Before I entered the financial services industry I had difficulty trusting an advisor. It seemed as soon as I trusted one, he gave me reasons to no longer trust him. As an example, one advisor refused to follow my instructions to sell a position and caused me to loose $26,000 in one account. Then, he was slow to respond to my calls because he was trying to cover his personal margin calls. Not a pleasant experience. When I entered the industry I promised myself that I would never do that to a client.
There are many thousands of people throughout the state of Ohio, who call themselves “financial Advisors”. If you estimate how many you think there are and multiply that number by 50, for your estimate of how many financial advisors exist across the country, your answer is likely to be far less than actually exist. With so many, there is a constant admonishment for advisors to “differentiate” themselves. They all still sound alike! After all, we all work with the same financial product. We all work with the same basic systems. We all have access to the same, or similar information. How much difference can there be?
In reality there can be a vast difference between advisors. I think the difference lies in the individual advisor’s level of understanding, philosophy, view of the client and the client’s puzzle. Bringing order to the chaos of someone’s financial life is rather like a giant puzzle. There are many facets that need to be matched so that the client has a positive outcome no matter his/her starting point or circumstances. The client must also be comfortable along the way or they will jump ship, usually to their detriment.
It doesn’t matter if you are 34 years old or 57 years old. You are similar in many ways to others of your age group, but you are also very different from them as well. You may have a souse, not all do. You may have children, not all do. You don’t all drive the same car. You don’t all want the same things from life. You don’t all have them same education or life experiences. The truth is that each of you is unique, and special in your own way. I think it is impossible for anyone to “pigeon hole” such a large and diverse group into one category to provide a solution to the investment dilemma. If someone tries to do that, it is similar to saying you all should want to drive a grey Chevy and wear grey shirts, blue ties and black pants, ladies substituting blue scarves and black skirts for the men’s pants. That doesn’t describe anyone I know from any group of people. We all want something more and different.
On a recent questionnaire, when asked to rate their investment knowledge as being Extensive, Good, Limited or None, a group that included people spanning from their twenties into their eighties responded “Limited” regardless of their age and whether they had a few thousand or over a million dollars invested. Even the most sophisticated of them rated their knowledge as “Limited”. What this tells me is that all of these folks realize that as much as they know, there is more that they don’t know. After years of working with them, I understand that their “limited” knowledge extends, at least in part, to their need to understand how an investments “fits” them, how it will enhance their march toward their goals, and what it’s positive attributes and negative attributes are. They understand that more is involved than just knowing how an investment might work or how much it made last year.
From a philosophical standpoint, you will find as your read on that occasionally, my philosophy may seem to contradict itself. On those occasions you must ask your self, “when does this part apply to me?” With several billion people alive today, things change quickly, and that decisions are dependent upon the prevailing circumstances at the time of the decision. You must understand which circumstances activate certain parts of a philosophy and how that affects the decision making process and the results you may achieve.