Hannah: Thanks for joining us, Patrick.
Patrick: I’m glad to be here.
Hannah: Yeah. One of the founders of the You’re A Financial Planner; Now What? series. So, there’s been a couple sessions that you did that were just really impactful for me when I first started out, and I know we were talking before about hopefully having you on for more of those later. But the one I want to talk about today is how to affect implementation. So, first of all, why is this an important topic? What are your thoughts on why this is important or why new planners need to know this?
Patrick: Well, I believe a perfect plan doesn’t mean anything if it’s not implemented, so it’s worthless and it’s just an academic exercise. It may feed the ego of the planner, but it does nothing for the client. I believe you have to learn how to affect your clients to implement your plans. I think that starts way before the plan presentation meeting. I was at a study group several years ago with some really senior planners, and we were talking about what challenges we face and everything, and it seemed the big thing everybody had in common is they couldn’t get their clients to implement their plans, so the big challenge everybody had was how do you implement your plans, or how do you get your clients to implement your plans.
I’d been in the business eight or nine years at that point, and so I … That was shocking to me that these senior planners were still having this challenge after most of them had a decade or more in the business. And so, I started thinking about how I had achieved that, which I still believe almost all my plans are implemented completely, is how did that happen, and I think it’s because I’ve always been taught perfection is impossible, but excellence is not. How do you shoot for excellence is my … I do post-ops. Every time I have a plan presentation or a meeting, I do a post-op and I ask myself two things: what to keep and what to change. My first eight or nine years in the business, there was a lot of what to change and very little about what to keep, so over the years it started getting more and more what to keep and a little less and less of what to change.
And probably eight or nine years into it, I started realizing that everybody was implementing my plan recommendations. So, it wasn’t easy and I took a decade to find out how to do that, but I realized that you can’t wait ’til the meeting where you present the plan. It has to start way before that. Now, I even believe it starts when you have the initial conversation with the prospect over the phone. Somebody refers them to you, or you somehow meet them at an event or something, so they call you and you talk about … You’re trying to qualify them and they say, “So, what do we bring to our first meeting?” Most of the time they say, “Do we bring our statements?” Because that’s what most people ask them to bring, and I say, “No. No, don’t bring your statements. Don’t bring anything but yourself,” because I believe to have your client accept your recommendations, I think there’s four key things.
They have to believe that financial planning will help them, and they have to believe … Excuse me. They have to have confidence in your technical ability. They have to have assurance of your insight into their goals and challenges, and then finally, and the big one is they have to trust your motives. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Why are you recommending what you’re recommending? Is it to help you or to help them? So, I believe those four things: belief, confidence, assurance, and trust, you have to have that with all the clients, and it’s something you can’t do … Most people just have a discovery meeting and then plan presentation meeting. How do you expect somebody you’ve never met before to accept all your recommendations after they’ve met with you twice?
Hannah: Well, one thing that I like, and again I know you kind of more than some, but you say that belief that financial planning will help them. So when you’re really positioning yourself and when you’re selling to clients, you’re selling financial planning instead of selling anything else.
Hannah: So, and yeah.
Patrick: Well, I found that most planners, I’m not sure they believe planning is powerful. A lot of times they pick it as a profession, they go to college, they graduate, they get into the business and they get their CFP, but do they really believe how powerful it is? I believe it’s really powerful. It can change people’s lives permanently for the better through planning. I always say people, if the planner doesn’t believe it, why’s the client gonna believe it’s real? If you really believe in the power of planning, it’s gonna come across in your enthusiasm and how you talk about it, then the client believes it. That’s the first thing you have to do is get them to believe that what you’re gonna do with them over the next two months is gonna change their lives and help them get rid of some of the challenges they face and help them achieve their goals and have their kids go to college, so all of the things that planning does for them, but they’ve got to believe that you believe it.
Hannah: What would be your advice for new planners as they’re entering financial planning today?
Patrick: I guess I’m trying to narrow it down so I can give you an answer in less than an hour. I have a lot of advice to give planners about growing their practice or getting into the business or surviving financially or learning to be a better planner, so what are you talking about?
