For a financial planner, Carl Richards isn't much of a planner: His career trajectory took him by surprise. Take his Behavior Gap blog, for example. What started out as sharing research to foster client interest in his fee-only planning firm, Presada (previously called Clearwater Asset Management), Behavior Gap has rapidly grown into a community of planners (and fans) across the nation. Maybe it was the T-shirts, which have appeared on the Wall Street Journal blog, or his sketches, which have become something of a trademark.

What is the behavior gap, exactly? Numerically, it's the 7% gap that a 2004 Dalbar study identified between the returns of the average mutual fund in a given time period (12%) and what the average mutual fund investor earns during that same period (5%). But Richards likes to steer clear of the numbers. Simply put, it's the idea that well-intentioned searching for the best investment was leading to subpar results for investors, Richards says.

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