The world of financial services is sprawling, and like other professions such as law or medicine, has a large core of generalists surrounded by niche players and specialists, and, yes, unfortunately, a few hucksters.
While I believe this profession is overdue for academic rigor and more stringent standards, the fact remains that people do better with help and aren't getting enough of it. An estimated 75% of adults in this country have no advisory relationship at all, and with the enormous responsibility individuals and families now bear for their financial outcomes, this is troubling to say the least. The cultivation of the basic habits and productive behaviors that include saving more of what we earn, investing more of what we save and staying cool through economic cycles that test our mettle, by themselves could turn the tide dramatically. Finding an advisor you like and trust is the first critical step and when you do they will undoubtedly help you achieve more than you might on your own, and do so with less effort. This is generally true regardless of the products they sell, services they offer, or firm they represent because behaviors matters most when building wealth.
The good news is the internet has made it easier than ever to find the fit that's right you.
By following the ABCs below your advisor will help you get into action and stay there.
Align and Advocate: job one for the advisor is to gain a deep understanding of the things that drive meaning in your life. Without this insight financial goals tend to be pretty bland, numbers-based, and lacking of the energy necessary to gain and maintain momentum. Aligning goals with values is what makes all planning personal. From there the advisor must advocate for you, and promote the strategies and critical behaviors that will make dreams blossom. Putting first things first happens through partnership and understanding. Financial advising is a business primarily about people.
Break down and break through: Once the values are known and goals are set the advisor's job shifts to that of the master builder where the focus is to break down the long term goals into quick wins that demonstrate progress and build momentum. Invariably there are biases, blind spots or behaviors that also need to be overcome. As with any new endeavor the relationship with an advocate makes approaching change easier.
Curate and Communicate: the amount of "information" available in the world of business and investing is daunting. Mixed with politics, sensationalism, and conflicting opinions it can become a real deterrent to making big decisions, or sticking with them after they've been made. The advisor's job is to curate and provide context for the relevant pieces of news and information, and communicate them in such a way for each client that they can be understood and then provide clarity about what to do or not do next.
Diligence and Dedication: a good advisor is always learning and growing and works diligently to understand changes that might impact each client he/she serves. Rules, laws and markets are always changing. Coupled with changes in the lives, families and careers of clients, the advisor is tasked with implementing the most efficient strategies to manage change and keep goals on track.
Empathy and Experience: it's impossible to advise another person well without knowing them deeply. In an endeavor so highly personal and dependent on behavior as this, trust is a critical ingredient. Empathy builds understanding and trust. Only with these elements in place does experience matter. Experience is built on the field and in the foxhole. It comes from doing and being, from coaching and feedback, from analysis and review, and from the mentorship of someone further down the path. It has no substitute.
With a committed advisor and these basic building blocks in place, possibilities emerge.