Hannah: Let’s talk better planners.
Patrick: Okay. Better planners is knowing that you don’t know everything. When I passed the CFP exam, and I didn’t pass it the first time. I didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t study. So, when I did pass it, I walked out of the exam, probably every planner that’s at the height of their technical knowledge when they pass the exam, right? It never goes higher than that usually. So, I left the exam thinking, “I just passed,” … or when I got the note in the mail saying … It was in the mail when I took it. I got the note in the mail saying I had passed, and I thought, “You know, I just passed this big CFP exam that says I’m halfway competent to be a planner, and I feel like I know about 30% of what I really need to know to be a good planner, so I need to start learning.”
But now, in my 19th year in the business, I still feel like I know only about 30% of what I need to know to be a good planner. So, I think my advice to young planners is you need to have a thirst for this business and a thirst to be better at what you’re doing and always do your post-op and say, “What can I keep, and what can I change?” Whether it’s a meeting with a client or a meeting with a mentor or a meeting, whoever you’re meeting with, you need to always think, “How can I do this better?” And if you have that kind of thirst for excellence and to learn how to do this … I still have a list of designations I want to work for. Not only do I enjoy doing it, but I think I need to do it to be good for my clients. Hopefully, you have a thirst for knowledge about our profession.
Hannah: One of the things I took away from you a couple of years ago was, it was this idea of when you have prospects come into your office, they need to leave that even if they don’t work with you, they have to work with a financial planner. That’s how deep the conviction needs to be in what I’m communicating with clients.
Patrick: Yes. It may not be a fit. We’re not always a fit for each other, it’s maybe personalities or whatever reason. Some planners charge more, some planners charge, so there’s a lot of reasons for a client to choose you or not. But you want them to believe they need to find somebody. So, yeah, that’s a great question.
Yeah. First, you have to believe in the power of planning so the client will believe in it, and then the technical prowess … You got the standard stuff like education, your certifications, I’ve got my ego wall behind me, your experience in the business, the brand name of your firm sometimes, but the big one for me is do you intentionally and actively educate your clients during the planning process? Does the client see you as a technical … Does the client see the technical knowledge coming out of your head?
I know that sounds kind of silly, but you can’t do that with a PowerPoint presentation because half the time that’s put together by somebody else and you’re just kind of reading through it, and they know that. They can tell that. So, it’s not with PowerPoint, it’s not with “What If” scenarios with planning software. When the client sees you draw on a legal pad or on a whiteboard, they see that knowledge coming out of your head. That’s what builds their confidence in your technical prowess. So, there’s no shortcut around that, and you can’t just meet with somebody, and even if they sign up and give you a check, they still don’t know if you’re technically competent or not.
The way I do that is through education mostly. Obviously, I have my education and certifications and all that, but I wouldn’t need any of them at this point because the way I educate my clients, they know that I know what I’m doing. There’s no shortcut for that.
So, to the third, how are they assured of your insight into them? Well, it’s because, first, you listen more than you talk. Ask a lot of question. Ask big open-ended questions and then shut up and let them talk, so they understand that you’re really caring about them and what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, and you’re learning about their families and their kids.
Most families have warts, most families have problems. You need to understand them. I always talk to my clients about, “When this is done, I’m gonna know more about you than your doctor because I’m gonna spend more time with you and ask more questions and I need to do that to help you do this correctly.”
And then finally the last one is how they trust you. How do you say to somebody, “You can trust me”? It’s not by using the fiduciary word. I personally have a higher bar than that. W whatever your higher power or your moral compass, whatever moral compass guides you, it needs to be apparent in the way you treat your clients, every interaction starting with the first phone conversation.
Hannah: Well, it’s this whole idea. I mean, I hear people use “fee-only” as a marketing ploy, and people are using “fiduciary” in the same way. It’s like that’s … It feels, I don’t want to say “shallow”, but it doesn’t hold water.
