The Tipping Point of Financial Wellness Looks Like This

I like analogies.

They're often the best way to explain a new idea or concept... for instance: comparing brokers and independent financial advisors to butchers and dietitians.

Malcolm Gladwell likes analogies too. If you've read his bestseller, "The Tipping Point," you may remember that the concept of a "tipping point" -- the moment when an idea explodes into mainstream awareness -- comes from medicine: it refers to the point when a virus becomes an epidemic.

I believe our country is approaching a tipping point in its commitment to financial wellness -- similar to the health and fitness movement we experienced at the end of the twentieth century. Financial and physical wellness are fundamentally linked, and achieving financial health for as many Americans as possible is an enormously important goal.

#MyMetric for success is the growth rate and intensity of mainstream attention to financial wellness. I'm looking for that tipping point when we can say we are as dedicated to financial health as we are to physical health.

And when we bring the same scrutiny to financial services providers and products as we do to the medical profession, and to the foods and drugs we make available in the market.

Gladwell talks about the power of context as one of the key factors in causing an idea to "tip." Small changes in our environment (like cleaning graffiti off subway cars) can help to trigger big shifts in behavior (like a dramatic reduction in crime). When I examine our current environment based on this idea, I believe we could be very close to tipping financial wellness.

We have become obsessed with measuring physical wellness using technology. Now that so many of us are inclined to use apps and gadgets that track our steps-per-day, sleep patterns and other wellness metrics, it feels more intuitive to apply a similar approach to managing our money.

There's also a steadily growing realization that our financial system is designed to prioritize its own profits over serving its clients. This conversation has been going on in my industry for a long time, but recently the Department of Labor stepped in. The DOL rule would legally hold advisors who deal with retirement portfolios responsible for putting their clients' best interests ahead of their own financial gain.

Even pop culture reflects our dissatisfaction with the financial system as it stands: see recent Hollywood examples The Big Short (book first, then movie) and the Wolf of Wall Street, and the new television series, Billions.

The context is there. We are on the precipice of the moment when we take financial wellness into our own hands.

We just need to be tipped.