Build Your Own Financial Aha! Moment

Editor’s Note: Today’s Wealthy Retirement shows that when it comes to finance, it pays to have a do-it-yourself attitude.

And when it comes to having breakthrough moments that could decide your financial future, it’s important to trust the experts…

Chief Income Strategist Marc Lichtenfeld makes that as easy as possible.

Marc was featured in the Wealth Breakthroughs documentary series, which follows some of the finance industry’s leading voices in order to share their aha! moments and help regular folks achieve a wealthy retirement.

He’ll hit the big screen on July 9. Click here to learn more.

– Rachel Gearhart, Associate Franchise Publisher

Breakthroughs come at unexpected times.

And even though 80% of a child’s brain is developed by age 3, grown-ups still have their fair share of aha! moments – especially when it comes to finances.

In fact, according to Forbes, two-thirds of American adults can’t pass a basic financial literacy test.

For many, this is because public education didn’t cover everything they needed to know – or because Sesame Street‘s Count von Count rarely takes his skills to the market.

All of us have blind spots – which makes it even more crucial to fill in the gaps.

In doing so, we can take a cue from young learners…

In her parenting guide Preschool Clues, Blue’s Clues creator Angela C. Santomero highlights three key strategies that facilitate learning – and encourage breakthrough moments.

What’s more, instructional design theory suggests that they’re effective for grown-ups, too.


Santomero’s first strategy is simply pausing.

Children’s television icon Fred Rogers piloted the idea of adding a “three-beat pause” after introducing new subjects as an opportunity to process and apply new information.

In our finances, it’s also valuable to pause now and then…

Rather than rushing into a trade because of industry buzz, take a look at a company’s financials before investing.

This could be as simple as checking its dividend history for a track record of cuts, searching for it in Marc’s weekly Safety Net column or browsing its investor relations page.

And periodically check on your portfolio to rebalance it and reassess your risk tolerance. As Marc explained on Monday, it’s essential to know where you stand and honor your comfort level with risk in order to prevent bad trades.

Pausing and “zooming out” may help take the emotion out of your investing and even boost your returns.

Repetition and Scaffolding

Santomero’s second key to learning is repetition. (Those who report having watched the Disney hit Frozen more than 100 times can attest to repetition’s value in promoting learning – or at least memorization!)

Drilling is helpful not only in mastering times tables and spelling tests, but also in developing your financial skills…

When trying out a new investing strategy like day trading, swing trading or even bond investing, consider paper trading for a while to get started.

For long-term trades, you can also use free tools like our Dividend Reinvestment Calculator and Compound Interest Calculator to estimate your return.

As you watch how your hypothetical trades would have played out, you’ll get a clearer sense of your personal strategy, comfort level and priorities when real money is on the line.

But it’s also worthwhile to challenge yourself. This is called scaffolding. Essentially, once you master one level, reach for the next. So once you get comfortable setting up and reallocating your 401(k) funds, for example, consider opening a brokerage account and trading individual stocks.

Stay Engaged

Angela Santomero’s final word to the wise for anyone hoping to learn something new: stay engaged.

If you want to create your own aha! moment and put yourself one step closer to achieving a wealthy retirement, consider getting more hands-on…

  • Stay up to date with experts you trust. Tune in on July 9 for Marc’s appearance in the Wealth Breakthroughs docuseries, which is all about seeking expert advice on facilitating breakthrough moments. If you’re on social media, you can also follow Wealthy Retirement on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Keep reading. Wealthy Retirement‘s Financial Literacy section is a great place to start – and if you mention a general question in the comments, it may be featured in a future piece.
  • Check out Marc’s State of the Market YouTube series. This free collection of videos answers readers’ most common questions about the market today.

The more investors cultivate their own learning by pausing, practicing their skills, and keeping up with their favorite topics and experts, the closer they’ll come to a wealthy retirement…

One aha! moment at a time.

Good investing,


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