Patrick: Well, it’s canned. Here’s the question I … people that want to use … They say they’re fiduciaries and they don’t even have a certification out for being a fiduciary. Here’s my question that I would say to a client, “I’m required by law to be a fiduciary, so you can trust me.” That’s what you’re saying. When you say, “I’m a fiduciary,” that means you’ve agreed and signed saying, “I’m gonna act as a fiduciary because the law requires me to.” That’s pretty sad.
Hannah: Well, it’s not talking about who you are and this idea of that we need to show up as planners, and that’s just a legalese term rather than, “I will always act in your best interest.”
Hannah: So, do you bring up fiduciary with your clients?
Patrick: I’ve never used the word ever. No. But I can tell you that they really believe that I act that way because I act that way, the way I talk to them, the way I ask them questions, the way I … If they ask me questions …
This happens with every client I have. They ask me a question that I don’t know the answer to and I say, “I don’t know the answer to that. I’ll do some research and find out,” rather than BS my way through it and give them an answer. People like it when you are vulnerable and say, “I don’t know everything.” Sometimes when I make a mistake with a client’s account, the first thing I do is call the client and say, “I made this mistake. I just wanted to let you know about it. Here’s what I can do to fix it. I just wanted to let you know immediately that I made this mistake,” and they go, “Oh, well thanks for telling us. We wouldn’t have known.” But that’s the kind of thing that they realize that you really care about doing the right thing.
Hannah: The marketing term that I’ve really come to understand recently is, “You show, don’t tell,” and it’s like so much of the fiduciary is we’re telling you what we’re gonna do instead of just showing them what we’re gonna do and really, yeah, articulating our value that way instead of just …
Patrick: So, let me tell you where I believe achieving full implementation starts. It starts with the very first prospect call. You’re trying to, in the qualifying call, you’re trying to decide if it’s somebody you want to work with. It may be a personality issue. You may have minimums. There’s a lot of reasons you may choose or not choose to work with somebody. One of my main criteria is if they weren’t a client would I want to have dinner with them. I don’t want to work with somebody that I don’t have that kind of connection with, and I actually do often have dinner with most of my clients. I want to have that kind of relationship with them, where we’re comfortable with each other and we enjoy being around each other, not just because we’re doing a plan.
So, in the phone call, they generally say, “What do you bring to the meeting?” And I say, “Don’t bring anything but yourselves. I’m gonna bring a pen and a legal pad, and here’s what we’re gonna do in the meeting. We’re gonna learn about you, your family, your goals, your dreams, what you want to do with your kids, your careers, when you want to retire, how do you want to retire, and what are your challenges in achieving all that. That should take about an hour, an hour and a half.” I always plan two hours for an initial meeting and this is the prospect meeting. This isn’t the discovery meeting. This is where you’re deciding to work together or not.
After you learn about them a lot, then we tell them what we do, why we do what we do, how we do it, and then what we charge, what our fees are, how we’re gonna be compensated. I’m completely transparent on all that, and that’s what the meetings for. And finally, and I tell them this over the phone before meeting, “We’re not gonna sign anything in the first meeting. All we’re gonna do is get to know each other. I’m gonna learn about you. You’re gonna learn about us and how much we charge and how we do that, whatever fees or commissions or whatever.” And there’s no right or wrong way on that, it’s just they need to know that upfront. As long as you disclose it, I don’t think it matters.
I personally, if I wanted to hire a planner, it wouldn’t matter whether they’re a fee or a commission. If they were somebody that I trusted and I believed in them, they can charge me however they want to. They did a survey last year that asked clients how their advisor charged them, and 65% said, “I have no idea.” That’s how unimportant it is. If they believe you and think you’re doing a good job for them, they could care less. They need you to make a living. You need to be there next year when they come back, so there’s nothing wrong with making a living.
We say, “We’re not gonna sign anything at the end of the meeting. We want you to go home, sleep on it. We’re gonna sit as a firm and discuss whether y’all are a fit for us. It’s real important for us both to feel like it’s mutually beneficial.” I tell them all this over the phone, so when they come in for the first meeting, it does a couple of things. I think they’re not apprehensive, not afraid you’re gonna try to get them to sign something or do a hard sell, but the other thing is it makes them think, “We gotta convince him to take us as a client,” so it actually helps you as a planner.
