/16/13]
5 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=8%2F15%2F08&x=0&y=0 [8/16/13]
5 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=8%2F15%2F08&x=0&y=0 [8/16/13]
5 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=8%2F15%2F08&x=0&y=0 [8/16/13]
5 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=DJIA&closeDate=8%2F15%2F03&x=0&y=0 [8/16/13]
5 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=COMP&closeDate=8%2F15%2F03&x=0&y=0 [8/16/13]
5 – bigcharts.marketwatch.com/historical/default.asp?symb=SPX&closeDate=8%2F15%2F03&x=0&y=0 [8/16/13]
6 – treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=realyield [8/16/13]
7 – treasury.gov/resource-center/data-chart-center/interest-rates/Pages/TextView.aspx?data=realyieldAll [8/16/13]

You Write Like a Girl! 5 Ways Women Sell Themselves Short When Writing

One of the most useful and memorable classes I took at UCLA was a business writing class. To this day I can hear my professor telling us to use action verbs, not passive ones. To this day I continue to use his advice when it comes to writing professional pieces, resume building, and marketing material. When you know how to write to show off performance, you get more results. Here is an extremely practical article to help you with the process. – Kim Gaxiola

Provided by Kim Gaxiola

You Write Like a Girl! 5 Ways Women Sell Themselves Short When Writing

Posted on June 17, 2013 by The Levo League

When I read resumes, cover letters, and performance evaluations, I am struck by how differently we use language when describing women.

A man and a woman can hold the same role, but where a man simply achieved, a woman “worked hard to achieve.” He led; she “took on a leadership role.”By the time I’m done reading, I’m convinced that he deserves the job, promotion, or raise he is seeking.

To her, I just want to give a pat on the head and a gold star.

Linguist Deborah Tannen has been studying gender differences in communication for nearly 40 years. In her bestselling book, Talking From 9 to 5: women and Men in the Workplace, Tannen outlines how women are socialized to use language in ways that hurt them in the workplace.

She explains that even young boys are conscious of their public image, rarely discussing their weaknesses. Girls, on the other hand, “…are expected to be ‘humble’—not try to take the spotlight, emphasize the ways they are just like everyone else, and de-emphasize ways they are special.”

While this may help girls make more friends on the playground, when those girls become women on the job search, excessive humility backfires. You may not be able to change how your boss talks about you, but you can change how you describe yourself.

Here are five questions to help you determine whether you’re giving yourself the credit you deserve:


1. Do You Emphasize Process or Results?

Women often focus on the process of their work rather than outcomes. This not only comes across as you having accomplished less, but it can seem like the task took you longer than everyone else. Go through your writing and shift the focus of every sentence to results. Take out phrases like “I worked hard” that distract us from what your hard work achieved.

Instead of: “I struggled with a database management issue that had vexed my predecessors, but through careful analysis was able to fix it so we could better target our customers.”

Try: “I corrected a problem in our database that had constrained our marketing efforts for over three years. Now we target customers by both location and purchase history, resulting in a greater sales-to-advertising ratio.”


2. How Specific Are Your Verbs?

Verbs such as “help,” “assist,” and “support” are vague, leaving it up to your reader to decide whether that means you were actually on the team or just brought them coffee! Conditional verbs such as “would” and “could” imply that an action has not yet been taken—in which case, maybe the action you enabled did not really add value to your organization. Find the verb that communicates what you actually achieved.

Instead of: “I designed an event planning template that would help my colleagues plan their own events without missing any details.”

Try: “I designed an event planning template that colleagues from multiple divisions have used for key events, including our annual fundraising gala. This has resulted in fewer day-of mishaps and improved media coverage.”


3. Are Your Individual Contributions Clear?

Nobody can be everything at once. Women often use up a lot of space describing what their teams collectively accomplished rather than describing their own roles. That can be great in the office or for public-facing materials, but it doesn’t demonstrate how you add value. Hone in on your precise contribution and how it advanced your organization’s goals.

Instead of: “Together, we raised over $1 million, a 20 percent increase over the previous year.”

Try adding: “My face-to-face outreach to local businesses generated an additional $80,000 in donations, accounting for fully half of the increase in donations.”


4. Are You Speaking Directly, or Through a Filter?

It feels great to be put in charge of a project, especially if you’re given responsibility by someone important. However, it’s better to let your references speak for themselves. Attempting to speak for them can come off as pretentious, and it adds a layer of distance between you and your reader. Focus on what you did with these opportunities.

Instead of: “Thanks to my standout interpersonal skills, I was asked by the CEO and co-founder to handle a particularly sensitive client.”

Try: “I took over the company’s relationship with a client that was on the verge of dropping our account. Within three months, I convinced the client to increase its business with us.”


