Wealth Managers: The 3 Keys To An Elevated Client Experience

What you’ve done in the past isn’t enough for the future. That which has differentiated you enough to become successful thus far in your career likely isn’t sufficient to set you apart and perpetuate your success going forward.

At one point, pushing product for a recognizable company gave you an edge. Then, being an asset manager turned some heads. Evidence-based investing gave you an even better story to tell. Offering comprehensive advice as a Certified Financial Planner™ practitioner was once novel, and full-time fiduciary status made you a more evolved advisor.

But now some recognizable names are offering a version of the above for less than you pay for your streaming television subscriptions, all while one of the most recognizable names in finance just announced the end of a sales practice for which it is legendary. The net result is that there will only be more—and lesser priced—competition for financial advisory services. What, then, will it take to continue to set you apart?

A comparison of how experience goes beyond service
Experience Over ServiceBUCKINGHAM STRATEGIC WEALTH

Parents Of College-Bound Kids: Don’t Eat The Guilt Sandwich

The ivory tower of higher ed, the U.S. government, the financial industry, the bumper sticker barrage, a healthy pinch of pride, and, yes, even our genuine love for our children have all converged to serve up a big fat guilt sandwich for parents of college-bound kids.

We’ve been made to think that we’re damned if we don’t, so we’ve done it—or overdone it, really. We’ve sacrificed our own financial futures for the sake of a supposedly priceless experience in the form of a college education.

Now, before you grab a pitchfork to chase me down from whatever perspective I might have offended, please know that I’m a thankful college graduate. What’s more, I enjoyed teaching at the college level for several years (and likely will again). I’m in the financial industry, I love my kids more than I can express, and I’m proud enough to have adorned my car with a bumper sticker pledging my support for their teams and/or academic institutions.

Perhaps most importantly, those kids I mentioned are 17 and 15—a high school junior and freshman—and, at the very moment this article is published, I am literally attending a college “prospect day” for my eldest at an institution of higher learning that resembles Hogwarts. In other words: I’m a believer in a college education, and I’m right there in the trenches with you.

Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood
HogwartsGETTY IMAGES

Should I Take My Investment Gains Off The Table?

A friend called me the other day to ask a question that I know many share and that many financial advisors are hearing, especially from those who are currently in retirement. Here’s how the conversation went, along with a few notes specifically for financial advisors to help in the similar conversations you’re having with your clients:

Q: “Tim, my portfolio has done well enough in just the first quarter of the year that we’ve more than covered the income we need from our investments for the whole year. Should we just cash out and take our investment gains off the table?”

A: First, I understand how you feel. We’ve had so many years where gains were hard to come by and a few in which it felt like the bottom was going to fall out. It’s stressful, even in the best of times, so the temptation to take your winnings off of the table in a year where your income goals have already been met feels not only rational, but right.

And yes, you certainly could do exactly that.

Financial advisor note: Our clients are the hero of their story, we are only a guide. They are the boss, and we are the hired help. So in any circumstance, the client must feel free to exercise whatever instinct occurs, because they are literally in control. Furthermore,  we take an important step in any form of coaching by reminding the coachee of their autonomy. A client might be inclined to expect their advisor to put up a fight when they suggest they’re considering cashing out of their portfolio—and they’re probably right to anticipate as much—but recognizing the very freedom they already possess often frees them to make the decision we’d prefer.

taking chips off the table
Taking Chips Off The TableYURI SMITYUK/TASS

The Problem With Financial Literacy—And A Proposed Solution

The problem with financial literacy is that it gets off on the wrong foot. The very moniker is condescending, implying that those it serves are financially illiterate, that they have no idea whatsoever how to use money.

Thus, in addition to condescension, we must add inaccuracy to the list of financial literacy’s foibles, because having a lot of money certainly is no prerequisite – or guarantee, as it so happens – for understanding how it works. Even the poorest of the poor are embracing entrepreneurship through the advent of micro-finance to raise their standard of living from critical to stable. Even the 10-year-old kid buying a candy bar at the corner store is successfully completing a transaction. And even the 50-something who spends 110% of his annual income with the aid of a home equity line of credit may be demonstrating a more dangerous lack of money mastery than those generally labeled financially illiterate.

And besides, who among us is quick to embrace a solution that requires the admission of complete ignorance?

A person leads a finger on the lines in the book, but instead of letters only question marks on the page in the textbook
Financial IlliteracyGETTY

Maximize Your Productivity With “The Attention Capital Principle”

I understand the problem you face every day when you start working. You have an idea of how you’d like your day to go, and then you turn your computer on.

Your inbox was populated overnight by bleary-eyed inbox-zero adherents pounding away in a converted closet. A couple more hours have been consumed on your virtual calendar by well-intentioned colleagues scheduling important meetings. And then before you even manage to catch-up in your inbox, that not-so-friendly chime from Slack or Teams cues the symphony of distraction that is your day.

It’s a wonder we get anything done at work. And it’s no surprise that when we leave our desks, we often feel a hollow ring of having accomplished less than we’d hoped despite spending more time than we intended.

Woman frantically busy at work
Crazy BusyDEPOSIT PHOTOS

Effectively Navigating The In-Between Phases Of Life And Work

Sometimes we do get ourselves stuck, but other times we simply find ourselves marooned in the in-between—where the present feels more like the past, but the future is uncertain.

People talk a lot about finishing an existing project or starting a new one, but how can we effectively navigate the seeming wasteland between them? Whether or not we choose to be in this space, it can be uncomfortable and it is often unproductive. It’s as if we find ourselves treading water—personally, professionally and financially. But by effectively navigating these in-between phases in life and work, by releasing the outcome and exercising proactive patience, we can keep moving forward.

