There is an interesting conversation going on within a group I belong to on Linked In about whether or not the financial planning process is enjoyable. My response was “I think it’s like swimming, once you get in, it’s great.” How many people, we wonder, are too scared of the financial planning industry that they never even get in the proverbial water? Hmmm…
I have one of several business coaches (his name is Joe Doino, super guy who has shared some unique insights with me) who said that my prospects are “clients once removed”; that once people find out about me and get to know me, they dive right in. So, I try to put myself out there as much as possible to make it as easy as possible for prospects to wade into the water with me. Yes, it can be uncomfortable but I’m certain you’ll be glad you did. How can I be so confident? Every single (anonymous) survey I receive back from my clients says as much (although I cannot share testimonials with you due to compliance restrictions).
So, let’s chat a bit about what may be holding you back from getting good, professional, personalized financial advice from me or anyone in my industry.
First, you may be embarrassed. Totally normal. Most people come into my office as if they’re coming into confession at church; “I’m such a mess” they say. And you know what, most of them are NOT nearly the messes they think they are. The media have done a pretty good job at scaring the heck out of people, telling them what they should have done with their money and how they’ll be eating cat food in retirement. This message doesn’t help you one bit because there is no clear call to action, no clear path for you to take. With a little bit of empathy, guidance and encouragement, (okay, and a little discipline on your end) you can and will be fine.
Second, it is hard to know who to work with and who to trust. Let me share with you a few tips to help you select a financial advisor/planner/coach/guide: Look for experience in the areas you need help with, look for a professional credential (such as CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER TM, Chartered Financial Consultant, Certified Financial Analyst), poke around their website, Linked IN page, and ask around about him/her, meet with the proposed advisor and do a gut check. DO NOT MINIMIZE THE IMPORTANCE OF YOUR GUT FEELINGS (another blog coming soon about that). There is a good guideline on the Financial Planning Association’s website http://www.fpanet.org, “Choosing a Planner” at http://www.fpanet.org/FindaPlanner/ChoosingaPlanner/
Third, it can be overwhelming. There is a lot of information any professional (doctor, lawyer, accountant) needs in order to advise you effectively; one small nugget of information left out could drastically change the advice rendered. Financial advisors need information about what it is you want to accomplish and what resources you have to do so. We need statements and copies of tax returns and wills, we need to know about your spending levels and whether or not you are willing to change them to achieve other goals. It is what it is.
Fourth, you and your spouse/partner may not be on the same page. Uh-oh, you know who you are. I nailed it, didn’t I? If this is the case, I cannot speak for other financial planners but for me, it is my goal to get spouses/partners literally on the same page and a financial plan can do that. Yes, it will bring up issues that may be uncomfortable but once they are on the table, they can be dealt with. I help clients foster respect for one another’s unique values and behaviors (that initially attracted them to each other I might add) so that they know what they have to work with and then can work as a team.
Fifth, you’re afraid of what it might cost. There are a few ways to get financial advice: from the media (magazine, tv, internet, radio), which isn’t personalized at all, from an advisor who gives you free advice because s/he will be compensated through investment and/or insurance products you may purchase through her/him, or pay a fee-only financial planner (like myself) who will focus solely on you, your situation, your wonderful uniqueness, your resources, your values, your dreams. Yes, we charge for this kind of work and we realize that there is not a lot of resources to help you comparison shop, but I’d say most planners charge around $200 an hour and may also provide financial plans for a flat fee which ranges, industry wide, between $250-$20,000 depending on several variables such as how complex the plan is, your net worth, your income and what other revenue sources the advisor may receive from you (such as investment management fees). According to some industry reports I’ve seen, most comprehensive financial plans are around $2500.00 (plans that only focus on one area of finances-such as education planning- are much less).This is generally a one-time fee but annual reviews of the plan are recommended and are typically invoiced at the planner’s hourly rate.
Those are the top five that come to my mind. If you can think of any more, please do share them with me. So put on your itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot-bikini or your wet suit and come on in, the water’s fine!