How difficult is it to find good financial advice? Some might say very difficult.
I might agree.
From my vantage point, I would say in an ideal world I’d be able to say:
“Hey my name is Dominique. I’ve been in finance for 2 decades and let’s just lay aside that I probably have more knowledge in finance than the average bear. I’m all about getting you to your goals faster without unnecessary stress and anxiety. That said, I can’t guarantee a certain % of investment returns. Neither can I guarantee that we’ll reach your “number”. I can guarantee that you through a better relationship cultivated by ongoing feedback and advice that you will be better off in difficult times. If that’s cool with you, let’s discuss it further over a refreshing beverage.”
For more on this topic, check out this video.
Why doesn’t that happen?
For one, the financial industry markets itself in the wrong way. It dumps a lot of money into the notion that your investment strategy is the only (and therefore the most important) concern. No doubt, it plays a significant role but money is just a tool to be used. Money provides you a lifestyle that allows you to live a more fulfilling life.
Next, most financial advisors are too afraid to market that way. Why? Because the firms they work for potentially put tons of obstacles in their way through compliance programs. You see, with the industry being centered so much around investment advice (not always the same as financial planning), there is a lot of scrutiny about what is said or rather what is promised to potential clients. All this forms an elixir that most advisors want to avoid drinking.
Having spoken to many prospective clients, I know the expectation is around having a more personal and frankly human interaction with me and my peers.
Where would you find such a financial advisor?
Let me ask: How would you prefer to meet a financial advisor?
Let’s say you’re interested in that type of relationship, I’m going to agree with you that there is virtually nowhere (I know of) to find such an advisor. You can’t “Yelp” them because the industry prevents customer or client testimonials. (Check out: The Only 3 Things That Matter When Considering a Financial Advisor) You could ask around to your friends that have good advisors but that could be an awkward situation. “Hey, Bill you seem to be doing well, who’s your financial advisor?” Good luck finding a directory-type service that doesn’t pull you into their web for some ulterior motive like to upsell investment management to an advisor that paid for a spot on their platform. Sorry Personal Capital I didn’t mean to call you out.
Here’s what I would do to change the world(of financial advice)…
If I could create the ideal world having lived and breathed this for so long here’s what I’d do.
1. I’d start with minting better advisors.
People often say we need to fix education, but you can’t do that without good teachers. And in the context of today’s discussion…better teachers. Do we need better educated financial advisors? Probably not in the sense that you’re thinking. I mean equipping them with better tools specifically around the soft skills of financial advice. I’m talking about having these types of conservations with clients…
(You can watch the whole thing, but skip to 1:30 if you’re pressed for time). I’ve always said that financial advice is not about the math and good advisors know this. Although it is admittedly difficult to manage all the aspects of client service while being a business owner.
2. I’d create a central body for regulation.
The Securities Exchange Commission (“SEC”) is undermanned when it comes to finding the Bernie Madoff’s of the world. Although this risk could be largely mitigated if, in fact, each state wasn’t responsible for its own regulation. That idea might seem counterintuitive because we have 50 states and only 1 SEC. However, with every state being held responsible, it creates a hornet’s nest of unbalanced standards as advisors have to become attorneys just to navigate a labyrinth of information just to offer financial advice. If I want to serve clients in a state where I’m not domiciled I shouldn’t have to go through reams of their regulatory standards…this should be uniform at the federal or national level. For now, the SEC (with some exceptions) does this for advisors that have more than $100 million in assets under management.
3. I’d mandate financial literacy programs in schools in all 50 states.
The only way that an individual can avoid financial exploitation is through education. For only 17 states to require financial literacy to graduate high school is frankly ridiculous. Better financial literacy standards reduce the gap between the haves and have nots and eliminate the need for wealth redistribution at the federal level (i.e. excessive taxation). In order for a community to have lasting vitality, there needs to be economic activity and jobs so that people can provide for themselves. In order to maintain the wealth created through the jobs, they must be financially literate. Wealth can only be preserved through proper financial education.
It’s time to hear from you…what would you do to change how difficult it is to find good financial advice?