The Future of Financial Planning – FPA DFW Seminar

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Casey Kupper, CFP®  and Hannah Moore, CFP® are back with another in-person FPA DFW #YAFPNW series session recording. This time they discuss The Future of Financial Planning.

Be sure to join us for the next You’re a Financial Planner, Now What? seminar series! Each seminar covers a different topic that’s of particular interest to those who are looking to fast track their careers and have a passion for financial planning. No reservations are needed, drop in and join the discussion.

Thanks again to everyone that came out and many thanks to the kind folks at The Milestone Group and Bank of Texas Private Bank for hosting us!

“Ten years ago it would have been extremely difficult to communicate the way you do with clients… to communicate what you do and live up to the duties you have to clients by being flexible and able to deliver no matter when or where  you are.”

Show Transcript

Ep60 Transcript

Hannah:               The topic we had was future financial planning. I am curious to hear what your thoughts are Casey, on that.

Casey:                   So, to me … starting with what is financial planning to me. Might help frame my comments. I view financial planning as simply being able to provide services to clients for compensation. Provide what they need. It can be many different forms. No two advisors necessarily deliver advice the same way or about the same topics or with the same level of expertise, nor do different clients have the same needs or receive that information and advice the same way. There’s a very broad breath of ways that the advice can be delivered or received. It’s up to all of us to find where we fit into that mold.

When we start thinking about the future of financial planning and whenever I think about that in a context of what we need to do for our own practice in business, I’m trying to figure out, are the changes we need to make gonna help our clients? Are they going to help us stay competitive so that we can continue to help our clients, or is there just some opportunity for us to just morph? When I think about that concept over time, generally it tends to center around the flexibility of what we do increasing. We could focus more on a niche. We could know who our top clients are very narrowly and go very deep in that, but things could change. We could pivot away from the world being able to deliver advice to that niche in the future, and I don’t want that risk.

Instead, I would rather be able to do a lot of different things for generally wealthy clients, and pivot and change as any business owner would. The future I see with Robo Advice and trends within the millennial subset is that online advice or the ability to give advice any time, anywhere will become increasingly important. How that manifesting for ourselves is currently in staffing, making sure we have flexibility to manage our client base to make sure we have the depth of experience we need for our clients’ needs, and making certain that we have the capacity when clients need things to jump on it, whenever that is.

I know that will change over time because not everyone, especially younger generations, will want to receive things by phone call. We have world role constraints of compliance and how we do things digitally and can’t text message with clients or things of that nature, but we need to continue to push the boundaries to make sure we understand where our lines are today, and where we think it’ll be in the future, try to move that direction.  Just to bottom line my high-level thoughts, it is flexibility, flexible advice, being paramount for the future of a financial planner in delivering advice as the direction I’m trying to push our firm and myself.

Hannah:               Mm-hmm (affirmative). I kind of went with that same idea. What is the core of what we do? Throughout all the change, that’s what’s going to remain.

Casey:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hannah:               I went back to Wagner’s 1990 article about what it is like to think like a CFP. That’s this huge article that I think changed the profession, basically calling financial planners to become professional. How do we think like a CFP? How do we become a profession? I went back and I looked at kind of what you’re saying, looking at … I’m just going to read a couple of things in here. Looking at the classic professions, law, medicine, theology. Additional ones would be journalism, teaching, nursing, architecture. All of the characteristics of these professions are working with ambiguity. Whatever the future holds for financial planning, we’re still going to be in that space of managing that ambiguity. Of managing that constant change that our clients are in.

You look at what are the elements of what we do. I don’t think that insurance sales or investment management has the ambiguity that financial planning does. Those are two separate things. We can technically analyze these arms of financial planning, but financial planning as a whole, I think that’ll always be there. I think looking for what’s the future of the profession … my hope is that the future is that it actually becomes a profession. One that’s not so … just a couple just quick thoughts on that. I think the public needs to view financial planning as a profession. I know when the CFP came out with their marketing campaign a couple years ago, they kind of met a lot of resistance, but just the awareness that it’s brought, I think is a huge deal and a huge step forward for us. We have to act like a profession. Some of the elements … there’s an esoteric body of knowledge, so you have to be skilled. The average person doesn’t just get to be a financial planner.

I know whenever I say I’m a financial planner, they either stop the conversation, or try to provide advice on something. Here’s what I would say, and the reality is good financial advice isn’t just given off the cuff. It’s not just common rules of thumb that we can just apply everywhere. It’s not … doctor’s don’t just say, eat an apple a day and it keeps the doctor away. It’s much deeper than that.

I think the minimal education curriculum was part of this article, what he was saying. I think the work that college professors are doing is so incredibly important to our field. Then, advisors have to read that. One of my other pet peeves is how do we incorporate research and all this great work that’s being done out there into our practices? I think that’s … we need to figure out a better way to do that, and I’m sure we’ll get into that conversation more. A sense of altruism. People become a doctor because they want to help people. People become ministers because they want to help people. Once we really start ingraining this idea of financial planning, I want young kids to say, “I want to go become a financial planner because I want to help people with their money.”

Casey:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hannah:               I think … again, that’s a lofty idea that’s maybe not quite so tangible, but I do think it’s important. Then, a code of ethics, which obviously is very much in the news and things like that. We have a long ways to go before we figure that out. The other sense of calling goes back to this, “I want to help people.” Then, to be a profession, it affects every single person. Whether you have no money, you’re in a mountain of credit card debt, or you have ten million dollars, financial planners should be able to speak to you. Not every financial planner should be able to speak to every group, but we need to figure out how do we serve people who don’t have seven figures? I don’t think that we’ll ever become a profession until we do that.

What’s exciting for me when I think of the future of financial planning is the people who are trying to figure that out. Trying to figure out how to provide financial planning to the middle class and to the lower socioeconomic groups, because only until that happens … only then will we be a true profession.

Casey:                   Yeah. One of the common challenges that I see whenever I’m communicating with clients or just a random person out and about town is they have a limited experience in viewing others finances. Certainly they have a view of their own, however biased it may or may not be.

Hannah:               I’m sure they do.

Casey:                   They may have a view into parents or a few close friends, but it’s a pretty narrow subset. We have a unique advantage in that we get to see many different ways of doing things. Generally speaking, no, there’s not just one way that applies to everyone. Someone that’s successful in life that would be a potential client, they haven’t generally seen other ways to have success. They may not appreciate the risks that they’ve taken to have that success, and they want to apply their experience to others. I did this, it worked. You, your friend, their friend should do the same thing. Conversely, those that are in debt, they don’t have the seven figures, and maybe aren’t the pure target for every single advisor, they’re dealing with such different issues of how do they get out of debt, and they could go with the Dave Ramsey approaches. There’s many other ways you could do it from a math perspective would be better, but maybe behaviorally aren’t. Maybe getting out of debt worked for them. That doesn’t mean it’s going to work for the next person.

That’s a giant frustration for me is that the public in general sees their path to success or out of a problem as the solution, and to be able to accept that there are many different ways is an element of public education or awareness that I hope we see in the future, because that education process stalls the point of either getting the opportunity to give advice, or delays the process of that advice being taken.

Hannah:               Yeah. With that point, one of my other big pet peeves is it’s so easy as a society to measure financial success because there’s dollar signs. There’s numbers. It’s like, an account mind. I can say, “I have a million dollars. I am therefore successful,” but if you look at two people who are graduating, and one chooses to work at a nonprofit versus go into corporate America, they’re going to be on two different financial paths. Which one is more successful? That’s a very hard thing to weigh, and a lot of financial advice only centers around the numbers, and not these bigger conversations. I think that goes back into the ambiguity of it’s not just one direct answer.

Casey:                   Yeah. An area I’m really excited about is that we are now a profession. I’ll call us a profession. We’re certainly an emerging profession, but nonetheless one. We’re one that now has a PhD program.

Hannah:               Yep.

Casey:                   We’re now subjecting financial planning concepts to true research, and we’re vetting it and seeing what the outcomes are, and things that we’ve probably known to be true, some of it won’t be, or it won’t be the best idea or it won’t be the best application. It may take us a decade or decades to get most of the financial planning concepts tested and vetted through PhD type programs, but nonetheless it’s coming. Then, hopefully we’ll be more like the investment world where it’s disciplined, generally people who need and are willing to accept help. Then on the financial planning concepts, it’ll be more tools where we as advisors will be able to stand on the shoulders of those that came before us, rather than having to feel our way around the edges and figure it out ourselves as much as we do today.

Hannah:               Trust our intuition and our instincts.

Casey:                   Yes. Yes.

Hannah:               There’s so much of that going on. Yeah. I think that’s what’s so cool. You look at the future of financial planning, the people who stared it … they went into insurance and investments, and then became financial planners. They went from almost a specialized to this broader … and a lot of it was sales based. I know sometimes that gets a negative connotation, which it is what it is, and I don’t think it’s always negative, but we’re getting a whole new … I mean, I’m one of them where I graduated from a college program where I have an educational background, and that provides me a different perspective. A lot of these new planners are coming up, and they have more foundational understanding of financial planning than their bosses do, and that’s a very hard dynamic to work through at a firm, but it’s … I think that’s going to be what kind of leads some of the shifts and leads financial planning into the future.

Casey:                   Yeah. Absolutely. Another challenge that I see with the future of financial planning … it’s not unique to financial planning or investment advice, is fee compression. Cost. That could take any number of forms, and again, every business faces that. There’s always going to be someone that does what you do cheaper. The process of financial planning being viewed as a profession will also be coupled with known value that that profession provides. I hope that that will ameliorate some of the focus on cost, and instead turn to advisor A versus B. What kind of value they bring to the table. Certainly we try to do a good job of communicating that on our own, but I fear that it comes across as a sales pitch because we’re just saying it. It’s not easily demonstrated.

If I look for tax saving opportunities, well we don’t know what’s going to happen. You may be able to do that better than I as a CPA, but it’s hard to say, “If you work with us, we will be tax sensitive, and that should lead to blank, in terms of better return.” I don’t mean better as in higher, just risk adjusted or after tax and risk adjusted, it will be more appropriate for you. Those are hard concepts to sell a client on. Nonetheless, Van Guard studies, Morning Star studies have suggested they are very real, and where most of the using their terms advisors, alpha and Gamma, where we’re truly bringing value to clients in general. Yeah. It’s a long process to get there. Very long.

