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Financial planning is becoming much more about you, the client. For the first time in history, the landscape for objective financial guidance is finally taking shape, offering greater control and personalized sound decision-making without prequalification, pre-judgment, or favoritism. I encourage clients to think selfishly. It’s your job. Our job as planners is to make your job easier and the process more enjoyable. It is a truly exciting time for the profession.

What’s financial stamina?

The most productive clients actively try to be motivated to better their financial future. This enthusiasm dramatically increases both the client and advisor experience and translates to efficiency and better, more informed decision-making. Get-togethers are typically just a series of short 1.5 hour windows of attention. Feed on motivation while you can, and maximize the time while you have it.

Every penny counts

Having a rational process

Having a rational process allows one to internalize planning subjectivity and view the totality of the financial planning landscape prior to deciding what, or if, to implement anything new. This is essential because consequential financial decisions shouldn’t be made in a “fog” but instead using a methodical well-rationed decision-making process. If not, then these decisions will inevitably be left in doubt. Even one shred of doubt is bad for both the client and advisor experience.

Life is not math

Clients benefit greatly from understanding financial concepts in context and through guidance. Garnering essential clarity is required to make sound personal financial decisions. It still amazes me after ten years how so much of what we do as planners is highly qualitative.

Contrary to traditional planning, the individual is the best person to parse through the subjective. This means having all the information and making a sound personal judgment. It’s often not the advisor simply telling a client what to do. Our job nowadays is to help provide a sound foundation, helping to work through the nuance and maintain focus and momentum on crucial decisions and preferences. Having a set process for effective and objective decision-making is a high-value proposition.

It’s your money, so it’s your decision.

We’re not trying to split the atom

In most cases, financial planning is less complicated than it’s often made out to be. It should be no secret that financial services make A LOT of money by keeping people overwhelmed and inefficient. I call it the “overlord” mentality. There is simply a vested interest in complexity and misunderstanding. I’m not just talking about investment management; I’m talking about every aspect of the financial planning landscape. Everyone knows exactly what I am talking about – so this should not be controversial.

Don’t get me wrong; some aspects of financial planning are complicated. And some cases require highly intricate attention to detail. Still, others are teeming with efficiency, coordination, stress testing, and modeling needs. And they are also not solely limited to the super-wealthy. Those with fewer means are some of the most challenging yet amazingly impactful cases. A good advisor lives for those cases because it makes them better.

While every case is a masterpiece to the client, not every case is the most complex requiring every quiver in our cap. Plan building experience is an amazingly transferable skill set. The more an advisor plans, the more we make it look easy. I find that much of the intimidation a client experiences is just “not knowing” or, probably more common – a fear of “not knowing.” That’s pretty easy to fix.

The range of personal mosaics and financial planning landscapes are as diverse as the individuals themselves. People with the same financial profiles will, without fail, have vastly different preferences and, as such, distinctly different financial planning outcomes. Our job as advisors is to keep you from making bad decisions and realistically give you reasonably and sustainably exactly what you want. It’s your masterpiece.

The point is that planning should not be an exercise in frustration but a wonderful positive experience that all interested parties can participate in no matter their knowledge level. When appropriately done, the experience is not intimidating, and complex concepts are all learnable. We are moving from being “overlords” to “educators” – which is a very good thing for the consuming public. Technology now allows us to provide a core knowledge base to efficiently build upon the planning working relationship.

An objective experience

In most cases, the plans design themselves. Experience and education teach an advisor the proper framework, but it’s the client borrowing from and building on an advisor’s knowledge. Assisting with intricacies and ultimately helping the client’s “perfect plan” take shape.

Clients have done exactly one plan in their life – their own. What makes 1-1 personalized attention so valuable is the ability of the advisor to help a client visualize and develop their version of the “perfect plan.” The advisor’s value is the experience of doing lots and lots of plans, seeing how they play out for others, and bringing those experiences to the discussion—guiding the plan but allowing the client to fully comprehend detail and recognize opportunity making it truly their creation.

You don’t need to be “good with numbers.” Our job is to build the foundation and do the busy work. It’s the client’s job to understand the intricacies and make the decisions on all the fun, personalized, subjective pieces. Like building a house, we pour the cocreate, construct the framing and put up the drywall. It’s your job to pick the color, carpeting, and drapery.

No one should care more about your money than you.

Clients often want to pay for an advisor experience out of pocket. That’s why the Advice-OnlyTM process is not limited to brand new advisors. It is common knowledge that standalone planning has historically been something advisors “graduated from.” No more. The Advice-OnlyTM methodology is designed so ANY advisor can use it, and ALL clients can rely upon a consistent, objective, conflict-free planning experience every single time. Seasoned and new advisors now have a specified process for delivering objective advice.

The future is today

Gone are the days when an individual could expect to receive a comfortable pension and supplement needed income with just social security. Fortunately, Americans live much longer and have the opportunity to enjoy a personalized and more fulfilling retirement. Still, financial planning has been slow to keep pace and often remains un-coordinated and always with no other option, centralized around products or managed investment accounts. 

Even the most financially astute can be left void of a clear and cohesive strategy. Furthermore, effective retirement planning has historically been available only for those with large amounts of money. Access to financial planning has required implementing products and asset management services that may or may not be ideal or even appropriate. Those days are gone.

We offer the objective truth

This is the clarity and ultimate peace of mind of what is likely to happen financially. With this, humans have an uncanny ability to achieve the impossible when they know what needs to happen and believe that the advice they receive is truly in their best interest without a shred of doubt. You want that when making certain consequential financial decisions.

Editor’s note: This blog offers informal investment and financial planning advice. We know nothing about your unique financial situation. The buying and selling of any financial product or security should only be considered in context. If appropriate, seek the counsel of experienced, ideally objective, financial, tax, or estate planning professionals. Past performance is not indicative of future performance.

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