5. Do Your Adjectives Describe Emotion, or Action?

Women often put the emphasis on their feelings, asserting that their passion for a particular kind of work will help them overcome obstacles. That may be true, but emotions are fleeting. If you truly love doing something, you should have evidence to back it up.

Instead of: “I am passionate about education.”

Try adding: “I have been passionate about education ever since my two years of service in the Peace Corps. While teaching opportunities in my current position are limited, I have volunteered for the past three years at a local summer camp, where I run creative writing workshops for middle school students.”

Learning to describe your work can be a difficult process, but it’s worth it. As you become conscious of how you are using language, you will be able to change the way that others perceive you. In the process, you might just change the way you perceive yourself.

About the Author: Candace Faber is a foreign policy and gender issues expert who has worked for the U.S. Department of State in Afghanistan, Belarus, Poland, Russia, and Washington, DC. Before becoming a diplomat, she served as editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs and co-edited the 8th edition of Careers in International Affairs. She holds a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and bachelor’s degrees in political science and Russian from the University of Washington. Candace currently lives in Seattle, Washington, where she enjoys racing triathlons, writing short stories, and working on her latest book project, a compilation of interviews with trailblazing women.



Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037


For all of you juggling mom’s out there, this is OUR weekend.
Take a break, get pampered, rest, and relax!

Provided by Kim Gaxiola

For all of you juggling mom’s out there, this is OUR weekend.
Take a break, get pampered, rest, and relax!


Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037

Welcome To The Future

Provided by Kim Gaxiola

A Day Made Of Glass


Virtual presenters in 3d projected on glass; a plastic decoder memento from a 3d printer; a robot with an iPad head walks around a room interacting with people; are just some of the technology finds I had from the visit to The Fidelity Center for Applied Technology. As part of the New Century Council for my Broker-Dealer, Cambridge Investment Resarch, I had the exciting opportunity to see where the future of technology in the financial industry is going. The New Century Council is a group of up and coming advisors aged 40 and under who are tasked by Cambridge to come up with the tools needed for the next generation of advisors to service the next generation of clients. This was truly an exciting trip as we headed out to Boston the day after the Boston Marathon attacks. Hosted by the Fidelity Center for Applied Technology we spent a day collaborating on how this new technology would help us service our clients in the year 2025.

As our lives become busier, more mobile, and our jobs and family demand more of us, we put off important appointments we feel we don’t have time to schedule. For me, I’ve been putting off scheduling a desperately needed hair color and cut because it will take half of my day. For many of my clients, I think it’s scheduling a financial check up! Technology has made a huge impact in our lives making it easier for us to be more mobile. The funny part is that as we become more mobile, we look for ways in technology to create more human one on one experiences without having to physically be in the same room. I recently had my first business meeting on Skype and it was so much better than a phone call. Had I not seen the person face to face in that Skype meeting, I don’t know how excited I would have been to hire him for some PR work I want to have done. Actions speak louder than words and this is captured using the video conferencing technology.

Social media has allowed people, friends, family, and researchers to tap into their larger global networks to share important updates on their lives, or work projects. This helps families and friends to feel closer to each other. It helps me personally keep up with my clients as I see them posting important life events, I can have a follow up conversation with them, and guide their finances through these times.

How does this technology help us service the next generation of clients? I think it helps us strengthen and build deeper relationships with our clients. If we can not always be in the same room, we will do everything we can to replicate that experience. That’s important in the financial world where we believe the conversation will be built in the next generation more on planning than strictly the investment side. It also allows us to become more focused on a certain type of clientele. I for one, enjoy working with women in technology. I can serve women in technology around the country if I have a means of communicating effectively with them. The borders that have in the past broken down communication are now breaking down as we speak and innovate. That to me is exciting, and I thank the innovators out there who are making this all possible.

For a cool video on some of the way technology will impact our daily lives, check out this 5 minute video by Corning, A Day Made of Glass


Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037

Assessing And Managing Risk

Provided by Kim Gaxiola


“Evaluating risk always gets me fired up, I can’t help it, it’s the geek in me! I’m constantly evaluating risk and the probability of negative risks occurring as a financial planner. Sometimes, it crosses over to my personal life when I evaluate the financial risk I’ve taken as a business owner. When I first saw this article by Reid Hoffman, it immediately peaked my curiosity. It’s a must read for those of you evaluating your career and where you want to go with it. Sometimes fear and risk hold us back. I hope this article will help you take another look at risk and put it into perspective as it pertains to your career, and the other areas of your life. The concepts of risk defined here are transferable. Nice article Reid!” – Kim Gaxiola

Risk tends to get a bad rap. We associate it with things like losing money in the stock market, or riding a motorcycle without a helmet. But risk isn’t the enemy–it’s a permanent part of life. In fact, being proactively intelligent about risk is a prerequisite for seizing breakout opportunities. Many more people would enjoy breakout opportunities if it were only a matter of tapping networks, courting serendipity, and being resourceful. The reality is that doing those things is usually necessary but rarely enough. There’s competition for good opportunities. And because of that, if you can intelligently take on risk, you will find opportunities others miss. Where others see a red light, you’ll see green.

