Finding an advisor for help with financial issues can be a challenging process. Narrowing your choices may include getting references from your network of friends and family, doing web research, and interviewing advisors. It may take some time, but finally you choose someone you think will be a good fit. A structure is now in place, and you feel a sense of accomplishment.
Many people think that once they have found the right professional, answers are now automatically going to come their way. They’re on track and things are rolling forward. Every financial planner will indeed be able to collect your data and do some analysis to provide a cash flow projection, for instance, or to summarize the impact of an asset sale on your taxes. While the answers they provide may seem definitive, many people discover they still don’t know what to do next, or they simply feel uncomfortable. This is a moment that can derail their readiness to engage with their finances unless they and their advisor are open to a broader and ongoing conversation that brings in meaningful and unique context.
In truth, the moment of launching a professional partnership isn’t a completion – it’s a beginning. It’s the start of a relationship and a process that can bring answers and resolution, but initially there may be a lack of clarity and the necessity for related questions to be posed and considered. When an advisor is prepared to witness the reality of a client’s concerns, and the client can share their context more openly, an energy emerges that pushes the process forward. Allowing their advisor to truly know them increases a client’s comfort, trust, and effectiveness in collaborative financial decision-making.
Communication is key in the financial planning process. Trust grows when financial details are supplemented by a client’s experience, and the outcome is more actionable. Initially, it may not be easy to discern what should be shared and how; the advisor’s job is to guide the process to relevant areas. Opening up emotional concerns may feel difficult, yet it is instrumental to meaningful progress.
Sometimes there is hesitancy to keep the flow of communication going. Forward progress might stall out during the planning process when the next step is in the client’s court. Life can get busy for all of us, but sometimes the client’s experience is actually, “this is emotionally challenging for me”, and they may need a different way to move forward. Perhaps it’s hard to look at their expenses when they assume that others are doing better at spending less. Perhaps starting an estate plan brings up memories of dealing with a parent’s death. Advisors understand this and can help find another way to approach the issue. Acknowledging the emotional power of these sorts of barriers can help an advisor tailor their suggestions for change and ease the way past the blockage. Developing a rapport and sharing details about your life brings about a collaborative working relationship, which acts as a foundation for the kind of positive change and financial confidence many clients seek out by partnering with an advisor.
Advisors understand how powerful this dynamic can be and ideally take the time to share lessons learned from their lives as well. Many advisors come to this profession with a desire to help and have their own attitudes and experiences about finances, planning, and problem-solving. It may take some time to develop this confidence, but once you do, your advisor can be a powerful ally. In time, the unfolding understanding of your own finances and how they fit into your life will make you an advocate for your own financial and psychological well-being.
Getting to the Heart of It
Talking about money can be plain uncomfortable, but the rewards are meaningful. A story from your past about money and investment risk may be holding kinetic energy like a tight muscle, and getting to the root of the issue can release that energy. Working in partnership with an advisor provides a bridge from a current situation of uncertainty or anxiety to a desired sense of confidence and positive action. An advisor’s role is that of a translator: to listen, learn the client’s language around money and their approach to spending and saving, and support their client’s vision with advice and personalized roadmaps.
Life changes come along regularly and present an opportunity to revisit your financial map and redraw the route if necessary. When a new job hasn’t materialized, a remodel comes in way over budget, or a plan to move has been challenging in the current real estate market, that’s the perfect time to bring your advisor into the loop. Hearing from a client about their challenges spurs the advisor into action, and they can devise a working plan together. You can’t know an answer before you’ve framed a question, and life’s changes bring up new perspectives on how to know the question you want to ask.
Validating the Plan
In our experience, many clients have a fairly accurate overall sense of the state of their finances, even if they haven’t paid attention to the details for some time. While there are varying degrees of engagement and confidence in different aspects of their finances, they are often in need of a second set of eyes on a plan. Advisors have the analytical tools to help, and with insight into the client’s hopes as well as past experiences with money, they can bring the right quantitative answers into the conversation. Many life decisions – perhaps building a retirement home while living off investment income – may require some careful number crunching, and your advisor can give you the best advice when they know both details as well as personal context. If they’re not aware of outstanding loans such as credit card debt or about that family member you want to start supporting financially, then they can’t be a clear second set of eyes.
Some people worry their advisor will discourage them from spending money – to put the dream of a trip around the world on hold in favor of continuing to save. In truth, these sorts of plans are the exciting stuff that life is made of, and advisors like nothing better than being able to say “yes!” With collaboration, you can realize a dream or pursue meaningful spending and know that it won’t destabilize your future.
A client-advisor relationship can be much broader and richer than retirement calculations and investment strategies and can benefit clients in ways they may not expect. It’s gratifying when a plan that was long in the works has been realized and was created from a meaningful partnership and effective collaboration. The same can be said when an advisor and client can work together to shift gears and adjust a financial plan because life circumstances didn’t follow the trajectory they initially planned for. A good relationship with an advisor meets you where you are, and deep engagement can help a stuck story unwind.
When you work together with your advisor, the results are powerful and energizing. Over time, they may just get you where you want to go.
About Jena Regan, CFP®
Jena Regan is a Lead Advisor with North Berkeley Wealth Management. Jena works with clients to gain a sense of calm in their financial lives.
This commentary on this website reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints, and analyses of the North Berkeley Wealth Management (“North Berkeley”) employees providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by North Berkeley or performance returns of any North Berkeley client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment advice, performance data, or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. North Berkeley manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.