“Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” –Albert Einstein
Financial planning is about so much more than the money and investments. It is about wish fulfillment and a realization of all you want to accomplish in life. Whether you do it yourself or work with a professional it can allow you to accomplish so much more than if no planning had been put in place. It is not about amassing the biggest pile of money, but it is about peace of mind. It is sleeping easier at night knowing you have planned for the best and prepared for the worst. That no matter what may come, you are prepared to respond and not just react in a panic. If you work with a professional, it is a relationship. A good relationship between a client and an advisor is a partnership. As with all relationships and partnerships, there are times when you need to move on because you are not getting what you need out of it.
I am not perfect in any sense of the word. I just work really hard at being a little bit better every day. I work to be the best financial planner I can be. I take pride in what I do and the profession I have chosen. One thing that drives me up a wall is to hear stories from other people about how they are having a bad experience with their advisors. It leaves a black mark on the profession. As with any bad relationship, people often don’t know when or how to end their bad advisor relationship. Let me share what I see as ‘fireable’ offenses.
1. They make you feel stupid when you ask a question.
I hear this comment from quite a few people. You are on a journey to financial peace of mind. You are paying your advisor some of your hard-earned money to help you get that peace of mind. If they make you feel silly for asking questions, or if you are hesitant to ask a question because of the reaction they may give you, then you are not getting everything that you are paying for. One would hope your advisor has some knowledge that you do not yet possess. It is the professional’s job to educate and make all questions feel welcome.
2. You see or talk to them one time a year.
If you only want to talk to them one time per year, that is great. Most people I talk to are not content with a one time a year call or meeting. The value is not in the financial plan but in the planning. It is a constant iterative process that gets us to our goals. One of the reasons I write this newsletter every week is to put myself out there in front of my clients constantly and spur conversations with them. Of course, the written word alone is not enough. Most of the best planners I know reach out personally to talk or meet 2-4 times a year. So much can happen in the span of a year that I can’t see how every 12 months would be adequate.
3. You can’t imagine them ever saying they don’t know the answer to something.
I consider myself relatively intelligent, but I also know that there is only so much information I can keep in my head at one time. I mean, I already forget all of the third grade, trying to understand health insurance! There are plenty of times where I relied on my network of experts to help on matters of tax planning, estate planning, etc. I can’t even keep the tax brackets memorized, but I can pull those numbers up in seconds and never make a move without making sure I have the numbers correct. We are humans and it’s ok to say we don’t know. It’s not ok to act sure when we are not, this could lead to a huge mistake.
4. They only ever react to you calling them with a problem or question.
Being proactive is a must in planning. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Whether we are talking about risk management, tax planning, or anything else, you often can only fix problems at a great cost or not at all, once they have occurred. A little proactive planning could have nipped the problem in the bud. Has your advisor ever picked up the phone to address an issue without first being prodded by you? Have they helped you avoid problems or only reacted to the problem after it has occurred?
I am not perfect, but most of the above issues are putting in the effort. If you’re not getting what you need out of your professional advisors, be they financial, tax, or legal, you have every right to find the person who will fit with what you need and get the peace of mind you deserve.