“Risk” in a career context is the downside consequences from a given action or decision, and the likelihood that the downside actually occurs. Risky situations, then, are those in which the risk level crosses a threshold. For example, flying on a commercial airplane of a major airline is not risky because while the downside scenario of a crash is painful, the likelihood of a crash is extremely low. Meanwhile, the reward of rapid transit is significant. There’s risk when you get on a plane, but it’s so low that commercial flights are not risky.

Risk is the flip side of every opportunity and career move. “[I]f you are not genuinely pained by the risk involved in your strategic choices, it’s not much of a strategy,” says Reed Hastings of Netflix. This is as true for careers as it is for business. If you don’t have to seriously think about the risk involved in a career opportunity, it’s probably not the breakout opportunity you’re looking for.

The constant presence of risk is why every career Plan A should be accompanied by a Plan B and Plan Z. Of course, risk isn’t confined to career-related activities. Doing anything contains risk, including things we do every day, like going for a jog in the park or living in a world where there are nuclear weapons and earthquakes. Even inaction contains risk. A sick person who chooses not to see a doctor is taking on a risk by doing nothing. Inaction is especially risky in a changing world that demands adaptation (see the American auto industry, for example).

So we are all risk takers. But we are not all equally intelligent about how we do it. Many people think you get career stability by minimizing all risk. But ironically, in a changing world, that’s one of the riskiest things you can do. Others think acknowledging downside possibilities is a sign of weakness: “Failure is not an option!” may make for a good movie line, but it’s not good when formulating strategy. Rather than avoiding risk, if you take intelligent risks, it will give you a competitive edge.


Assessing and Managing Risk

Learning how to accurately assess the level of risk in a situation isn’t easy, for a few reasons. First, risk is both personal and situational. What may be risky to you may not be risky to someone else. There are people for whom quitting a job before having another one lined up is unacceptably risky; for others, it’s a fine proposition. There are people who forego earning income for several months to start their own companies; others wouldn’t dream of putting themselves in a situation where they aren’t guaranteed a steady salary and benefits.

What’s more, risk is dynamic. You are changing, the competition is changing, the world is changing. What may be risky to you right now may not be a month or year or five years from now. What’s the risk of ruffling your colleagues’ feathers if you lobby aggressively for a lead role on a project? It depends on murky factors that are always in flux. If you just got a raise and upgrade to your title, for example, it’s a different calculus than if you’re new on the job. Nothing is universally risky or not risky; it’s a matter of degree and it various tremendously based on situation and personality.

Assessing risk, while always difficult, is not impossible. Entrepreneurs do it every day. But they don’t use fancy risk-analysis models like those found on Wall Street. And neither should you. There’s no mathematical formula that could possibly capture the probabilities and range of outcomes of a dynamic start-up, let alone the dynamic start-up that is your career. It’s impossible to quantify the pros and cons of every opportunity. You will have time constraints. You will have information constraints. Moreover, your intuition is riddled with cognitive biases that get in the way of rational assessment. So here are a few principles to keep in mind to help you evaluate how risky an opportunity really is, and how you manage the risk that does exist.


Overall, it’s probably not as risk as you think

Most people overrate risk. At our core we humans are wired to avoid risk. We evolved this way because to our ancestors, it was more costly to miss the sign of a predator (threat) than to miss the sign of food (opportunity). Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson puts it this way: “To keep our ancestors alive, Mother Nature evolved a brain that routinely tricked them into making three mistakes: overestimating threats, underestimating opportunities, and underestimating resources (for dealing with threats and fulfilling opportunities).” The result is that we’re programmed to overestimate the risk in any given situation.

Sticks get our attention a lot faster than carrots do. Psychologists call this negativity bias, and it pops up all the time in day-to-day life. One stern warning to avoid working with a person makes a stronger impression than one glowing recommendation. Anxiety about how your boss will react to an unconventional proposal will overpower feelings of optimism that he’ll be impressed by your work.

Overestimating threats and avoiding losses may be a fine strategy for achieving evolution’s cold mandate to pass our genes on to future generations. But it’s not the way to make the most of this life. To lead a big and vigorous life, you must work to overcome this negativity bias. The first step is to remind yourself that the downside of a given situation is probably not as bad, or as likely, as it seems.


