Why A Happy Advisor Is A Good Advisor

by | Aug 29, 2023 | News Room Media

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Why A Happy Advisor Is A Good Advisor

Written By: Jacqueline Sergeant

August 28, 2023

A lot has been said and written about what makes a good financial advisor and there is usually agreement on what qualities they should possess.

The list often includes traits such as trustworthiness, dedication to fiduciary standards and passion.

But one quality that has probably not been given the attention it deserves is hapiness, said veteran advisor Rick Kahler, who serves as president of Kahler Financial Group, which he founded in 1981 in Rapid City, S.D.

Kahler, an author and a certified financial therapist, had not necessarily associated happiness as a trait that clients must look for in an advisor until a few years ago, when an article he wrote on the subject elicited this response from a “well-known and respected” advisor: “Rick, if I could pick up a megaphone and say one thing to the clients of financial planners, it would be to make sure your advisor is happy.”

“That really grabbed me, and I have been pondering on that,” Kahler said. “Of all the things, why happy?”

Kahler explained that the advisor was not minimizing all the other important qualities that have been written about, but this is one that we never see on a list, and it matters, he said.

“We don’t mean somebody who is telling jokes and cutting up and always seems to be really up and that’s a mask,” he said. “We are talking about someone who is really intent in their skin.”

Kahler said a happy person usually turns out superior customer service, whether it’s a product or advice.

Unhappiness is often a sign that an advisor is burning out, Kahler said. And there are several signs to look for when gauging whether an advisor may be unhappy. For one, he said, “You don’t want an advisor who does not have good self-care,” and that means having a good life balance, “which does not come by working 80 hours a week.”

While working long hours can be a sign of passion, Kahler said everybody needs down time. “Everybody needs something that is taking care of them mentally and physically,” and that includes exercising, daily meditation, some type of mental health maintenance and having a good diet, he said.

And you don’t want to be too inquisitive about your advisor’s self-care regiment, Kahler said. “You don’t need to say, ‘do you have a daily exercise program or tell me about your daily diet?” Just by talking to them and being around them, you can get an idea if they have good life balance, Kahler said. “A poor life balance will come out in many ways and one way is in the body.”

The ability to listen, as in “deep listening,” is another key feature a client wants to observe in their advisor because that shows their level of presence, Kahler said. “I don’t think anything contributes to happiness more than really being present … just being in the here and now,” he said. “So, are they really present, do they really listen and is there an empathetic side to them?” Kahler said, adding that clients should also be on the lookout for whether the advisor has self-awareness. “Are they able to admit mistakes in a clean way, not in a victimized way?” 

Kahler noted that there are advisors who often do the work out of obligation, believing that “this is what I am expected to do, and this is what I am good at, but I don’t necessarily enjoy it, or they are doing it for the lifestyle, for the money,” he said. This lack of passion for the profession is usually a warning sign and comes through clearly to the client, he said.

In addition to the above, Kahler said there are other warnings signs that you may be dealing with an unhappy advisor:

• Not interested in taking vacations.

• Complains of not being able to find or afford skilled help.

• Not wanting new clients.

• Being short with clients.

• Delays responding to clients.

• Undercharging (Kahler noted that this probably affects more fee-only planners who charge less than fee-based planners and provide more services)

Put all those together and “that’s a big sign that’s probably an advisor who is not loving life and who is not really happy,” Kahler said. “And if the advisor is not happy, the customer is not going to be happy.” The end result, Kahler noted, is a loss of clients, which usually does not happen overnight.

Kahler further pointed out that research shows that very few clients leave their advisors because of fees. “They leave for other reasons, and I’ll bet nobody comes out and says, “I left because my advisor wasn’t happy. It’s going to be things like ‘he never got back to me’ or ‘I got sloppy work’ or ‘the employees were rude to me on the phone’.”

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