They’re not defensive and also, if they were referred to you and they think you’re good, they’re gonna try and convince you. It’s kind of a mutually beneficial thing to come in with no expectations. They shouldn’t hire us if we’re not a fit and I don’t want a client that’s not a fit. It’s really important for that.
Sometimes I’ve met with people I’ve really liked, but for whatever reason, the way we worked or the way we charged or whatever, it wasn’t a fit. So, I referred them to one of my fellow colleagues, you know, friendly competitors. Most of them that I know are friendly competitors, but if it’s a fit for the client, then I’m glad they go somewhere else.
Hannah: Do you find that in this first meeting you’re having people who aren’t qualified to be your client show up?
Patrick: Yeah. I usually can find out in the qualifying call whether they’re a fit or not for us with the minimums, but that occasionally doesn’t happen. So, we get together and we meet, and I find out that they don’t really … I don’t really have an assets under management minimum, more of a revenue minimum because I charge separately for assets under management and for planning, they may not have the asset minimums that normally I would want, but they do have a lot of big, complex planning to do. So their fee for me might be the same as somebody that had a million or two million dollars, even though they have 250,000. For me, it’s the revenue minimum, not asset minimum.
But to answer your question completely, if they don’t meet our minimums, we have people we can refer them to. I think I’ve referred people to you before.
You want to be taken care of and you’re helping them by not taking them if that’s the case because if they’re a small client, generally, they don’t need the kind of complex planning that I generally do. If they’re a young couple just getting started, they don’t need complex estate planning. They need a will. Maybe a will, life insurance, make sure they have enough for that because they have a couple of kids, and then the education planning. It’s kind of simple. They need to be with somebody that is good at that, but they don’t need to overpay me because I charge more. I do more complex planning, but my experience and everything, I charge more. Why would I want to overcharge them when they don’t need that level?
I have planners in the business, your friends that are two and three years in the business, have their CFPs, they’re gonna do an excellent job for them and, for that planner, they’re a big client. That person’s better off being served by that person than me.
Generally, I don’t even know anything about Medicaid because I don’t have any clients that use it, so if it’s a retired couple that needs Medicaid information, I have no idea because I’ve never had a client that needed it.
Hannah: You know, it’s funny. Being the consumer on several things now, and maybe being a little bit pickier than I have been in the past, I mean, that’s a filter for me now. Am I this service provider’s, am I their target market or are they gonna drop me in a couple of years or hand me off to somebody else because I want to be paired with somebody where I am exactly who they’re looking to serve.
Patrick: Yeah. Absolutely.
I don’t want to discuss my planning process because that’s maybe another talk, but I do want to mention the parts of it, my process, that influence the client’s implementing the plan.
In the discovery meeting, you certainly are gonna have that big conversation about what they want to achieve and how to achieve it and everything. That’s part of them realizing that you’re really trying to gain insight into them so you can help them in the right way. Then, of course, the client education meeting. I have an advisory board that said, “Don’t call it that. Call it investment concepts because client education is demeaning.” I don’t agree with that, but I’ve taken their advice.
But anyway, you need to educate your clients, so in my client education meeting I use a whiteboard and I just talk to them about, “These are basic concepts and some of them pertain to you and some of them don’t,” but I do that either on a legal pad or a whiteboard and, again, it’s building trust in my acumen, my technical acumen. That’s really important for the client and it’s really important for me because they ask questions. You need to know what level your clients are at as far as their ability and education about investing and planning, and so by going through this education meeting and teaching them, you can both understand where you’re both at.
The plan presentation part is … I usually do a brief summary of their goals and challenges. It takes about 15 minutes. And then talk about the recommendations. Along with the recommendations, I don’t use a list. I use a first-year implementation plan. The client now, I believe, has the belief that planning’s gonna help them. They have the confidence in your ability. They have the assurance that you’re trying to help them and you’ve got the insight into them and they’ve hopefully learned to trust your motives.
It’s like the breakfast participants little thing. The chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. You want your clients to feel committed to this process.