Is the worst-case scenario tolerable or intolerable?

Of the voluminous research on risk, remarkably little of it actually analyzes how real businesspeople make real decisions in the real world. An exception is a study done by professor Zur Shapira in 1991. He asked about seven hundred high-level executives from the United States and Israel to describe how they think about risk in different scenarios. What he found likely came as a disappointment to architects of fancy decision trees. The executives surveyed didn’t calculate the mathematical expected value of various scenarios. They didn’t draft long lists of pros and cons. Instead, most simply tried to get a handle on a single yes-or-no question: Could they tolerate the outcome if the worst-case scenario happened? So the first thing you want to ask of a possible opportunity is, If the worst-case scenario happens, would I still be in the game? If the worst-case scenario is the serious tarnishing of your reputation, or loss of all your economic assets, or something otherwise career-ending, don’t accept that risk. If the worst-case scenario is getting fired, losing a little bit of time or money, or experiencing discomfort, as long as you have a solid and reliable Plan Z in place, you will still be in the game, and should be open to taking on that risk.


Can you change or reverse the decision midway through? Is plan B doable?

Management consulting firms frequently offer to pay for analysts to go to business school in exchange for a two-year commitment to work at the firm after graduation. Analysts who take the offer are making a four-year commitment in total: two years in school, two years at the same firm afterward. Precommitting four years of your life is riskier than career choices that allow you to pivot to Plan B if you decide something is not going well or if some other amazing opportunity came up. So when assessing a risk, if you realize you made a mistake, could you reverse your decision easily? Could you get to a Plan B or Plan Z relatively quickly? If the answer is no, the opportunity is riskier and should be approached more cautiously.

Michael Dell famously dropped out of the University of Texas to start Dell Computer. But his start-up wasn’t a sure thing at the time, so he managed the risk by hedging his bets. Instead of dropping out of college for good, he applied for a formal leave of absence so that if the company seemed to be going south, he could return to his studies with no problem. Dell took a prudent risk that preserved the option to reverse his decision and go to Plan B.


You’ll never be fully certain. Don’t conflate uncertainty with risk.

There will always be uncertainty about career opportunities and risks. Uncertainty is an ingredient of risk. And the more compelling and complex the opportunity, the more uncertainty tends to surround it. In all situations, you simply cannot know everything about all possible pros and cons. While you don’t want to make career moves on 0 percent information, you also don’t want to wait till you have 100 percent information—or else you’ll wait forever. Uncertainty makes people uncomfortable. But uncertainty does not automatically mean something is risky. Jetting off to vacation in Hawaii with no set itinerary introduces many uncertainties about what will transpire, but it’s not particularly risky. After all, how likely are you to have a bad time in Hawaii? When Sheryl Sandberg came to Silicon Valley from Washington, there were innumerable uncertainties. (Would California be a good place to raise a family? How would her reputation suffer if Google was a flop?) Had she treated all the unknowables associated with entering a new industry as serious risks, she would never have joined Google and would have missed out on a breakout opportunity. When it’s not clear how something will play out, many people avoid it altogether. But the biggest and best opportunities frequently are the ones with the most question marks. Don’t let uncertainty lull you into overestimating the risk.


Consider age and stage. What will the risks be to you in a few years?

Age and career stage affect your level of risk. Generally, the downside consequence of failure is lower the younger you are. If you make mistakes in your twenties and thirties, you have plenty of time to recover both financially and reputationally. You have parents and family to fall back on. You are less likely to have kids or a mortgage. Just as financial advisors counsel young people to invest in stocks more than bonds, it’s important to be especially aggressive accepting career risk when you are young. This is a main reason many young people start companies, travel around the world, and do other relatively “high-risk” career moves: the downside is lower. If something worthwhile will be riskier in five years than it is now, be more aggressive about taking it on now. As you age and build more assets, your risk tolerance shifts.

Adapted from my book with Ben Casnocha — learn more about risk at The Start-Up of You: Adapt to the Future, Invest in Yourself, and Transform Your Career.

Kim Gaxiola may be reached at (800) 584.3652 or kim@gaxiolafinancialgroup.com or www.techgirlfinancial.com.
TechGirl Financial is a part of Gaxiola Financial Group. Registered representative, securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research, Inc., broker-dealer, member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advisor representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors, Inc., a registered investment advisor. Cambridge and Gaxiola Financial Group are not affiliated.
Gaxiola Financial Group | 305 Vineyard Town Center #369 | Morgan Hill, CA 95037

Lean In To Retirement

Check out TechGirl Financial's Article Series on how to "Lean In To Retirement".

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