Maybe you’re rehabbing an injury and are out of the game or the season. Maybe you’ve sold your house and temporarily are crammed into an apartment while you’re building your new dream home. Maybe a long-term relationship has ended and you’re taking time to heal before considering coupling again. Heck, maybe you’ve gotten the first vaccine shot and are awaiting the second!

One of the most common—and challenging—in-between scenarios, however, is occupationally oriented. I spoke with a great friend and amazing professional this past week who runs her own business—but she’s in the middle of a lengthy interview process for a job that could be really stinking awesome.

The new job, if offered and accepted, would initiate a massive amount of change for her and her family. They’d have to move—and they already live in the best city in the world, for goodness’ sake—but her husband and three children are all on board for a new adventure if that’s how it breaks.

There are several meaningful pros to accompany that monumental con, though. Most notably, the job would vault her visibility within her industry, compounding her already impressive credentials, and position her as a national authority in her realm of expertise.

But the whole process of wrestling with this possibility began months ago. First, she had to come to grips with the possibility herself; then she had to communicate that development to her husband, whose work would remain in their current locale; then they had to see if the kids were on board; and only then did she really seriously consider this option.

And throughout it all, the “Will they pick me?” stress continued to build and build. The first interview. The call back. And now, a scheduled third interview. Oh, and running the business she already owns.

Most of us have been through some version of this and many other in-betweens—or we will be in the future. But as she recently brought me up to speed on the process and progress, I could feel my own stomach tighten. So I asked:

How are you managing being in the in-between?

Curiosity: The Most Important Trait For Financial Advisors

I had it all wrong.

Early in my career as a financial advisor, my goal, even more than gaining clients, was to gain knowledge. I was operating under the assumption that bringing knowledge where it is lacking is an advisor’s primary value. But while a certain degree of knowledge is a prerequisite, of course, I eventually learned that knowledge is ubiquitous—readily available with a few keyboard taps—and that it can even be counterproductive when sub-optimally applied.

Fortunately, I graduated from that oversimplistic belief to a more nuanced one in which I found greater confidence. I determined that sound judgement was actually the most important trait for an advisor. It was the ability to apply knowledge, to help clients make a this-or-that decision, that was really where an advisor could demonstrate his or her worth. 

How To Be Unhappy But Successful

“Are you measuring yourself in the gap or the gain?”

No, this isn’t a question pitting retail clothing against laundry detergent. It’s a question posed by Greg McKeown, the author of the essential book Essentialism, in his recent 1-Minute Wednesday newsletter.

Your answer matters, both in the way you approach money and life—but especially money.

“Gap thinking means looking at the distance between where we are and where we want to be (or comparing ourselves to what other people have achieved),” said McKeown. “Gain thinking means looking at the progress we have already made.”

For example, I had breakfast Friday morning with two friends, both of whom have experienced degrees of success in their professional lives that I could argue dwarf my own. That’s where my head would be if I was a gap thinker, anyway.

If I was a gain thinker, however, I might relish the fact that these dudes thought highly enough of me to give me a seat at the table…or at least that I was in good company for a free breakfast at a great restaurant!

As a financial advisor for a couple decades, I can tell you that the #1 question I’ve been asked by clients is some version of, “So, how am I doing…you know…relative to your other clients in similar situations?”

It’s not because these people are overly insecure or emotionally needy. But money—and, in many ways, financial planning—breeds gap thinking. Dollars, cents, credits and debits make it so easy to create a seemingly tangible success scorecard.

Perhaps you’re familiar with Lee Eisenberg’s book from several years back, The Number: A Completely Different Way To Think About The Rest Of Your Life. He recalls a regular-rotation TV commercial at the time (that may still be running in some form today) for a big financial institution where you see people walking down a busy street, each with a dollar number hovering over them.

This is the type of image that the very nature of money makes it hard to avoid.

It’s not an entirely unhelpful notion to quantify our financial security in the form of a single number, despite the risk of oversimplification. But such thinking leads us very quickly to comparison, which many years ago Teddy Roosevelt accurately declared to be “the thief of joy.”

The Crazy Stuff We Do With Money—Explained

I’ve got some good news. You’re not crazy. 

That’s the message of one of my favorite books of 2020, “The Psychology of Money,” written by Morgan Housel and inspired by a popular blog post he wrote in 2018. It’s a compelling read and the book offers many great lessons, but I thought this particular encouragement was worthy of the fresh slate afforded us all by the start of a new year:

“We all do crazy stuff with money, because we’re all relatively new to this game and what looks like crazy to you might make sense to me. But no one is crazy—we all make decisions based on our own unique experiences that seem to make sense to use in a given moment.”

money crazy
GETTY

Author and financial planner Rick Kahler echoes this sentiment, suggesting that “every behavior around money, no matter how illogical it seems to you or others, makes perfect sense when we understand the underlying thoughts, feelings, and beliefs.”

What difference does it make if we just keep screwing up? Can we increase our accountability to ourselves? Here are four steps you can take to help you understand these insights—and screw up less:

How Much Impact Does The President Have On The Market?

The question of whether or not the U.S. President or a particular party has an impact–positively or negatively–on stocks, bonds, unemployment, inflation, the deficit, and GDP growth–has been flying around like crazy. But especially in the midst of a contentious election cycle, it’s never been harder to find clear answers.

But take a glance at this interactive chart that enables you to click on each U.S. President going all the way back to 1929 to see what the major market and economic indicators looked like for each presidential cycle. I think you’ll find that it’s conclusively inconclusive:

So, should you consider changing your investment plan ahead of the election?

Short answer: No.

And here’s the slightly longer answer from one of the brightest investment people I know (and a darn good guitar player), Jared Kizer, CFA, Chief Investment Officer, Buckingham Wealth Partners: