This is a guest article from Kathryn. Kathryn has been working in the financial industry for 11 years. She is the founder and author of Kathryn’s Conversations, a money and lifestyle blog for people who like to get stuff done. This article continues the series covering working with financial planners and advisers.
First dates are exhilarating. You’ve met someone you like, you hope they like you, you get home and start wondering when the next time you’ll see them is; you might even search the Internet for information about them.
After a few more dates, you decide to commit, and the brainwashing is in full force. Life is so much better since I’ve met this person; he’s my savior. Your own ideas and opinions slowly fall by the wayside while their ideas and opinions become the way forward. You don’t second-guess them on anything because you’re wrapped up in love; they must be right about everything.
When you meet and then select a financial planner, you’ll have these same feelings. Financial planners have a way of making you feel like the rest of your life is now somehow safe, and you never have to go on a bad date again, ever. But just because you have a financial planner, it doesn’t mean you can put your financial plan on auto-pilot.
Sure, he’s the expert, but remember that you’re his client and you’re paying him to help you. You’re not paying him to intimidate you or give you cookie-cutter information that you could find online without his help.
Don’t check out mentally when you find a planner. Keep your head in the game. It’s your job to set the tone of the relationship from the beginning.
Here are a few things to be aware of that will help your navigate you relationship with your planner.
Your planner will position himself as the authority figure: you the student and he the teacher. One common way he accomplishes this authority is by wearing a suit. A study shows that when a jaywalker is wearing a suit, three and a half times as many people will follow him across the street than when he is in street clothes.
What does this mean for you when you’re sitting across the table from your planner who is wearing a suit? You’re more likely to listen and take their direction because their suit alone will make you feel like they’re the authority; you’re less likely to challenge their suggestions.
Solution: Separate the planner’s suggestions from his suit. If he weren’t wearing the suit, would you still implement the suggestions he has?
Your planner will talk fast when explaining something complicated. People talk fast, whether intentionally or unintentionally, because you’re more likely to believe someone when you don’t understand the topic. In short, The argument is more believable when the expert talks fast because you don’t have time to process (and rebut) his idea or piece of information. You comply with his suggestion, and you move on to the next topic.
Solution: Tell your planner to slow down. Good planners can break down the most complicated topics into something simple. If they can’t speak slowly to help you understand a topic, there’s a good chance your planner is a bad communicator, so don’t get frustrated with yourself. Remember his job is to communicate with you, not intimidate you!
Your planner will have balanced opinions and suggestions. He will suggest one thing and provide the counter argument to their suggestion to be fair and balanced. This would boosts his credibility because he would be hiding nothing. Balanced opinions will still most likely lead you to the option they’re suggesting, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because they’ve earned your trust by not being one-sided.
Solution: When they provide balanced opinions, keep in mind you have the responsibility to select the option that works best for you, not the option that you were persuaded into doing as a result of this tactic.
You’ll like your planner. After all, you went through a selection process and chose him. Like any relationship, you’ll like them even more if they’re good looking, if they compliment you, and if you have things in common with them. Your planner will most likely give you a few compliments and find ways to connect with you, so don’t be surprised if there is ample small talk during your first official meeting. They’re working to strengthen their bond with you, and that’s good. Just know that you may be more reluctant to challenge your planner when you feel a connection to him.
Solution: Enjoy the connection you have with your planner, but keep in mind that your feelings for him shouldn’t influence whether you implement any particular suggestion. Just because you like them doesn’t mean all their ideas are suitable for you.
Keep these suggestions in mind as you’re developing your relationship with your planner. Doing so will help make sure you continue to think for yourself and share ideas that you have. When I lived in New York the rule of thumb was: “You can always find a better boyfriend, a better job, and a better apartment.” Let’s add on: “You can always find a better planner.” There are lots of fish in the sea.
Published or updated April 24, 2011.