As these conversations over many years have progressed, I have learned that financial planning, at its core, is all about assisting clients with achieving their lifetime goals. Because the accumulation of wealth is not an ends, but a means.
The exceptional financial planners I meet are:
- First and foremost, experts. The body of knowledge required of a financial planner is both broad and relatively deep. A commitment to lifelong learning is absolutely essential. The best financial planners attend professional association conferences - gaining insights not just from the presenters but also from their fellow practitioners. And - they read, read, and read some more. They have good habits ... eschewing watching t.v. every evening and instead devoting time to family, friends, and their own education.
- Second, trustworthy. The best financial planners realize that the allure of additional compensation, in whatever form it takes place, can distort the advice given to clients. Conflicts of interest are minimized - and avoided altogether when possible. These financial planners enjoy the expert professional-level compensation they receive, and they enjoy being on the "same side of the table" as their clients.
- Third, candid with their clients. Never pulling punches. Dedicated to assisting their clients overcome obstacles, with often frank advice, even at the risk of losing the relationship. Clients don't just want to be surrounded by "yes" advisors.
Life only happens once. Our clients deserve our expert guidance to empower them to suck all the marrow out of life, to live their lives with passion, to gain the rewards they themselves can receive from assisting others and expressing gratitude, and to live such a life that - near the end of life - they will have no regrets.
Being a financial planner is a gift, in and of itself. It is and can be the most enjoyable of professions. But it requires the commitment to be an expert, the intellectual honesty to maintain the client's interests as paramount at all times, and courage to be candid, and the focus on helping each and every client lead a highly successful life, in all of its many aspects.
Financial planning. A most rewarding profession.
Let us continue to progress toward that goal - a true profession.
Let us achieve, each and every one of us, the esteemed honor that flows from when a client refers to her or his financial planner as "my trusted financial advisor and life coach."