Hannah:               Yeah. One of the … at an FP retreat this year, they did a lot on the age of acceleration and looking at how much change our society and our world is going through, and they had … obviously, they’re not going to hear the audio, but this graph where it curves up. It’s such a dramatic and steep curve, and that’s where we are. It’s not that long ago we only had horse and buggies, and now we’re looking at … just the technology that we have and what we’re able to do. I mean, we’re looking at self-driving cars now. That’s crazy. How did humans process change? A lot of what the conclusions were is that humans can’t process change as fast as we’re getting it. We are finding coping mechanisms and we’re not responding as we should, as psychologists would say that we should.

For some people, it’s really terrifying because they’re like, “Financial planning … that just means that all of my services are going to be outsourced. That means that somebody is going to be able to do it for 15 basis points. That means that somebody is going to be able to do it for cheaper,” and all these things, but I think it’s a really interesting idea. Who’s going to help our clients navigate this change?

Casey:                   There was an interesting article that Michael Kitces produced recently or contributed to, but it used the concept of chess to illustrate why robo advisors or technology isn’t really the competition of an advisor. To quickly take you through the main point of the article, you take your average chess player. There’s a scoring system … they’re not very good. As you go to internationally competitive, they’re much better. Then when you start talking about the best chess players in the world on this scale, they’re way off to the far right end. They’re the best that there is.

Now, if you take the best computer programmer there is for it, it’s another 10% better than the best human is at this point. The humans stand virtually no chance at this stage. Some elements of what we do can be done better by a computer than we can do on our own. The repetitive task, considering multiple variables that we or programmers build into algorithms. They can do it quicker, more efficiently, more error free. To suggest that we can compete on everything with technology is just incorrect.

However, if you take really good chess players. Not the best, not even internationally competitive and you pair them with that best computer, they’re about 20 to 25% better than the best chess player in the world. They’re better than any chess computer in the world. It’s focusing the humans efforts around the areas that technology doesn’t consider, recognizing where the traps are with whatever financial planning software we use, what it’s blind spots are. If you use multiple softwares, not just for financial planning but across all the things we do, understanding when to apply one software versus another. Those are the tasks that humans will always have … I say always. This article postulated we’ll always have an advantage over technology because it’s dealing in that world of ambiguity that Hannah was referencing. It’s the thought where we start to take in emotions and behavior and judgment calls that can’t be foreseen be programmed, and you do have to rely on intuition.

Charlie:                 Also, there’s not a winning scenario you could program.

Casey:                   Yes.

Charlie:                 That’s easy with chess. There’s even an AI that beat players at another game where it just learned by playing itself over and over again, but it knew what winning was. This area, that ambiguity, there’s no one winning. You can’t just say, get the client to this number because that’d be it.

Casey:                   That’s a great point.

Hannah:               Really good point. I think there’s a lot of factors. We’re talking about this really big level … like, what is financial planning and … maybe we should stay there. One of the other, looking at age of acceleration kind of ideas is, is WebMD for doctors. That certainly hasn’t taken away the need for doctors, or turbo tax for accountants. We still use that, or legal zoom for attorneys. Maybe we need something like this to help service the demographics that I can’t sit across the table from them profitably and do that. I think there’s a lot of interesting parallels looking at other places of change. Bob Veres came out with an article. Did you see that article? The youth led rebellion brewing in financial planning.

Casey:                   I haven’t read that one.

Hannah:               I thought it was a really good article. I think he brought some really good points on it, so I’m just going to read a couple sections of it. One of his points was, “Today the financial planning has simultaneously reached a point of rapid evolution and managerial stagnation.” As with anything, there’s so much change, and there’s the people that are resistant to change, and there’s always going to be tension there. I think we’re coming into that tension.

He leads the article out by talking about how, first sentence, “I’m a bit horrified by what I hear from younger planners today. They say they want to take the next steps in their firm’s evolution. They say they want to bring financial planning to the blue ocean of younger, not yet wealthy individuals, who were ironically the same type of people that their firm’s founders worked with in their early days. They want to implement Robo Advisor technology and change their companies fee structure from the old AMU model to something that matches, but with more precision that fee charge for services, but that’s not what I’m horrified by. I’m horrified by what happens when they propose these ideas to their firm’s founding planner. Too often the answer is a variation of, ‘You can make all of these changes after I retire.'”

I know I’ve seen that. Huge trend. What do you do with that? That tension is going to bring a lot of change. I think it already is bringing change. I think we’re already … I think we’re past the bleeding edge of it. I think we’re more in the … people are adapting this. I think there’s a lot of interesting changes that the profession is going through.

Casey:                   Yeah, and one area where the future is now is the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule. While we may get another delay on the final implementation or may not, it has brought to the forefront of the public the concept of, is my advisor a fiduciary? What is a fiduciary? I’m sure many didn’t even know, but I’m happy that that conversation is now in the public awareness, and not just because it was being talked about at the law level, but because we’re in implementation. As a certified financial planner, and Susan as well, and Hannah … I guess you will be with the experience. We all have in this room a fiduciary capacity, but not everyone in the profession did prior to the OL. Now, it’s virtually unavoidable unless someone is very, very, very narrow in what they’re doing. To build the public confidence in what we’re doing, that truly we’re looking out for their best interests in some scale, some form, is a critical element to building the profession of financial planning. It’s exciting that now it is happening.

Hannah:               Yeah. I think like … I know a member of NAPFA, so I’m fee only, and I think that that was kind of held out as this holy grail. If you could be fee only, then everybody is going to trust you. The public knows … I’m in several large Facebook groups where it’s like the public talking about financial issues, and PR has some good ones, and there’s some other places out there, so I would definitely recommend just getting in there and just listening. Not that you’re contributing, but just hearing what people are saying and the questions that they’re asking, but it’s always … you can’t trust financial advisors. You just need to find a fee only advisor. I think when we look at the future of financial planning, if we do things right, that’s going to change to where it’s not going to, “Get a fee only financial planner,” it’s going to be, “Get a CFP.”

I think we still have a lot of room to grow. I think that’s for a lot of the discussions and the CFP board’s new proposed rules of expanding that fiduciary responsibility for CFPs. I think those are all really good steps. I think there’s … we still have to see how it plays out, because implementation is hard. They’re not auditing us. They’re not … people who are not acting in their clients best interests right now who are CFPs, are they going to change their behavior? Most likely not. The reality is, the majority of them won’t. How does the CFP board handle that? How do we as a profession handle that? I think we have a lot to prove, but my hope is that in the next decade or two or however many, it’s not, “Go to a fee only financial planner.” It’s, “Go to a CFP.”

Casey:                   Yeah, and the concerns we heard, or I heard leading up to the very stages of DOL … generally it was the older advisor that had their way. The way that they did business. The way that they preferred to. The way their clients were accustomed to receiving investment or planning advise. They were more worried about DOL than younger advisors. Certainly I want to make sure that it doesn’t compromise what I’m trying to do, but I’m still relatively young. I can adapt. As long as the vision behind that is positive for consumers, I’m happy with it. There’s nuances that cause headaches. There’s nuances that, in my opinion, are not in the best interest of clients, but a little bit of bad that comes with the overall good is just something that I’ll have to deal with and happens with every tax law change, every estate planning change, and most anything else that impacts us as a business.

The, “You can deal with it after I retire.” That notion … I suspect that’s where a lot of the clamoring for DOL being bad comes from, because we are an older profession in general. It seems we’re getting younger because there’s new advisors coming straight into the business as opposed to as a career change. Still happens both ways as our room represents, but there still is a very heavy skew toward the older male advisor. It’s going to take 10 years before that turns itself over, and DOL may- may- accelerate that greatly. At which point the profession can start to move forward on the concepts, Hannah, that you positioned earlier. It remains to be seen if that will happen. It was certainly speculated that it would be a strong push to create that, but I haven’t seen any data that says it’s actually happening post June 9th.

Hannah:               Yeah. Well, and it’s such a … there’s so many elements here, and I think as we were talking about financial planners coming into business with already this foundation, this educational foundation, I think that we’re starting to see a lot of businesses being run as businesses. For a lot of financial planning firms before, it was just, “I’m a great sales … I’m the rainmaker. I can bring them in, and I’m kind building up people underneath me.” But financial planners … it’s just like doctors. Doctors make some of the worst business owners. It’s just their skill sets are in two different places. I think what I’m starting to see a trend as well is financial planning firms that are having a business manager. That are having … really approaching it more structurally that way, rather than just depending upon one person or one personality in their firm.

Casey:                   Absolutely, and I suspect a lot of that has to do with the increased compliance … I don’t want to say burden, but certainly it is in some ways. Increased compliance requirements that the industry has experienced over the last decade plus, and as that happens, it becomes essentially a fixed cost with a variable component, and thus the bigger the firm is, the more that you can share that burden, the more effectively you can address it at a reasonable cost. We’re seeing this greatly in all of the RIA aggregation across the industry. Clearly, scale is working. It’s a pitch that advisors are accepting, especially those that are leaving. The Morgan Stanley, the Meryls of the world. There’s a lot of firms, not to pick them out specifically, but there have been a lot of examples where teams are carving out of large broker dealers, bank owned firms, and going to the RA world. It gives them the flexibility to offer clients what they need in a way that’s not restricted as much, certainly by the companies they were with.

Hannah:               I think that’s a huge trend. Moving away from the broker dealer to the RA. I think I’ve had a number of conversations with people at broker dealers where like, “Okay, so why … what’s the value the broker dealer adds?” And I think that there is value. I do think that there is, but I think the trend is going to be the RA route. I’ve had some conversations with people who are never going to leave their broker dealer, but they’re just like, “We’re not going to leave because we’ve been here for so long, and all of our clients are here,” but with all these new rules, aren’t I just operating like an RA but having to jump through all these other hoops that I shouldn’t have to jump through? I think that’s going to be a huge trend going forward.

Casey:                   Absolutely. When I started, the concept of the largest firms versus going to a smaller firm or starting my own practice or whatever, the entire spectrum, the draw of the larger firms was purely marketing. If I affiliate with someone, it’s the most well established brand in financial services, does that make it easier for conversation of whatever perspective client I’m talking to, does it make that conversation to client easier? The concept wasn’t, is their product better? Is their service to me as an advisor better? It was simply, does it make it easier for me to do business? What we’re seeing now is that in a lot of ways, it makes doing business harder because you can’t get clients what they want, the way they want necessarily. Not always the case, but certainly a trend we’re seeing.

