The age-old question that has annoyed our teachers, parents, or significant other many times over is the same inquiry I hope to hear when working with a family or group of individuals on complicated financial planning issues. Why? When people ask “why” it signifies that they are truly engaged and genuinely interested in gaining a better understanding of the concepts being discussed. This type of conversation is critical to the overall success of the planning process because it creates an open forum to talk about goals, desires, dreams and all the potential pathways that can help make them a reality. It also allows us to create a coherent plan that is understandable and actionable.
As a former history and economics teacher it is a rare occurrence when I’m not able to draw some comparison to my current role from my time in a classroom. Thankfully, it’s not the “my dog ate my homework” or spitballs sailing across the room portion. Some of the most important attributes that contribute to being a successful educator are some of the same qualities that I would personally look for in a financial planner and investment advisor. The ability to teach others and to help them comprehend challenging concepts represents the highest level of understanding. Good teachers all have that quality and can communicate clearly and concisely. Estate planning and portfolio management is not everyone’s cup of tea, just as biology and English literature weren’t my favorite subjects in high school. Our role is to teach and advise on a very specific subject matter and to serve essentially as a tutor. The ability to teach and educate while helping is what I enjoy most about being a financial planner. Not surprisingly, it’s also what I enjoyed most about being a teacher.
The goal of any consultant is to work collaboratively with clients to provide accurate recommendations, ensure that clients follow the guidance, and to continuously deliver exceptional service. Financial planning, if done correctly, is both educational and consultative. It is a collaborative process that involves detailed conversations with many questions that help us, as advisors and consultants, develop a more detailed understanding of our clients and their respective goals. Great communication also allows us to consistently check to make sure all parties are on the same page. Too often the details of a financial plan are presented, but information is not thoroughly understood and as a result the client never acts on the recommendations.
Over the past 12 months we have witnessed the markets reach all-time highs followed almost immediately by the fastest bear market ever. We have watched Congress go back and forth on groundbreaking legislation that impacts everything from taxes and retirement to estate planning and ultimately how much of a check your beneficiaries might have to cut to the United States Treasury. During this time of uncertainty, it is important to remember that people are still living their lives. Children were born, families lost loved ones, income levels changed, and the all the while the world continued.
I am confident that people will continue to have questions about their finances, about their businesses, and about how they can make life a little more comfortable for themselves and for their families. They are seeking an education, and as financial planners and consultants it is our duty to provide those services to them in a way that can be easily understood and that is practical to implement. As an educator it is always my goal to explain “why” and to see those I get the opportunity to help achieve success.
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