When I was a brand new financial planner 16 years ago (at 23 I was looking around 14) I really wanted to prove to clients that I knew my business, so I talked too much. (Apologies, first clients.) I took the responsibility of being a financial planner very seriously, and was desperate to learn so I could give good advice. But I was also unsure of my age and stage of life. I rented an apartment with college roommates, drove a Honda Civic with a side mirror stuck with epoxy, struggled to fund a Roth IRA, and served clients twice my age with kids, mortgages and loans. million dollar wallets.
The distance between us seemed so great, so I went to great lengths to be the Doogie Howser type and prayed that I wouldn’t run into customers on weekends in my sweat eating at the local Mexican chain with my boyfriend. My awareness of the distance between where I was and where my clients were located kept me from being truly, fully present because I was always trying to prove myself – my knowledge, my maturity and my ability. esteem myself.
My evolution as a financial planner
After spending a few years under my belt and becoming a Certified Financial Planner, my knowledge and confidence grew, but I still misunderstood my role as a financial planner. I thought my role was to guide clients down the path that I knew was best for them – to solve their riddle my way – based on everything I had learned, all the research I had done and all the clients I had served. I spoke less, but still wasn’t listening as well as I could have. I was too focused on explaining why my advice was the right way to go. My intentions were good and my advice sound, but I was still wrong about what my role really was.
Over the past few years, I have come to see it differently. I now understand that my role is not to tell clients what to do. It’s about being a thinking partner for clients, helping them discover what they want to accomplish, putting their goals in context so they can prioritize what’s important to them, and providing some optimized paths to get where they want to go. It’s their path, not mine – I’m here to help them make wise decisions, optimize their progress, avoid pitfalls along the way, and see their path more clearly, not to tell them what to do.
Now that I fully understand my role, my advice is different for each client because their life, goals and priorities are different. So if you are looking for a financial planner who is more of a thinking partner than someone who just tells you what to do, this is what I recommend.
How to find the best financial planner for you
1. Read their website
First, check out their website. Do they talk about themselves and their process, or do they focus on your experience as a customer and how their services benefit you? Do they think and communicate from their point of view or yours?
2. Pay attention to how much they talk
Then, when interviewing counselors, pay attention to how much they talk versus how much they listen to when you first meet. A good counselor will speak 25% or less of the time and focus on understanding your situation, goals, challenges, and questions. Pay attention to the questions they ask: Are they focusing on account balances and how much you earn, or what is important to you and what concerns you?
3. Trust yourself
Finally, trust your instincts. The good financial planner should feel like an expert, but also like someone to talk to – someone with whom to want talk to. Clients share everything from miscarriages and marital tensions to day-to-day parenting difficulties with me. Your financial planner doesn’t have to be your best friend, but finding someone you truly connect with is important.
And if you are a young financial planner, I hope you can take advantage of my experience and learn this lesson much faster than me! Talk less, listen more. Focus on what is Actually important to your customer rather than what you think should be important to them. Don’t worry too much about your intelligence. Spend your time understanding what your customers want to accomplish and helping them get there. Because it’s not about you, it’s about them.