Hannah:               Yeah. I do think … there’s some interesting trends. You’re talking about the merging of our larger RA practices and RAs buying out other RAs. I think that goes into a lot of that business side of it, but I’m a small RIA … I think I’m classified as a lifestyle practice right now. I think that’s a growing trend, too. Just with technology and the resources that are out there right now for new firms that want to start up, it’s never been easier, and it’s never been easier to do that and ramp it up at a quick pace. There’s so much I think that’s in favor of that model right now, too.

I know I’ve seen articles saying that that model is going to go away because of all these increased regulatory things, but it’s like, if you make the business decisions knowing the regulatory landscape, you can make business decisions on how to run your firm so that it blends really well with that, and it’s not a really burdensome … everybody is going to have compliance, but it’s not … I think people try to … understanding people’s motives I think is really important. I think a lot of times some of the stuff that I’ve heard about how, oh, you never want to do that because of the compliance burden. It’s like, well you have a very clear motive of wanting to keep people on the broker dealer side, when I don’t think that may be is … it hasn’t been the reality that I’ve experience.

Casey:                   I think you’re living another example of the future is now with at least somewhat a lifestyle practice. Ten years ago, it would have been extremely difficult to communicate the way you do with clients, to communicate what you do, and live up to the duties you have to clients by being flexible and able to deliver, no matter when or where you are. Certainly, there are other examples where they’re truly a lifestyle practice and will pack up the RV and drive around the country all the time, so maybe I’m speaking a bit more to them, but we really are living in an environment now where we can find where we’re unique, where we provide unique value, communicate that, and have it resonate with perspective clients or your current ones in ways that would have been extremely difficult just a few years ago. To conceptualize that and embrace it and come up with my story or our firm’s story, and then put it out there, that’s a process. It’s one that you’ve embraced remarkable well and communicated extremely well, but it is a challenge.

Hannah:               Yeah. In so much the small RIA space, it’s you’ve got to be just confident enough in a lot of things just to get it rolling, and then you can start outsourcing what you’re not good at. There’s so many resources now.

Casey:                   Do you see all of those resources that are available continuing to grow at a quick pace, and do you find that … do you think that the small RIAs will take more advantage of those earlier in the future?

Hannah:               I think that they’ll definitely take advantage of them earlier. I mean, when I look at the XI planning that works in the things they are doing, when I’m talking to people who are thinking about starting their own firm, they are … they know exactly where they’re going and what they want to do. There’s just so much … when I started in 2009, I remember you could hardly find anything online. It was like, let me get the magazines in the mail. Let me read through those, because there just wasn’t anything out there. Now, there’s so much … there’s a lot more out there. I still think there’s missing elements, but …

Casey:                   The concept that brings to mind is completion. In the investment world, we’ve got virtually every choice. Every way that you could want to invest available and that makes it a complete market, and so the advice spectrum that’s becoming available to the advisors, the consultants that are available, in a way that makes it a complete offering to us so that we can pick and choose what we want and when we need it. I’m certain that there will be more bundled options available as well than maybe there are today, just further completing that marketplace to us as a toolkit. Certainly not on a landscape that I’m very familiar with at this stage in my career, but clearly will place significant roles going forward.

Hannah:               We’re still trying to figure out, what is financial planning? I mean, there’s still these big questions out there. There’s so much … I would say this. It’s like we’re in almost a wild west. If you’re drawn to that, if you’re drawn to that entrepreneur creating something, there is so much opportunity out there right now to really build, I think, the career of your dreams, but I’m a little biased.

Speaker 4:           What are some of the big questions out there?

Hannah:               About financial planning? What is it? Is it the process? Is it the services? How do you deliver it? Do you need to have a six step process?

Casey:                   To me, I don’t even know if I care about those things, other than the public needs to be aware. All I care about is, can I help clients and make a reasonable living doing so?

Hannah:               Yeah.

Casey:                   Can I be there for them over time so that they can continue to achieve their dreams? In some ways, what I do isn’t necessarily financial planning. It happens to be financial planning.

Hannah:               Yeah, and the CFP board just came out with their new … they came out with a new definition. Let me see if I can pull it up here … of what they’re saying financial planning is.

Casey:                   Delivering on two of the six foundational topics?

Hannah:               Well, now it’s expanded though with the new … with their new standards that they came … okay. I have it at home. I’ll put this in the show notes, for the people who are wondering, but it’s like 30 words. They really trimmed it down substantially, but there’s still so much ambiguity about it. We can’t … it’s hard to say this is what financial planning is, how I define it, how Casey defines it, how a Merrill Lynch broker defines it, how Edward Jones defines it… there’s still so much I think undiscovered.

Casey:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hannah:               Dick Wagner, before he passed away, wrote a book, Financial Planning 3.0, and he wrote … a lot of my thinking here with it … to think like a CFP, he wrote that in 1990 basically calling financial planning into a profession, and then he wrote this financial planning 3.0 of what he sees as a new evolution of financial planning. Financial planning 1.0 was creating the profession, if you would. To think like a CFP. Financial planning 2.0 is like a lot of the life planning that kinder … some of the stuff set in money is doing, money quotient, things like that.

Then, financial planning 3.0 is … I don’t even know if I can do it justice trying to summarize it, but it’s the idea of he has a chart that he would do of psychology and sociology. How they map to each other. Sociology is the broader understanding of how groups of people work. Psychology is more understanding of how one person works. If we tie those down to money, we have sociology ties to economics, right? It’s how do a group of people operate around their money? We don’t really have anything from the psychology to the money. If you think of a two by two chart, there’s nothing in that space. What he proposed is that finology he coined the term, finology would fit in that term of how do we operate and relate to our money?

Casey:                   How does that relate to behavioral finance? To me, that feels like that box.

Hannah:               There is … okay. A couple of things. Some of the critiques that I’ve heard of using the term behavioral finance is we … if a client is sitting across from me … okay. I’m going to say this. I don’t think behavioral finance is a bad term, so I don’t necessarily subscribe to all these ideas, but the critique of it is it’s manipulative. It’s saying, I want you to pick option number two, so I’m going to put option one, two, and three, and then you’re going to … because I know how psychology works. I know how to drive your decision. Where I think finology would be more, how do you approach money? What are the money narratives that we follow, and how do we understand those? Then, once we kind of have an understanding of that, then we’re going to be able to help people more on their timeline versus what I would impose on that. That’s kind of I think …

Casey:                   The difference is the use of the tool set?

Hannah:               Yeah. Behavioral finance I think is all part of that picture, but I don’t think it’s the complete picture. I think this is where a lot of the research and things that are really developing in this field are so exciting for me. One of the things … I will pitch this. At the end … Dick passed away earlier this year, but one of the things he had done was he had proposed, for him, finology would be another major. It would be the study of how money interacts with people. At the end of his book, he has an outline of a course how he envisioned, so Dave Yeske challenged him and said, you want to make this as a curriculum? The intro class, write out the curriculum. So he did. He wrote out the course, so they’re actually at Golden Gate University this fall are going to be … Elizabeth is putting together this course using his outline with some of the … their lineup of guest speakers is pretty incredible.

Casey:                   That’s a wonderful tribute and legacy.

Hannah:               Isn’t that? Yeah. Really neat way of doing that. They’ve started a Financial Life Planning Masters or PhD program. I can’t remember, at Golden Gate and this is the intro course to it. If you’re interested in this, you can go audit it, or look at their program even more. I mean, it’s … I’m tempted to take the class, because it’s like the all stars of financial planning are the ones who are doing it.

Speaker 4:           Is it only live, or can you do it online?

Hannah:               It’s all online.

Speaker 4:           Oh, it is online. Okay.

Hannah:               Yeah. It’s online. The registration is open now. I know they’re sending out emails trying to get people to sign up for it. A really interesting dive into this … I don’t know, I think a lot of the future of financial planning is going to head that way. I think it’ll inform planners significantly with how we interact with clients on a personal level.

Casey:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Charlie:                 It’s an academic discipline.

Hannah:               Yeah, an academic discipline.

Charlie:                 From Psychologists to counselors … there’s overlap. One’s going to be working more towards trying to help you change something about what you’re doing, and the other person might be diagnosing. Both are useful. Both sides are very useful to each other, but here at the finology would be a discipline of study and not just looking for outcomes.

Casey:                   Right.

Hannah:               Yeah.

Casey:                   We probably all do elements of both sides of it, just as you announced it. All based on intuition and learned experience, which doesn’t get us there as fast and probably not as well.

Hannah:               Yep, but … yeah. I don’t know. I see that a lot as the future.

Casey:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Speaker 4:           What about single practices versus ensemble? Will there always be those, or is one going to dominate in the future? Does it even matter?

Casey:                   I would imagine that comes and goes over time, depending on how much regulation there is and generational trends, but like with investments, there’s room for stocks, bonds, alternatives. You name it, there’s a way to invest in it, down into derivatives, because individuals are at different stations in life, at different ages with different career paths with different goals, it stands to reason that there will be different types of firms that are more appropriately structured to serve those clients. I think that manifests itself in room for the entire spectrum of firm models or practice models.

Hannah:               Yeah, I tend to agree with that, and I think there is going to be a pretty heavy weeding out process that we’re going to see in the next five, maybe even sooner years. I think a lot of it is going to go back to, what’s your value proposition to clients? I think that … number one, I don’t think most advisors can articulate that. I know I struggle with that sometimes, but if we can figure out what that value proposition is … it’s a value proposition like we were saying earlier. It’s investments or all of these other things, those are the people who I think are in danger, and I think those are solo planners. I think those are ensembles. I think those are some of the big firms out there. I think to me, that’s the difference of who will be able to stand at the end.

Casey:                   Yeah, and those that will be able to stand at the end, like any industry or profession, the businesses that can reasonably see what’s coming, whether it’s proactive or reactive, realistically assess where they’re at and what they’re trying to accomplish, pivot change, take advantage of the landscape, or just take the necessary steps to survive … those are the ones that make it. The ones that can just look at a situation, assess it, and react, whether it’s proactive or not.

Hannah:               I think so much of it goes back to … a lot of people I listen to … the people I know and have conversations with, they’re either starting out their firms or they’re probably ten years into the profession, and they’re still trying to figure everything out. They’re highly adaptable to change, and wanting to pivot and do these things. Now that I have an established practice that’s successful and paying my bills and I can kind of sit back a little bit, I find myself … I’m very adaptive on certain elements of it, but there’s some level where I don’t have to adapt. I mean, I don’t have to be on that cutting edge of it.

