Many people make New Year’s resolutions.  Often, they resolve to lose weight and get into shape.  The people who are most likely to achieve their goals are those who hire and work with an effective personal trainer and commit to a long-term plan.  The best trainers look at your health holistically.  They ask you about your goals and what you’re trying to achieve. 

They dig into your health history and maybe even partner with your doctor.  They create a custom nutrition plan and an exercise plan and help you stick to it over time.  They coach you and motivate you when things get tough, when it seems like you’re a long way from your goals. 

I believe the same is true in the financial world.  We all have financial goals and dreams.  Some of us will achieve those goals and some of us will not.  I believe the difference is having the right partner for the journey.  Finding the right financial partner, often like finding a great personal trainer, is not easy.  Here are my recommendations about how to find the right partner for your journey.


Conversations From The Neighborhood

I’m fortunate to have a vibrant social life and community of friends.  I enjoy spending time with these people.  I live in an active community with many families who have school-aged children like mine.  Sometimes we get together, especially on weekends, and just hang out and watch our kids play.

We start talking about all sorts of things: the latest movies, our kids’ activities, who’s doing well in sports and just generally what’s on our minds.  It’s a nice connection to people I care about.  However, I’ve noticed a certain trend.  At some point, while talking about what’s top of mind with them, people start to ask me questions of a financial nature.  They know I’m a financial advisor. 

I don’t mind these questions because I take them as a measure of respect.  People wouldn’t ask my opinion if they didn’t think I was trustworthy or capable of giving them advice.   I can tell that the situations they are asking about are really gnawing at them and they want good solutions.  They feel a certain sense of unease about the future, especially as it relates to their families and loved ones. 

The challenge I face, when I’m asked questions of this nature, is that it’s almost impossible for me to offer them good advice because I don’t have their whole picture in front of me.  Each person and family has their own experiences that shape the way they may view the world and prioritize their goals.  They also have their own unique set of circumstances that need to be taken into consideration.  For these reasons, there is no one size fits all solution.  That’s simply not how I work. 

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"I enjoy working with young professionals and helping them chart their course toward their financial future. I also enjoy working with my colleagues on the Investment Committee to create solutions for our clients."

No Secret Formula

My colleague David Peckenpaugh, Whitnell’s Chief Investment Officer, tells a story about how he started his career.  He was hired by a prominent financial services firm and, as a test, the head of the trust department asked him how he’d invest a million dollars.  David laid out a solid plan that made sense to him.  But the head of the trust department said: “David you forgot to ask me about my goals.”

This scenario is more common than you might realize.  If I don’t know someone’s short-term and long-term goals, it’s very unlikely that I could give them sound financial advice.  Anyone can look up the annual contribution limits to a retirement account.  However, only a strategic long-term retirement plan which takes into consideration personal goals and circumstances can make a successful retirement a reality.

There is no magic elixir, applicable to everyone, that produces meaningful results.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The advice we deliver, the solutions we create – they’re all designed to accomplish the unique goals of the clients we serve.  No two clients I serve have the exact same plan. 


What Should You Look For In A Financial Trainer?

I believe the same would be true in your situation.  If you are getting advice that is not customized to your unique circumstances and based on your individual goals, that’s a problem.  The relationships I have with my clients are based on deep trust and honest communication, where they can tell me about anything that is bothering them and we can then address it with the right financial solutions.  That’s how we help create peace of mind for them.

The plans we build and execute, as a team, for the clients we serve touch on so much more than investments – the one topic people seem to ask me about more than any other.  Here is a guiding principle that I believe should shape your thinking on this topic.

Any personal situation in your life that has a financial correlation should be a consideration for your overall financial plan.  This includes many things such as education funding for children and grandchildren, elder care for parents, mortgages for the properties you own, insurance for everything, trust and estate plans for tax-efficient wealth transfer and tax planning. 

Of course, investments are also a crucial part of your overall financial plan.  But if you only focus on investments and not on all of those other areas that will definitely impact your net worth and financial health, you’ll likely still have voices in the back of your mind nagging at you.  If you want to silence those voices, here are three things I recommend you look for in a financial partner for your journey:

  1. Find someone you deeply trust who can look at your big picture and help you create a comprehensive long-term financial plan.
  2. Partner with them to build a financial plan that you can believe in, that addresses all of your concerns, and that you’ll stick to over time.
  3. Stay with your financial trainer for the long-term.     

Let’s look at each of these.


Find Someone You Trust To Help You Create A Comprehensive Long-Term Financial Plan

Trust is the foundation of a great relationship with your financial advisor.  Some people have an adversarial relationship with their financial advisor, where they feel they have to hide things or they will be taken advantage of.  That is the wrong dynamic for this very important relationship.

To develop the best possible plan for my clients, I have to understand what matters to them – their goals, dreams and fears.  This means they have to trust me enough to share some very personal and private information.  This becomes especially crucial when family dynamics are involved.  Births, deaths, marriages, divorces, graduations: these events shape the family tree and they all have financial components. 

When it comes to love, money, family and dreams, people tend to be very private and rightly so.  These are not things people shout from the rooftops.   But love, money, family and dreams are the heart and soul of what financial planning is all about.  I believe you need a long-term plan that takes into account everything that matters to you. 

Here is my experience.  People who have an investment plan, but not a comprehensive financial plan, have a lot of questions and uncertainties about all of the things that could go wrong in areas other than investments.  If you want to get peace of mind about your financial future, you need a comprehensive plan. 


Partner With Them To Build A Financial Plan You’ll Stick To Over Time

Many people who make a commitment on January 1 to lose weight and get in shape will lose heart and give up by the end of February.  It’s nearly impossible to go from couch potato to Olympic athlete in just a few weeks.  That’s not realistic.  Great athletes have plans, disciplined schedules, work-out routines and coaches.  I believe the same thing is true for your financial life.    

Any financial plan needs to be realistic and take into consideration your available resources and current lifestyle.  It takes real commitment to achieve long-term goals and it takes time.  A comprehensive plan should inspire confidence in you that your sacrifices today will be worth it in the long run. 


Stay With Your Financial Trainer For The Long Haul

Life is uncertain.  It will give you highs and lows, up and downs.  This is why it’s so important to stay with a great financial advisor over time.  When things are going well, it’s easy to commit to long-term goals, control spending, keep investing and delay gratification.  But when things get tough, it’s much harder.

A great financial advisor, like a great personal trainer, will keep motivating you, keep coaching you through the tough times.  In my experience, everyone needs this, no matter their financial situation. 


Final Thoughts

If you don’t have the kind of relationship with your financial advisor that I’ve described here, this could be the reason that you have worries nagging at the back of your mind.  I believe a comprehensive financial plan can help address those concerns.  If you’d like to learn more about this, please reach out to me for a conversation. 


The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only. No illustration or content in it should be construed as a substitute for informed professional tax, legal, and or/financial advice.