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  • By Elizabeth Wolleben Yoder
  • Posted March 22, 2022

Financial Planning? Like Investments? I’m Not Interested

Imagine you are at a dinner for an organization that you care about and you are seated next to a stranger. They introduce themselves to you and share a little bit about themselves.

When I introduce myself, I have the honor of sharing I am a financial planner. Knowing the stereotypes I had of financial planners not too long ago, I quickly move on to who I work for.

I actually still have stereotypes in my head of financial planners. Here is one caricature: A 55-year-old white man in a suit shakes as many hands as possible in the room and opens conversations with sports analogies, comments on how business is going, and leaves a large tip for whoever is serving drinks. Not all bad, but not entirely relatable to me either, especially when I felt I had nothing in common with him. He comments on CSPAN and jokes loudly about the markets.

How can I differentiate myself from the stereotype? By getting to the point. I primarily work with families who have dependent adult children. My focus is on them and finding resources and paths to independence or meaningful supported lives.

Why is it that our first image of a financial planner and advisor is someone who is examining the stock market all day for the next big thing? I know many great financial advisers who do read into the markets and have input into how to make a portfolio do the most work for a client. Some of them even speak in sports analogies. But that’s not what makes them great.

All of the good ones have more conversations about the other elements of planning that are more important to all of our client’s “bottom line.” Are our clients prepared for the next transition in their life? What happens if work takes a turn and someone has to leave their job? How do you make the best out of retirement (during a pandemic)? What happens if someone gets sick or if nursing care is needed? Where will they live when they need more support? Who will be there to help? And can they live the same lifestyle in retirement that they’ve come to expect? Finally, in the fortunate case of many financial planning clients, how to make an impact by leaving assets to loved ones and organizations they care about?

Many of our first conversations with our clients are geared towards defining financial planning in a way that does not revolve around investments. We have to first educate that planning is not investment management.

When a client comes to us at Planning Across the Spectrum, they most often come looking for financial planning support and don’t even think about investment management as part of what we do. They are trying to understand the next big step in their life, which often includes someone leaving high school, someone needing more help to work successfully, or someone seeking medical care solutions once no longer eligible to be on a previous medical plan. We then look at the realities of what a family has access to and what their goals are to understand what tools they can use to get to where they want to be as a family.

Andrew, the founder at Planning Across the Spectrum, regularly comments in initial consultation meetings, “Liz, how many trades have you made this year?” The answer since coming to work at Planning Across the Spectrum has always been “Zero.” It is simply not my role and not where I spend most of my time thinking about investments in the way that others on our team do.

Investment management is truly not an afterthought. In reality, the investable assets in any family’s life are still a cornerstone of the overall plan and how we project out what will be available for the future care and support of loved ones. But once we set up a plan for investments, they don’t change very much over time. We will, of course, manage things according to current tax laws, what the client’s risk, cash needs, and investment objects are, and will rebalance as needed. Monitoring the accounts as markets shift for opportunities remains a large part of what our team – not me – will do for our clients. But if talking about investment positions, rates of return, and underlying stats are not important to you to discuss, we will be spending most of our time with you on the things you find important.

Many of what we discuss is essential to planning but only needs to be discussed at the beginning of our engagement or during transitions. For example, if we confirm your life insurance is operating as it should for your needs, we will not discuss it again other than to point out how well your planning paid off. If we find there is an opportunity to save on some tax strategy you don’t know about, we will bring it up, make sure it happens and move on to what is important to you. All elements of planning that add more money to your savings and build a stronger future for yourself and your family are worth discussing and pointing out, but the primary impact we can have on a family is making sure they are focused on their goals to spend the most time doing what they love with who they love.

Most of our primary conversations have some form of the graphic that you see here. If something is more or less important to you, we spend more time on it.

To be clear, investment management is work that we do as a company at Planning Across the Spectrum. While Liz focus’s solely on financial planning and how to design your investment strategy to fit within your life’s goals and tax management strategies, Andrew focuses on making sure your individual investments are up to date based on current market projections, changing market environments, and opportunities to take advantage of undervalued positions. Talk to Andrew if you want perspective on the new investment strategy you’ve been hearing about in the news, and talk to Liz about the personal news that will impact your family’s lifestyle and goals.

If you are more interested in picking and discussing your investments, we have someone who is all about that too. It's just not going to be me!

Contact Planning Across The Spectrum for certified special needs financial planning services.