Speaker 4:           If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Hannah:               A little bit of it’s not broken don’t fix it I think, but what I’ve realized is I think the key is listening to your clients. Engaging with your clients of, what’s invaluable? Having those ongoing conversations I think is what separates the firms who are going to be successful from those who are not, because there are some clients … some of my clients have … I don’t think they care how they pay for me. They have to have me. That’s a different relationship, and it’s making sure that I’m in tune with them and with, “Would this make more sense?” And then asking them.

Casey:                   Yeah, I think that’s absolutely brilliant. One thing that’s common in our industry is that clients are sharing intimate things with us, maybe things they don’t share with anyone else other than hopefully their spouse if they have one. They are putting great trust and confidence in us, but it’s fairly one sided. If we can turn that around and put some value in their opinion … true value. Not just asking because we want to appear like we care what they think, but truly probing and asking, “As this firm changes over time, what would be helpful? What would you want from us?” What Hannah suggested, “What do you find valuable now?” To help understand over time is what I think is valuable, what the client thinks is valuable. Involving them in that discussion in some way could be critically important to developing the relationship so it’s not just take, take, take, it’s a true two sided relationship.

Hannah:               Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think people have client advisor boards. I haven’t done that yet. I feel like it’s something that I should do, but I haven’t done it yet. That’s a risky thing because they could say things I don’t want to hear.

Casey:                   Right.

Hannah:               That’s part of it, but I had a client who … she just transitioned beautifully from selling her home to an advance retirement community. I mean, I was like, how did you do it? I called her up and I asked if I could interview her, and just talk to her about what that was and can you walk me through what that experience was for you? She was thrilled. When we were talking, she talked a lot about the idea of legacy and she was like, “Even you asking me to do this, I realized is part of the legacy. Something that I can give back.” It was such a neat experience, and what was even better for me is I got to hear how she reflected on her relationship with me throughout the process, and I learned so much about what she valued, what I thought was important that she didn’t, and it just opened up this really … I learned so much by just asking. I don’t know. I always say my clients are my greatest teachers, and I think we can really take much more advantage of that than we do.

Casey:                   Yeah, and can and should. It’s something I think about all the time and rarely do. It’s just on that long list of things in my mind or on paper that I know I want to accomplish and want to do, but we have to pick and choose where we spend our time. It’s real world allocation of our time resource, but aspirationally, it’s very, very high on my list. I just haven’t taken that step.

Hannah:               Yeah. Do y’all have any thoughts? I know we’ve been talking a long time.

Speaker 4:           No, I found it very interesting. I guess I am curious what more specifically what you found your clients appreciate the most? What surprised you about what they think is relevant and important versus what you would have thought?

Hannah:               On my website, the guiding wealth website, I actually did a series of blogs about that conversation. I don’t tell my clients this, but when clients engage with me, I want them to think and operate around money differently when they leave my financial planning process. I don’t say that to them, because I think that’s kind of a weird thing to say, but that’s what she reflected a lot on. She’s like, “I used to think about money this way, and now I think about it this way. I used to do this, and now I do this.” I was able to see a lot of things that worked, and how she paraphrased some of the advice that I gave her. I’m like, “You picked up on that!” A lot of the number stuff, the projections, the things like that, she found them valuable, but it was not … it was almost an afterthought to her.

Casey:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hannah:               It was all of the other things. Another thing I thought was very interesting, if you do a lot of the life planning stuff, they’re like, “Ask about their family.” I’m always like, that’s kind of cheesy, but she started out the conversation by walking through how her grandmother handled the transition, how her mother handled the transition, and how she’s like, “I don’t want my granddaughter to handle the transition that way, so I’m going to change this.” It really brought in this idea of legacy that I had never thought of before. Obviously, I think about it in estate planning. You know, legacy in that traditional sense, but the work we do as financial planners, it changes clients lives, but it literally changes generations of families.

Casey:                   Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hannah:               I think that’s a very, very powerful idea. You don’t get outsourced for that. That’s something that’s very fundamental.

Speaker 4:           You don’t outsource empathy. That’s a big thing in financial planning.

Hannah:               Yeah.

Casey:                   True.

Speaker 4:           I think that’s what’s bringing more women into the profession or making women more valuable.

Hannah:               Yeah.

Casey:                   No doubt.

Speaker 4:           The soft skills.

Hannah:               Yep. Yeah. That’s a whole other topic about women in the profession, getting them in and how do we keep them in. Yeah.

Casey:                   I would imagine that part of the future of financial planning, as every model or firm has it’s increased role with public awareness heightened, I would imagine the flexible arrangements could solve some of the challenges that women face in the industry. If there is the ability for a segment of women, you don’t have to step out of the profession for X number of years if you want to raise a family and be there, if you can scale back what you’re doing and have a flexible arrangement. That makes sense. We have the technology now to allow that to happen. That would be positive for the impacted employee. It will positive for the families. It will be positive for the employer to have that continuity and not have to have the turnover. It will be positive for clients. It’s a no brainer in my mind, but again, it’s like most things because technology has progressed, it’s more possible now than it was a few years ago to be done well. That will only be enhanced in my mind.

Hannah:               Yeah.

Casey:                   All of these things are contingent on creativity and willingness. We will have tools at an ever increasing rate that solve our problems. How we choose to deal with them and how we choose to use them is limited by our creativity more than anything.

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What We Wish We Knew Before Starting Over

We are excited to have Bill, Katie, and Dave back to continue our conversation we started in last week’s episode. This week we discuss what we learned starting over at a new firm and even starting out on our own.

Each advisor shares their perspective on what helped make them successful in starting over – from mentors to study groups to professional organizations. Even if you aren’t thinking of starting over, this episode is filled with tips on how to continue your professional development.

We hope you enjoy this podcast and this new format! Be sure to connect with us on Twitter, LinkedIn or via email.

Your career matters and we are here to help you be exceptional financial planners.

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I think that’s the point of having mentors in the industry and having peers that are doing something similar to what you’re doing or ideally a couple of years ahead of you… because you don’t have to figure it out all by yourself.

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Your Richest Life

Retirement Matters

Guiding Wealth Management

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Sophia Bera, CFP®

XY Planning Network

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors

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Sudden Money

Fox Financial Planning Network


Show Transcript

Ep59 Transcript

Hannah:               Let’s first talk … I think most of us have worked as employees. Bill, maybe … I guess you have too.

Bill:                         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hannah:               Let’s talk about what we wish we would’ve known before we started as employees for somebody else, and then we can go into what we wish we had known starting out on our own.

Bill:                         Okay. I’ll go first. What I wish I would’ve known as an employee, it’s how structured things may have been and I think really how the relationship worked. Through all the tools, and the resources, and the education that my employer was providing me, I used those to service and help my clients and really take them to where I thought it was most appropriate for them, guiding them through whatever the products or whatever the services were that we were talking about. I really wish we could’ve understood how the relationship was between me and my employer. Who was I ultimately beholden to and why? I think that would’ve been nice to know from the onset.

Hannah:               So who’s paying your paycheck?

Bill:                         Yeah, exactly. Working at the insurance company, the culture there is very in-depth. You gotta believe in the product, you gotta believe in the structure, you gotta believe in your district manager all the way up to the corporate office. The incentives to go on the annual trips are always great, but that tends to come first, and then we start talking about the clients. When I came into the position really understanding that it was a sales position and that at the end of the day I was doing everything that I could primarily for the company, that would’ve been good to know on the onset. I think it would’ve changed my expectations about working there, and it may have helped me better assimilate into that culture, at least for that time, versus thinking that everything was about the client and then when I ended up transitioning, it turned into more of a conflict than anything else.

Hannah:               Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Dave, how about you? Before you started working as an employee, I know you’ve worked at a handful of firms, what do you wish you would’ve known walking into those firms?

Dave:                    I think I’d have loved to have told myself just to slow down, appreciate everything that people are trying to impart to you in terms of knowledge or skills, and really understand why they’re telling you that. There’s a reason why you’re given someone who is maybe five, 10 years your senior because they’ve been through everything you’ve been through. If you get a good quality person who’s training you, you need to spend as much time as you can with them because they are going to make you the better advisor than what you are now.

I was in a support role for six years. I looked back and I sometimes think, was that long enough? Now I’m on the front lines and I’m dealing with client fires all the time. Could I have learned some other skills and maybe spent a little bit more time training and understanding how other people would’ve dealt with this who’ve been through it five to 10 years ahead of me? I don’t think that’s typically our generation. Our Gen Y generation is typically the on demand generation. They want things now because we can, but I don’t think that’s the right way to develop into this career. You gotta take some time.

Bill:                         You bring up a really good point, Dave. I think maybe not necessarily going straight into client facing is the right approach when coming into this industry. Maybe spending some time in operations and underwriting and client servicing, things like that, would be really good for an advisor to understand what the inner workings of a financial planning or investment advisory firm actually is. That would’ve been a nice progression into this field.

Dave:                    Yeah. It’s definitely frustrating when you go through it because you want to get to the end goal. You want to be that client facing person, but even if you jump forward five years, if you think you’re gonna be starting your firm at any point in the future, if you don’t know how to open an account with a custodian, you’re not serving your client well. You need to be able to learn all of that back office stuff before you can have an adequate conversation and follow through with it in the future.

Bill:                         Or decide whether or not you’re gonna hire someone, right?

Dave:                    Yeah. Oh yeah.

Hannah:               But even when you have somebody, it’s like the buck stops with me. I review the paperwork before it goes out to my client. I still have to know that.

Katie:                    I agree. It’s the same thing I tell my clients in financial planning. I’m like, “You, as a client, have to know enough to be able to call BS if somebody pitches you something and it feels funny.” I feel like it’s the same way as a firm owner. I have to know enough to be able to oversee somebody else because, like Hannah said, the buck stops with me. If something goes out wrong, I can’t be like, “It was this person that works with me, la la.” That excuse works once, maybe, and then after that they’re like, “Hm, are you really very organized back there?”

Bill:                         That’s a great point. Yeah. Am I doing this right? Is this the right form? How many documents does it actually take to complete a rollover?

Hannah:               Or promising things to client in the meeting that … I know when a client’s going to have to sign off on something in the meeting, so I can just prep them for that. Be like, “Okay, we can do this, but I need you to sign this form,” is a lot better at setting client expectations than, “Oh by the way, I forgot to tell you.”

Bill:                         That’s one aspect that I missed from my previous employer or having an employer being with the company. Having the back office support, that’s one of the benefits of working for a larger organization or being with a company. The back office support and the structure is already there. I don’t have to go back and recreate it and figure out what pieces need to go where. How did you guys tackle that when you guys started your firm? Was it you do your client meetings and then immediately after the client meetings you’re going through your paperwork, and then you’re contacting your custodian? What did you do to tackle the workflow issue of being, let’s say, a single-person shop?

Katie:                    I let everybody else go independent before I did, and then I asked them a million questions. Thanks, everybody else that went independent before me. I appreciate it.

Bill:                         Smart.

Katie:                    I didn’t say it was the right way to do it, but that’s kind of how I tackled it.

Bill:                         Yeah. Go ahead, Dave.

Dave:                    As you’re going back to one thing I mentioned, I think I actually just record exactly what I did in a support role and actually tried to replicate that as much as I could, and weed out the bad things I didn’t like, and incorporate the good things that I thought worked well, and then try and fill in the gaps where I could. I think that’s why I’m gonna harp on about this whole support role first because that’s the mainframe of the business. If you can find a good way to do it, then it’s easy to copy.

Hannah:               I worked for a solo advisor. When you’re the assistant to a solo advisor, you’re doing everything from washing the dishes to presenting plans to a client. Because I had such a wide variety of experience working with her, it was just natural. I was like, “Oh, I’ve already been doing all of this.” It’s just she’s just not in the picture anymore.

Bill:                         Did you feel weird when you had to take on that full responsibility on your own?

Hannah:               I think I had been prepared for it. I say that now. I always joke about how when … I tell this story. I got married and then 10 weeks later, I bought the business, so we had zero money. I would just pace. I think there was a high level of stress, but I think it was just everything, so much change all at once. I do think that it affected me, but I do think I had these logical processes and everything kind of already mapped out.

Dave:                    Yeah. I would say if you don’t have that or if you haven’t spent enough time mapping out, what am I gonna do when a client opens an account, what’s my process gonna be, it adds another layer of, what am I doing? If the client comes to you and says, “Okay, I’ve got my 401(k) to go, and I’m gonna move it to you,” and you’re not 100% sure exactly what’s gonna happen, you don’t want to be sowing those little seeds of doubt in your mind and also theirs. You want to be able to just jump on the ball and say, “Okay, let’s do this, this, and this.” As much as you can keep that client in your court and don’t have them doubt you at all, it just makes for a strong relationship. By doing that homework anytime you can, whether it’s another company or on your own downtime, that is gonna serve you in the future.

Katie:                    That’s also the point of having mentors in the industry and having peers that are maybe doing something similar to what you’re doing or that are, ideally, a couple of years ahead of you in opening their own firm. It’s because you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself. This industry is pretty open. If you have those relationships going into it … There are a lot of people that are a year or two behind where I was opening my firm that will call or text or email with questions. They’ll be like, “This is a silly question, but,” and I’m always happy to help them out with those questions because they might be trying to figure some stuff out on the fly and I already was there. Why not help them kind of get ahead of the curve?

Dave:                    Katie, your phone number is?

Katie:                    555, 555.

Bill:                         1234

Hannah:               I think one of the other really cool things about starting over is you get to do it your way. Like Dave was saying, you get to create what you want. It’s this really cool opportunity to really … For me, the firm that I took over, they kind of said they did financial planning, but it was all back of the envelope like, yeah, we’ll have those conversations with you but nothing was ever really … It’s in the gray area of what financial planning was. When I bought the practice and really took it over as my own, it was like this is my chance to actually do financial planning. It was a really cool opportunity. For me, starting at your own firm is really exciting because of all the possibilities that it brings.

Bill:                         Absolutely.

Dave:                    Agreed.

Bill:                         That might be part of that transition as well. What type of services are you gonna offer when you become an independent or when you break out to do your own thing? Are you gonna start primarily as investment management? Is that your strength or your core offering? How comfortable are you with actually providing or producing plans, and will they be written? What’s your business model gonna actually look like? That took some time for me to figure out. As a matter of fact, that took me almost a little bit over a year and a half after going independent, to really figure out and hone in on my business model, almost two years really, before I got it down to a system that I thought was best for the type of client I wanted to work with.

Katie:                    This is my second go around of leaving a firm to go start my own firm. I did the first generation and fell on my butt, and then decided a couple of years later to try it out again, and it worked a lot better the second time around.

Hannah:               What made the second time around be more successful?

Katie:                    I think the first time around I kind of took people at their word. I didn’t do as much research as I should have. I joined a group that was affiliated with an independent broker dealer thinking that they would be outsourcing a lot of their planning work to me and so that would be my kind of work that I could do, my side hustle essentially, that would bring the money in. Then I was excited to be able to work with them because I could bring them in on meetings and kind of learn along the way a little bit better with sales. It didn’t work very well because at the end of the day, they were still pretty annuity heavy even though they were with an independent broker dealer.

It’s something where I didn’t ask enough questions at the beginning to know that was how they ran their business model. After the first or second client that we worked with together, and I was like, “This is not how I envisioned running the relationship with clients or the products that are being offered,” they didn’t quite have enough financial planning business to have me doing outsourced plans to begin with. It didn’t work on a lot of different fronts, but I’m gonna take 99% of that responsibility for not asking enough questions before I jumped in.

Bill:                         Yeah, that’s a good point. What questions do we ask?

Dave:                    Or do you even know what questions to ask? I think that’s something that you only know with experience, right? Katie, I’ll ask you that. Did you know what questions to ask on your first time around?

Katie:                    I guess not. I had worked alongside these people, so I guess I kind of thought that I knew how their business was being run. It was kind of a, “Oh, well I know them, they know me, we’re good,” without actually sitting down and being like, “What is the breakdown of the revenue that comes into this firm,” which is the question I should’ve asked, in hindsight.

Dave:                    I think that comes with experience, right? I think if you’re a career changer, you’re almost at a disadvantage starting off starting your own firm right away because there’s so much you don’t know, no matter how much research you can do, because you’ve not been in the trenches yet. Whenever someone starts off as a career changer, I can give them a lot of credit because it’s just a steeper learning curve, not one that can’t be overcome, but I give them an extra pat on the back and a lot of support as they go through it. I think as you are in other roles in other companies, whether they’re support or client facing, the more you’re around, the more you know what’s going on, and the more good questions you can ask if you want to transition.

Hannah:               I bought the practice. Recently, I found a handwritten budget sheet that I had written out for the business side of it. I looked at it and I was like, oh my God, what was I thinking? This is insane for various reasons. Just looking at that, I was like … It was about two years prior to when I actually bought the business and it was like, if I would have bought the business at that time, it would have failed because the numbers just weren’t there for a variety of reasons. I didn’t have the experience or really knew what was going on to really have that perspective.

Bill:                         I think for me, figuring out what questions to ask came primarily from what questions were my previous employer not asking or not answering. If I was asking them why we’re doing planning in this direction or why I have to pass off certain clients to other advisors in the office, why were we doing that and not getting an answer to that really made me hungry for more knowledge and figuring out how I needed to do this on my own. What answers were they not giving me or why were they not giving me the answers in that space? As I went about finding out what those answers were for me, it became a stronger and stronger motivator for me to move out and do things on my own.

Katie:                    Because that’s the way we just do it, Bill. That’s the way it’s always been done.

Bill:                         Yeah, exactly. Just follow this system and you’ll be okay. That’s all you need to know. Yeah, I get that, but it might not necessarily fit for all clients. That’s okay. If it doesn’t fit, then you just show them how it can fit. Oh, okay. We can always fit a square peg in a round hole somehow.

Dave:                    Katie, I give you a lot of credit for doing this twice. Why did you come back and do it again?

Katie:                    Oh, because I’m the world’s most stubborn person. Plus, I realized the first time that I was trying to do it kind of the easy way. I was trying to just go tag along with somebody else who had already started their business, who already had a broker dealer affiliation. I realized that I was trying to just, instead of roll up my sleeves and do it the way it should’ve been done, I was trying to kind of do more of the easy way, but the easy way wasn’t in line with my values and the way that I wanted to be working with clients. I kind of realized that later on and that’s kind of what gave me, I guess, the courage to try it again. Plus, I’m really stubborn.

Hannah:               Katie, one of the things I really admire … Because I knew you both times that you started, and the second time you started you’re like, “These are my clients. I know my clients and this is what they need. I know these clients, who I want to serve, I know what they need and they’re not being served somewhere else.” I love that client centered … That’s what I think really started your firm and what has made you successful, is because it all started and ended with the client experience.

Katie:                    Yeah. Dave, to kind of put a little bit more on that, the first time around I was kind of going with everybody says you need to work with 65-year-olds that are selling their business and have a whole lot of money. That was my target client because that’s what everybody else said that my target client should be. That’s not necessarily who I work with now that I’ve restarted my business. I work a lot with 30 and 40-year-olds, very rarely with 65 and 70-year-olds. It was just a very different … I was kind of trying to go the easy route, do what everybody else told me I needed to be doing, and it didn’t work for me.

Bill:                         You know, I’m sorry. Go ahead.

Hannah:               Go ahead, Bill.

Bill:                         That brings a thought to me. There are a lot of students now, a lot of people who are going to college and coming right out of college and going into the financial planning business. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think that there should be some level of experience prior to if someone is coming out of college, or do you think maybe jumping right into that private or solo practice is a good path to go?

Katie:                    It all depends on how many people you know and how many people your mom or dad knows. I remember when I very first got in this industry, and I would call up my dad and be like, “Why didn’t you decide to go into financial planning so I could just take over your practice like all of these other young 20-something-year-olds in my industry?” He was like, “Sorry, I went into law. I don’t think you should go into that.” I was like, “Okay, just wondering.”

Hannah:               I think it also depends on, who do you want to serve? Somebody coming straight out of college with financial planning education and they’re like, “I want to service people who are a year behind me.” I think that makes sense to me because it’s like you’re close to it, you know the situations, you can compensate through mentoring, through a lot of other ways for the places that you don’t know, but somebody coming out and wanting to give advice on maybe some more really complicated financial planning stuff, I may be hesitant. At the same time, people always surprise me.

Bill:                         Talent can come from anywhere. I wish I would’ve had that more direct path, not necessarily going financial planning and then straight into a financial planning private practice, but having that formal education and the financial planning process before I got into the business to begin with, I think, would’ve been a tremendous help at building my business, at least being more confident in the advice I was providing.

Hannah:               One of the themes that I’ve been hearing from people, whether that’s students or people who are new or have several years of experience is this lack of confidence new advisors have. What, from your perspective, helped give you confidence? Do you still lack confidence? What are your thoughts on it?

Katie:                    Bill definitely needs to go first on confidence.

Bill:                         Obviously it’s something I have problems with.

Katie:                    We can totally cut this part out.

Bill:                         My confidence was in pricing and determining the value of my service. I knew I was valuable, I just didn’t know how much. I had issues there, figuring out how to price my service. I never had any issues with going out and meeting people, I didn’t have any confidence issues in talking to them and sharing that I had value, I just didn’t know how to price it. That was hard to figure out. Integrating what level of services I was gonna offer, especially when I delivered my first financial plan, I think I charged $800 for it. It was with an engineer. I originally priced it at $1600. It was just a number that I kind of pulled out of my hat based on how much time I thought this thing was gonna take. He ended up talking me down to $800 because he said, “A lot of this stuff I can do myself. I just needed someone else who had the time to do it.” I was like, “Aw, how sweet. How nice.”

Katie:                    Yeah, I bet he did it himself on his own spreadsheets that he sent you. What is this?

Bill:                         Yeah, so that’s where my issue came in. I struggled for a while, and then I developed a pricing model that was scalable and repeatable. Now, that doesn’t balk me at all. That was where my issue was. I don’t have that issue at all anymore.

Dave:                    I’ll give the flip side to Bill. I had a lot of confidence issues. I have all the way through growing up. The only way I counteracted it was through two ways. One was just by being someone who I wasn’t, which worked in the short-term and didn’t really work long-term, but time just actually helped get over myself. It was a case of A, I understand what I’m doing, but why would anyone want to hire me? I’m just me. That doesn’t make any sense. You’ve got that hurdle to get over. Then it’s that once people start working with you and you actually need to charge more, then you’re like, why would people want to pay more to work with me? That doesn’t make any sense. Then you have to go through that hurdle of explaining why your price is going up.

Now I’m getting to a point of saying to people, “You’re not my ideal fit client.” Why on Earth would I insult someone like that? That’s kind of where my mentality is coming from, but you just go to plow through it. You gotta go through and say, “I’m not the best person for you, but let me give you someone who is.” It’s just those mental blocks. For me, it was time, just going through various different scenarios again and again, whether it’s real or in my head, which is way worse, and just pushing through. The more times you go through that situation, the more comfortable you feel, and you actually understand, I’m good at this. I can charge for it. Let’s just keep going.

Katie:                    Yep. I like that. I think I realized a couple of years into it that the CFP, as much as I really appreciate the credential and all of the background education, it teaches you essentially how to be a financial engineer. It does not teach you how to actually have conversations with clients when they inevitably always throw a curve ball at you. It always comes out of left field, and you’re always like, “Well, I didn’t anticipate that.” I liken it to dancing. If you’re dancing and you have a dance partner, you cannot plan everything out beforehand. For the first couple of years in this industry, I was essentially trying to plan everything out beforehand. I would say this, maybe the client would say this, but it would drove me insane when they would come out of left field with that curve ball. It was frustrating, and I finally realized I can be prepared as much as I can be prepared, but I also have to learn the skill of being light on my feet.

I think that’s something where … Personally, I enrolled for Toastmasters, which is speaking. It has nothing to do with financial planning. They do a lot of exercises in there where they do a round table where you have to be really fast on your feet, and think of answers to stuff, and still have them structured and sound really good. I think that type of business training could really help a whole lot of financial planners to be financial engineers that actually have a good bedside manner instead of financial engineers with a really horrible bedside manner.

Hannah:               To add onto all of this, I remember being in one of these You’re A Financial Planner; Now What? seminars several years ago. Patrick and Trudy were talking about how when clients work with you, they’re paying for you. They want to work with you. What’s different? Obviously, I like to think that there is different elements of my process that make it more attractive for my ideal client, like yes, but at the end of the day, people are working with me for me. I remember just about having a panic attack as I was sitting there listening to it because I’m this 26-year-old kid, and I’m just like, oh my God, all of these people are here for me. Don’t they see who I am? Don’t they see how little I have to offer? That was, I think, a really big hurdle for me.

Elizabeth Gilbert has this saying with fear of like, once you recognize it, fear’s a good thing. What I’ve started to do is when I sense that fear, it’s just like you name it. You say, “Okay, I’m afraid. Now I have to take it, and I have to set this aside and keep going. I still face that. Even in the last several weeks there have been times where I’m just like, oh my God, this is terrifying. Don’t they know? Don’t they see what a fraud I am? Not a fraud, but like, they shouldn’t be doing this with me. They should be talking to another advisor who’d be better and more qualified and all of these things. It’s like, okay, there’s that fear. Set it aside and move on. It’s kind of how I’ve had to process some of that. I think that’s pretty …

Dave:                    I think this actually ties back into the question that you’re asking, Bill, about what should you be … Damn, I forgot the question now. All about should you be doing the support role, should you be solo? A lot of that comes into self-awareness. Are you aware of how confident you are? Is it something you need to work on? If you’re not as confident as you think you should be, if you don’t think you can close a sale, don’t open your firm next week. Maybe you should be in a support role to actually gain confidence and actually understand how a client meeting works. How does an initial prospect meeting work? Then you can take that into your own firm and say, “I’ve seen this work before. Now let me do it.” I think gaining that confidence by watching it and practicing it actually will help your firm grow faster.

Bill:                         I absolutely agree. One of the most interesting things that … This past Friday, I participated with another firm in just doing what we called an information sharing session. I had the operations manager come in and sit down with me and my assistant and an assistant that we’re bringing on soon, just kind of walked through their systems. We swapped ideas, we swapped planning processes, we swapped technologies in terms of how we work with some of the tools that we share. It was incredibly valuable. I was able to show them how some of the integrations that they have and we have in common, how they can work together, and they were able to show me some of the documents that they used and that they created in house to simplify their processes. Being able to have that partnership and working with another firm to build our own individual businesses is incredibly valuable.

Hannah:               I’ll say if you’re listening to this and you’re like, oh my God, I wish I had that, and I’m looking for that and I can’t find it, keep looking because those people are out there who want to share that information and be that collaborative with you. Sometimes we’re just in the wrong circles and we need to just keep looking until we find those people.

Katie:                    I’ll add to that. Don’t be afraid to … This is hard stuff. It takes a while to hone it. If you’re starting from scratch and you don’t have any of this stuff, don’t be afraid to pay for it. Please put that in your budget. If you need to tap into a network to be able to start your firm up, don’t be afraid to do that. If you need to pay for initial processes, don’t be afraid to do that.

Hannah:               Yep.

Katie:                    There are great resources out there that may not cost any money, but then again, there are things that might accelerate your progress that do cost money. As long as you’ve factored it in on the front end, that’s less time that you’re going to go around trying to figure it out.

Bill:                         I will say one caveat to that. I absolutely do not believe in paying for leads. There are a lot of things you can pay for, definitely systems, processes, but I would, and you guys may disagree with me on this, but I would definitely tell you that in this business, paying for leads is probably worse than literally taking money, throwing it into a trashcan, filling it with gasoline, and setting it on fire.

Dave:                    Sounds like you’re talking from experience, Bill.

Katie:                    Darn. I can’t sell you my list of closely honed prospects that I have in the Austin area for you?

Bill:                         Well, you can give me introductions. How about that? We’ll do the introductions and I’ll take you to lunch.

Katie:                    Yeah. I think it depends on how generic or non-generic that your firm is. I know for me, if I were to pay for leads, I would get a bunch of people that weren’t a good fit for my firm in the first place. I would’ve just paid for prospects where I wasted their time and emotional energy, and I wasted my time and emotional energy, and I had to pay for it.

Dave:                    An interesting thing that goes along with that is if someone is working at a firm or they’re thinking about starting their own, it is really valuable to do some market research on who you want to be working with. I know there’s a lot of firm owners who say, “Yes, we work with doctors who have student loan debt,” and all of this, but I was actually turned off when I started my firm about working with pre-retirees or retirees rolling money over. I was like, everyone’s doing that. Why would I do that? You actually realize why you do that, because they pay money.

Bill:                         They have a unique ability to pay.

Katie:                    Mind blown.

Dave:                    It’s crazy. Yeah. My initial niche was teachers in Illinois. I still have a passion for them, but they are slightly less willing to pay than someone who is going through a retirement transition who has a boatload of questions. I probably should’ve done a lot more market research on that niche first, and I actually did and ignored it because I was stubborn, but there are reasons why planners have opened firms and served that market first. If you try and buck against that, you can do and be successful, it just may be a little harder because you’re trying to do something that either has been done and hasn’t worked before, or you’re trying to do something that hasn’t been done before-

Bill:                         Pick up, going back to pricing as well-

Dave:                    And you’re gonna be a trailblazer.

Bill:                         Certain clients are comfortable paying in certain ways. Some clients would rather write a check and pay a project-based fee and be done with it. Other people don’t want to see the money coming out. They don’t necessarily want to write a check or pay a bill on a month-to-month basis. Other clients want an audited tracked report for every single dollar that they spend with you. Your business model and the clients that you serve should fit with how you want to operate, how you want to charge, who you want to work with, what types of services that you want to offer, and how you plan on growing the business from that point forward.

Hannah:               I love that mentality. It’s so client focused. We start and end with the client. That’s why we do the business. These businesses, yes, I hope that I benefit from my business, but at the end of the day, the clients are what’s important.

Bill:                         Right.

Hannah:               That’s what I love about what you’re saying. The business model centers around the client, not what can I get from it?

Bill:                         Oh, I’m sorry. Go ahead. I was gonna ask if everyone’s identified a niche specifically that they work with-

Hannah:               So … No, go for it.

Bill:                         And how they got to that point. That’s just to piggyback off of what Dave was talking about.

Dave:                    Oh Bill, how long do you have? Katie, I’m gonna let you go first.

Katie:                    Whenever I started my firm at that point, I had about 10 years of experience under my belt in the financial services industry. It was funny because I actually had a preconceived notion of who I did not want to be working with, which has changed over the last three years since I’ve opened my firm. Just from previous experience at a wealth management firm, I was about 99% sure that I did not want to be working with any doctors because I had doctor clients before, and they were a hot mess, and they were always very stressful. I actually now work with probably about 30% of my practice is doctors, either women physicians or couples that both work in the medical industry. Three years ago I would’ve been very adamant about there’s no way that I’m working with doctors. I feel like the niche was something when I started, and I kind of experimented with it. I gave myself a deadline of about a year and a half to figure out if that was gonna work or not, and I had to reiterate and then reiterate again.

I do have clients that are mostly in their 30s and 40s. For the most part, both spouses are working, but not all of them. A lot of the times, they work in either medicine, finance, law, and I do have a couple of architects and creatives as well. That’s my not super defined niche, but also I really like being able to work with people that I like. I think that’s the qualifier that I usually have is, am I gonna have a good experience or are they gonna have a good experience? Do I like working with these people, and talking with them, and are they gonna value my advice?

Hannah:               Katie, I’ll jump off of that. One of my biggest things is I only work with nice people now. I worked with some not very nice people in the past. When I started my RA, I was like, I’m only bringing nice people. One of the advantages of working with so many clients before is I really got to find who I worked best with and who worked best with me. I had two client personas written up. I call them my Successful Sallies and Retiring Ricardos. I have very specific elements about them. Not all of my clients, but most of my clients kind of fit in either one of those camps.

When I’m having conversations with clients, and they say something, and I’m like, oh my God, that’s so on point with what other people like you are saying, I’ll come home and actually just pull out my document that I have, just a running of characteristics of my groups, and just add those quotes in at the bottom. I feel like I’ve gotten a really good picture of who my ideal clients are just from conversations and just having it be a continual running document that I keep adding to. The only way I found that out was working with clients and seeing where was the natural fit. A lot of my characteristics, they are demographic, but it’s more like psychographic of how they view the world, what are some common traits about them.

Bill:                         I find it very interesting that you have that written down in terms of statements that they may make that appeals them to you or endears them to you and you’re looking at emotional responses versus a career path, or financial status, or anything along those lines. That’s a very interesting way of building out your practice. Then the documentation is really where the strength lies there. You have it written down, here’s the type of person I want to work with.

Hannah:               Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Dave:                    I actually think our industry has done a disservice to the word “niche” in the last five years because when we’re saying, “You need to work with a niche,” it’s like, “Okay, great. I’ll pick dentists.” Okay. Yes, you’ll streamline your practices, but you could be working with a group of people you really don’t like. What have you gained there? You’ve gained a streamlined practice, but you hate your job. You’re worse off than when you were before just being a generalist. I really think “niche” needs to move into the way that you’ve just described it. It has to be psychographics and emotional responses versus, where do you live, what do you do for a job, and how much do you make? That is not a niche, and that’s how we’ve been portraying it for the last X years.

Hannah:               Dave, just to jump off of that, I keep harping on this idea when you talk about the niche, what’s your motivation behind doing it? Is it for you? I think if we don’t have successful businesses, obviously we can’t service our clients, or is it truly client-centered, I know my clients better than anybody else out there and this is what they need, or is it about us? I think what I’m hearing from you is kind of that divide of saying where we’ve done a disservice is we’ve made it about us and our business instead of, how do we service our clients best?

Dave:                    I don’t know about that. I’m taking it to the extreme because I’ve lived the worst case scenario of what a niche is. I’ll give you the backstory. I was a generalist support advisor and then moving into client facing for six years. Then I threw all my eggs in a basket and opened a practice that focused on teachers. Was that focused on me? In part because it made my practice easier because my clients were all the same and had the same benefit plans, but I really had a passion for teachers, and I could not find anyone who was adequately servicing them that I wanted to join their practice. So I did it myself. The resounding feedback I got from that community is, where have you been? We have a lot of snakes in our field and now you’re just giving us pure advice. The disconnect was, we can’t pay for it the way you’re laying it out, but it was the way I had to lay it out if I actually wanted to get paid, and not accept commissions, and actually not work with 1,000 clients to make a decent income.

However, I’ve now transitioned into … I would say I straddle now. I still have that passion for teachers and work with them, but my practice is more focused on the retiree market. I haven’t niched down to say, “If you’re retiring from X company and you make X dollars, you’re my ideal client.” My meetings very much go, “If you’re in that retirement head space, let’s talk,” and then I will understand what type of person you are, and if I want to work with you, and if we’re a good fit because I don’t want you saying, “I’m in retirement, that means you’re a good advisor for me,” because I’m really not a good advisor for some people who are in retirement. I really enjoyed what all of you said about it needs to be a certain psychographic emotional response head space that prospect is in for it to be a good space versus where they’re working at and that’s my niche, or what profession they have. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Katie:                    I will say it does make it easier for marketing purposes the more defined that you have who you’re working with. I think that’s a lot of times why people kind of bang on the drum of, you have to have a niche going into this. It’s really just because of word of mouth. If you work with a particular school district, the teachers probably all know each other, the principals all know each other. It’s easier for you to leverage that and having a niche being able to work with teachers. It does make it easier if you have a well-defined niche, but I always tell people that just because you have a niche does not mean that you can’t work with people outside of that, it’s just really the way that you go about your marketing and kind of showing who you are and who you want to be working with. It doesn’t mean that if somebody shows up on your door and says, “I want to work with you,” that you have to turn them away. You don’t have to turn them away. It’s just a niche is a way of identifying who you’re trying to attract.

Dave:                    Yeah.

Hannah:               I think we have to be adaptive. If something’s not working or if you’re hearing common themes, it just like you said, light on your feet, Katie.

Dave:                    Even having a niche doesn’t mean you’ll have a successful business. Let’s take it to the extreme here. You may pick the wrong niche, that niche may not be ready for you, you may be an ineffective marketer. There’s all these things that yes, a niche makes things easier, but it may not work out. Would it be easier for you to be a generalist because your circle is so big that you can just pick up a client pool like that? That may be the best way to do business. I think, going back to being self-aware of your situation, where are you? And is in your situation that makes it best for your business?

Bill:                         Yeah, I would agree with that. I like the idea of specialization versus saying, “I have a niche practice.” I can work with anyone, generally speaking, but I can specialize in business owners who are three to five years into their business making X amount of dollars and are looking to integrate corporate retirement plans. That provides a specialization, but it’s not a niche. It’s saying, “Here’s an area where I have some specialized expertise in, but generally speaking, I can work with anyone that needs concrete and solidified high quality financial advice.” I think that’s where the industry needs to go. That’s the way the conversation really should be structured, in my opinion.

Dave:                    I agree with you, Bill, 100%.

Katie:                    All right, let me start that over again. I always think of it as if I had a friend who was starting a law practice and they said, “Do you know anybody who needs any legal advice?” that would bring to mind no people, zero, or even worse, it would bring to mind somebody who really needs advice because they’re in a poor situation, which may or may not be a good fit for that business owner. If somebody was a friend, and they were starting a legal practice, and they said, “Hey, I’m looking for couples in their 50s that have kids from different marriages and they got remarried and I specialize in helping them out with all of the complexities of having a mixed family,” I would immediately think, who do I know that kind of fits into that that I could introduce you to?

I kind of feel like it should be the same way in financial planning as well. A niche is just a way for you to explain to people who you like to work with that might actually prompt them to think of a specific person and not just a big sea of, I have no idea who actually fits into this broad categorization.

Dave:                    I think we’ve been using the word wrong as a profession. If you go outside of our profession and you’re a niche doctor, a niche doctor is an ear, nose, and whatever specialist. They’re not gonna help fix your knee, which means that they aren’t a generalist with a specialization, they’re actually niche. They have a specific skillset and they do not deviate from that. If we take that into our profession and say we’re a niche professional, that means that we only work with a set specific number of people with a set situation. Should we be using the word “niche”? Should we be using the word “specialist” like Bill said? It’s interesting. I think maybe it’s time to back away from that word a little bit.

Bill:                         Yeah.

Katie:                    What I really want to know, is it niche or is it niche? Because it drives me-

Bill:                         I think it depends on what part of the country you’re in. If you’re in the south, it’s niche. I’m kidding.

Katie:                    Yeah.

Dave:                    Being British, I have that problem with about half the words I say.

Bill:                         That’s a conversation for the next day. Is it ER advisor or is it OR advisor? Which one is it really? No, go ahead.

Hannah:               So … Oh, sorry. Go ahead.

Dave:                    I was just gonna make a stupid comment, so you’re fine.

Hannah:               I was about to change the topic a little bit, so I’ll let you go ahead. Oh. Kind of pulling this conversation together, one of the things that seemed to be a theme earlier on was this idea of reaching out for help when you needed it. I think what I’d like to post to y’all is when did you reach out for help, and who did you reach out for, and what are the resources-

Bill:                         I’ll go first.

Hannah:               That you relied on that other people can tap into?

Bill:                         I joined the FPA first. I joined the Financial Planning Association. That provided me with a wealth of advisors who had either transitioned or came into the financial planning space. That was very helpful. I used the internet and YouTube and listening to what other advisors were doing. I sent an email to Michael Kitces early on when I was still at my insurance company to talk to him about what the transition would look like. Then I talked to a couple of other advisors that are fairly well-known now in the industry.

I actually brought on a mentor. I talked to a guy who, at this point in time when I was making my transition, he had been three years removed from selling his practice of 10 or 15 years for three to four million dollars. He was a wealth of knowledge to talk to when I was making my transition because he said, “Think with the exit in mind.” Think with the ending in mind or start with the ending in mind. It was incredibly helpful to think, how do I want this to grow, and progress, and where do I see it ending up? That’s what I did. Go ahead.

Hannah:               Did you pay for it? Did you have to pay for that mentoring or was it all free?

Bill:                         It was beer, and pizza, and sandwiches, and lunches, and lots of dinners. Hey come on, let’s go grab a quick drink. By the way, while we’re out, I might ask you a few questions. Don’t mind me, just keep on eating. That worked. So no, not directly.

Katie:                    I think the first time around, I mentioned that I tried to start my own practice the first time around, I didn’t have a network or I didn’t know who to reach out to. I think one of the things that I maybe would’ve done differently was I only had the two people where I was trying to join their practice. Obviously, they have a conflict of interest in me asking them questions about what’s right or what they did because it’s their practice. The second time around, I mentioned that I had other people that had started their own practices that I kind of leaned on and asked questions of. Sophia Bera was really helpful to me. Hannah, you are always really helpful to me. We’re pretty sure that Hannah’s brain is hardwired exactly opposite of how my brain is hardwired, but it’s good because it means that she can call me up when she needs me to remember some random detail about continuing education, and I can call her up when I’m locked in my little think box and can’t get out of it.

