Here is a bit of news—my wife and I had a meeting with our financial planner this week. I can hear you thinking, “That’s news?”
Certainly, visiting your financial planner isn’t exactly news, any more than having an appointment with your accountant or getting your teeth cleaned would be news. It isn’t, at least, unless you are a financial planner yourself.
When people who know I am a financial planner heard me mention visiting my financial planner, their immediate responses were raised eyebrows. The reactions fell into two categories. The first is best summed up by the question one client asked me: “Should I be worried?”
She was wondering why on earth her financial planner needed a financial planner and whether that was an indication of my incompetence. Certainly, financial planners should be capable of doing their own financial planning, right? In reality, that is no more true than saying physicians should be capable of taking care of all their family members’ medical problems, or attorneys representing themselves in court, or therapists doing their own therapy.
The second response was just the opposite. As another client remarked, “That’s a pretty strong endorsement of your profession, that you think so highly of your services you seek them out from a peer.”
This latter reaction sums up my own view. I have gained significant benefits from having my own financial planner. For one thing, just because I’m fully capable of doing my own financial planning doesn’t mean I do it. Like many professionals, I put my clients’ financial planning far ahead of my own. It took me 20 years to begin to treat the performance reporting of my own investments in the same way I do those of my clients. My clients come first. With over 70 clients, there is always someone needing my attention. So my planning comes last, which isn’t fair to my family. Having a planner is a way for my family’s financial planning to get “equal time.”
It also provides more security for my wife. First of all, she is more fully involved in our financial planning. In addition, if I should die prematurely, my family would not be left stranded. If a financial planner who is doing his family’s planning dies, family members have lost their financial planner just at the time they need one the most. My wife draws a lot of reassurance from knowing that, if I died tomorrow, there would be someone she could lean on to help her through the difficult legal and financial process of cleaning up and distributing an estate.
Those personal benefits would be reason enough for having a planner. But that isn’t all. Having a financial planner is also a chance for me to grow professionally. It gives me a chance to see “up close and personal” how another planner practices. It gives me a benchmark to measure my services against and an opportunity to pick up some new ideas. For that reason, I am careful to select a planner (I’ve had two planners over the last 10 years) whom I respect and want to emulate in some fashion.
Perhaps the most significant benefit, as far as my clients are concerned, is that having my own planner gives me a chance to sit on the other side of the desk and experience what my clients experience. That has had a profound impact on my interactions with clients. For example, at one time I gave clients a 42-page form to fill out. Then I had to complete one of those forms myself. I’ve never given one to a client again.