The True Value of an Advisor
Over my career, I have been asked and often tried to prove my value as an advisor to my clients. When I was younger, I used to subscribe to the notion that our ability to outperform the markets by better stock picking or performance was the actual value. As I have aged in my career and been doing what I have been doing for over two decades, my opinion of my purpose for clients has evolved.
With more and more people facing decision fatigue and busy, hectic personal and professional lives, the real currency is time, not money. The natural flex is to have independence so you can spend time doing what matters most, surrounded by those important to you. Advisors' actual value is in their ability to help clarify essential factors for you when facing decisions. They challenge you when you feel right and boost you up when you feel devastated. They draw your attention to important deadlines, remind you of the path you have chosen and why, and help you get out of your way with decisions holding you hostage or restraining your growth potential.
Qualities of a Good Advisor
Good financial advisors share the qualities of therapists, bartenders, best friends, and parents. They genuinely care about your future and well-being but are also not afraid of having difficult conversations with you about the impact of your actions and decisions. They make you comfortable asking questions and do not judge you on your knowledge or experience, celebrating life's key achievements and being by your side during dark times and disappointment. We encourage you to speak confidently and help you see what you cannot because of your present mental or emotional condition.
For most investors, their ability to retire is not the end of their journey; it is the end of a chapter in their book. Life offers us all difficulties and indecision. Having a trusted, un-involved, or, as our industry would call it, an interested third party to turn to and have an intimate conversation with goes a long way to uncovering the solution necessary to move past the problem at your doorstep. Like any profession, you can find those who are very good and take pride in what they do and how they do it and those who are in it purely for the lifestyle it can afford them. Some that you find are quite frankly not good at providing advice or being a trusted advisor, just like there are bad mechanics and doctors with horrible bedside manners.
Do I change my investments or risk based on the markets or economy? How much and when do I increase my 401K or 403B contribution? How much in taxes will I have to pay when I start taking money out? All these are common questions people consider when considering hiring an advisor.
The reality is that the good advisors are so much more. The good ones help you to think more clearly or better about your present condition.
They offer a sounding board or analyze when or where to buy a house, how to negotiate a more substantial contract, or the pros or cons of consulting or becoming your boss. They serve on boards and offer key questions or insights not thought of at critical times in the decision process of their clients. They give you hugs when you are going through a divorce or attending your child's funeral, and they give you a high-five when your last child leaves the nest.
The clients of good advisors end up with more, so much more than they ever would have thought possible because of the insights, advice, and protections that, as a team, they have considered through and implemented at key defining moments in the lives of their clients.
When I am asked what I think a good advisor's value is, "A good advisor knows you better than most and is confident in how you will respond to the right advice being suggested." As a result, their clients end up with more. More money, more returns, more time, more quality of life, more philanthropic ability, more travel, more whatever is most important to the client.