I was part of the Financial Planning Association for about 10 years, or maybe it was about eight years, before I launched my own firm. It wasn’t like I joined the FPA because I needed to go latch onto people to give me business advice. I kind of had been in there for a while. I had volunteered with some people, gotten to know some people really well. From that, there were people that were willing to answer questions that I had when I emailed them or called them up. That was really helpful to me, to be able to kind of lean on people. I feel like this time around, I’ve leaned on a lot more people. I also joined XY Planning Network when it was kind of in its infant baby phases just because I figured it was easier for me to be a part of a group that was trying to figure it all out together as opposed to just being my one lone person on a rock. I have used a lot of the resources and templates and whatnot and conversations that go on there to help out with my business.

Dave:                    I think when I launched, my mental process started about four years beforehand. It would go in ebbs and flows of, I don’t really like the CRM we’re using at my office. What other options are there out there? Then finding the best one and saying, “Maybe I’ll use this one when I launch.” Then just doing that with different pieces of the process. The same with deliverables. I have a problem with deliverables because they’re never the way I want them. Then I started my own at home. I’m like, “You’re such a dork, just watch the TV. What’s wrong with you?”

Going through that process and then launching, I had kind of an okay idea of what I wanted things to look like. I was heavily involved with Nafa before I launched my own firm. Took about 18 months before I launched my own firm. I started Nafa Genesis. There were some younger firm owners in there, and I just asked them any question I could under the sun just to get their perspective on what their firm looked like. I worked with Alan Moore on the board, and he launched six months before me, and would call me while I was at work. He was saying, “I’ve got some down time. Let me tell you exactly what I’m doing.” I was like, “This is not the best time, but I can’t hang up the phone because I want to learn everything that you’re doing.” Just hearing people’s stories.

As I then launched my firm, I actually had an informal mentor that was helping me with marketing. She had actually opened her firm as well. She was about three years on from where I was. As I was going through various transitions in what I was doing inside the firm, I would try to find people three years removed from the position I was in because I wanted their experience to be really fresh. I know that contrasts to what Bill says. I don’t think that takes away from the value of what you’ve gone through, Bill, because I’m sure you’ve gained someone who has a lot of experience.

The thing I had when I went through Genesis was when I was asking people, “What do you do in your career?” if they were 20 years removed from that, I didn’t feel like their answers were as fresh as someone who was three years removed and could give me a great story behind exactly what they’ve gone through. I think having someone who is closer to the experience helped me more because I knew they’ve actually recently gone through this. Now I can understand exactly what they did, and it’s actually, not still relevant because I think a lot of people who are further along in their career, everything is still relevant, but it just meant a little bit more to me. I’ve tried to find people, as I’ve gone through various transition points in my firm, a couple years out just to see what they’ve done and take experience from that.

Katie:                    I feel like I learned something from a lot of different people. I’ve had mentors, kind of informal, but mentors that are probably 20 years older than me that have been in this industry for a really long time. I feel like I learned something from them. I had a study group where everybody’s kind of in probably about the same place in their business, and I learned a whole lot from them. I’ve also kind of latched onto advisors that are two to three years further along in the business. I do always make sure I can bring something of value to them, and then I’m not just holding onto their ankle while they’re trying to run with their business. Even people that I mentor, I feel like I learn stuff from them because they have a fresh perspective that maybe I had years ago but maybe I don’t have now. It’s kind of great to be able to see it through a lot of different people’s eyes, and then kind of put that together into what works for you.

Dave:                    I’d agree. I went through the first year of my firm without a study group. I think what you just said there is important. That was a lonely time. Ever since being in that study group now, and just finding the good people that are in that group, again, very similar situations to me professionally, it really helps. The amount you can learn from those people is incredible. Likewise, you’ve got to provide value into that group as well. It’s a case of these are your people. They’re right with you in the trenches. They are doing the same thing you’re doing. You’re not an island, you’re really not. In my eyes, a study group is essential. You have to do that if you’re starting out because it is lonely at times. Being in that study group is essential.

Hannah:               Yeah. I would say when I first started, my story’s a little bit unique because from day one I knew that I was the succession plan. I think that added a lot of pressure, but I went through the local FPA. They did a mentor match, and I just remember being devastated when I missed the opening. I had to wait nine months before I could get matched, but when I did, it was an advisor who had probably 20, 25 years of experience on me, very successful. She ran one of the most successful financial planning companies here in Dallas. I think what that did for me, we went over business plans and everything, but it gave me so much confidence. I think it really hit at that issue of, do I have anything of value to offer my clients? She was really like, “Are you joking? Yes. You have no idea how much value you have to your clients.” That was really valuable to me.

Where I was at, the broker dealer where I was at, a lot of the firms were run the same way. I realized that was not how I wanted to run my firm, but that was the only thing that I was exposed to. It was to the level of people’s business checking accounts were with their personal accounts and they thought I was crazy for wanting to set up a separate business account. That’s the level that we’re talking about. It was a lot of the local, a lot of the national FPA stuff, but I was able to find Patrick Dougherty. I saw how he ran his business and I was like, that’s what I want, Bill, kind of to your point of the end in mind. For me, I was like, that’s the business I want. I don’t see that anywhere else, so I’m gonna latch onto him and learn as much as I can from him. I did, and I think a lot of how I run my business is mirrored after how he did his practice.

I’m so grateful, but I would agree with all of you, it’s so many sources. My study group has been incredibly valuable to me. National conferences meeting up, having those conversations. I’ve done Sudden Money, some of their processes. The Fox Financial Planning Network, those have been some of the resources. I’ve also paid for coaches when I’ve needed them, and that’s been really helpful. Sometimes it’s just a one-off thing, and it just kind of helps me get past my mental block. Other times I’ve done it more extensively, but I think it goes back to a little bit of that self-awareness of what you need and where you can get it.

Bill:                         Yeah, I would agree with that. You have to have a good sense about you to say, “I need help and I want help.” This business can be very lonely, to Dave’s point, if you’re working in your own office by yourself. Some days I get stir crazy, and I have someone in the office with me. Some days I’m like, “Jerry, let’s just get out of the office. Let’s go grab a cup of coffee, or let’s go grab lunch and we’ll work remotely,” because then it allows me to kind of get out of my head, get out of my space, and work on growing and taking this to the next level. I absolutely believe in working with other advisors and other planners, much like everyone here on the stage, because this is how ideas get shared, and this is how growth happens. In order for us to become truly a profession, we’re gonna have to collaborate in this regard more and more.

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Coming Soon: FPA’s September Journal in the Round

The episode is live! Click here to listen!

Today we are excited to announce that we will be a part of the FPA‘s next monthly roundtable: Journal in the Round and we’ll be sharing it with You’re a Financial Planner, Now What? listeners here!

The Journal in the Round brings together writers and contributors in the current issue of the Journal of Financial Planning, and other experts, to discuss, illuminate and even debate the ideas in their article and the issue.  The topic for September is The Next Generation (of Planners and Clients), which couldn’t be a better fit for this podcast!

That episode will “air” here on September 26th for everyone and will be available later on their website. Stay tuned for the episode and a coupon for a free CE from the FPA’s website as well!


In the meantime, be sure to listen to past episodes and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or your podcast player of choice!

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While you’re here, be sure to check out some of past episodes:

Reinventing the Firm of the Future

What We Wish We Knew Before We Left

Behind the Scenes Look at the DOL Fiduciary Ruling with Ed Gjertsen II

What We Wish We Knew Before We Left

Today’s episode is one of the most important topics we’ve had on the podcast. I hear stories all the time from planners about mistakes they’ve made when they’ve left their firm that have huge negative impacts on their career. After hearing  “if only I would have known!” far too many times, we put this episode together. It’s a topic that affects just about everyone who is listening to this podcast but is rarely, if ever, talked about in a public way.

We are excited to have Bill Simonet, CFP®, Katie Brewer, CFP®, and Dave Grant, CFP® return for a curated discussion with me, Hannah Moore, CFP®,  where everyone shares what they wish they knew before leaving a firm. Our stories are all different and hopefully you have already had a chance to listen to them on #YAFPNW. (If you haven’t you can find their episodes below).

If you enjoy this episode and this topic, please let us know by dropping us a line, sending a tweet, or giving us a review on iTunes or your podcast player of choice.

Also, if you are interested in learning more about the FPA Residency program, be sure to check it out here: or send an email to If you are able to attend Residency, you’ll want to go!

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“Start dreaming. Start designing what you want it to look like. The more of that you can get out of the way the easier it is to pull the trigger because you know what you’re leaving for.”


Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome

Episode 16 – Katie Brewer

The Backstory and the Numbers


Athlete, Rebel, and Financial Coach

Lauryn Williams, MBA shares her journey as an athlete and three-time Olympic medalist including the advice she wishes she received when she started out when she was 20 and had endorsement deals to starting her own firm. Using her personal experience, Lauryn knew there had to be a better way to provide financial advice. After getting her MBA and passing the CFP® exam, Lauryn was able to find people who were willing to approach financial planning differently and build on those experiences.

Using her personal experience, Lauryn knew there had to be a way to provide services to people who were like her, both in terms of being an athlete and not growing up in an affluent home. She started her own financial coaching program and is exploring what it means to serve the mass market and those who don’t have the income or assets to pay for a traditional financial planner.

The work Lauryn is doing is so important to financial planning and I am excited for you to hear this episode!

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“If you find that rebel, lets say a college student fresh out of school, who has zero experience… don’t shame them when you bump into them. Instead, be the person to take them under your wing. We’re better when everyone in this industry is better.”

Worth Winning

The National Association of Personal Financial Advisors

Briaud Financial Advisors

Katie Brewer, CFP®

Financial Planning Association of Dallas/Fort Worth

XYPN Conference

WeWork Coworking and Office Space



Cost Matters

We’re excited to have Jon Luskin, CFP® of Define Financial on #YAFPNW. From his Master’s Thesis (years ago) to his practice today, Jon is passionate about sound investing with lower costs and he’s willing to support that passion with his own research. Jon’s passion around investments and research is contagious and I’m excited for you to hear his story.

His latest submission was inspired by a twitter exchange so be sure to follow him @JonLuskin!

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“It was consistent results across all eight case studies. Better risk adjusted returns for the lower cost model. So after that experience it was pretty clear to me that cost was the number one indicator of returns.”

Uncle D Money


Unconventional Success: A Fundamental Approach to Personal Investment

Pioneering Portfolio Management: An Unconventional Approach to Institutional Investment, Fully Revised and Updated

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing

Journal of Financial Planning


FPA of Minnesota

Michael Kitces

Jack Bogle