Hopefully, by doing this and having several meetings. Some people have the first meeting and the presentation meeting, mine are anywhere from four to six meetings depending on the client and the complexity of it. So, when I give them the plan presentation, I don’t give them a to-do, I give them a Gantt chart. It’s just a one page Excel spreadsheet and I have a calendar with the next 12 months on it. The sheet basically says what we need to do, when we need to do it, and then the action is going to be performed by the client, the planner, allied professional, or all of the above. It really is just kind of this, you know, “Here’s our action plan going forward.”
It’s real simple and it’s not as if you give somebody a list, it’s real long and their eyes glazed over. Well, if you give them this calendar saying “In the first month because you have young children, yet not enough life insurance, we’re gonna meet with the insurance professional.” In the second month may be estate planning or maybe flipped, depending on if you have an older client and the situation’s different. So every month or so we do one or two things to implement their plan and hopefully, usually it’s six to eight months later, we’re done with the initial implementation. Some clients it’s taken 14 months, but for the most part, it’s five to six, seven, eight.
Hannah: So, one of the things I’ve been hearing a lot of in circles that I run are these new planners who are trying to do more of this monthly retainer model or something like that, and one of the problems that they’re having is they do all of this work up front for the client, like you’re saying, over six to nine months, and then all of a sudden the client is like, “Well, I don’t need you anymore,” and then they drop you. I know you well enough to know that you don’t have that problem.
Patrick: Well, I’m glad that you brought that up because I know younger planners and I also know some of the really big firms in Dallas whose names you would know, really big firms that work with 25, 50 million dollar clients, they do it that way too. They do modular planning. They start and they maybe do investments first because a lot of people think that’s the most important, which it isn’t. So they do it that way and that’s not a wrong way to do it, but I go back to the original question that every new planner should ask and understand is that if you don’t know everything about this client, then how do you give them good advice? Whether it’s estate planning or whether it’s investments, how do you know how to do that? I have no idea how to invest for a client if I don’t know the comprehensive plan. I can’t work in a vacuum.
It may be simple. It may look like they’re young and can be more aggressive and all that kind of stuff, but you don’t know about their mother who’s gonna need their help in two years. You don’t know about somebody’s family members maybe has medical needs that nobody knows about or you don’t know about certainly, so I just don’t know how you do modular planning and serve the client well.
Hannah: So, have you ever run into the problem where a client’s like, “You know what? I completely buy into the idea of financial planning. I’ve built out this financial planning and now I don’t need you anymore. I’ll come back when my life changes.”
Patrick: Yeah, so that was the second part of your question I didn’t answer. So, thanks for asking again.
If you do the planning right and ask for the right questions and present the plan the right way, which means this is a dynamic process. Planning, when you do the first initial comprehensive plan or whether it’s modular, it’s the very beginning of a lifelong process and if you haven’t educated your clients about the fact that this is a lifelong process …
You know, my initial comprehensive plan, while it takes a month to two months to complete and you meet four or five times with a clients and you drive them crazy asking for all this information, the fact is it’s the starting point and if you haven’t educated them about that throughout this whole process, so when you implement the plan, and again my implementation plan is called First Year Implementation Plan. This is the first of 20 or 50 years depending on their age and how long you’re gonna be in the business. So, I generally don’t have that problem because they know that things are gonna change. The world’s dynamic. Their lives are dynamic, so they’re gonna have kids and they’re gonna lose parents and they’re gonna have parents that have to move in with them. There’s all these things that happen to us that we have no plan, no idea it’s gonna happen.
Hannah: Yeah. So, a couple of things. One, I think it’s interesting because most of these are talking about younger clients and it’s like, “Life changes the most when you’re young.”
Hannah: Talking about job change, kids, everything happening in life.
But the other thing, you sell people on the idea of financial planning and financial planning is not a one-time thing. You’re not leading with your price. You’re not leading with all these other things. You’re leading with “Here is the value of ongoing financial planning and here is why you need it.” And even if they don’t work with you, they need to work with somebody who does financial planning. I think that’s a whole different sales pitch.
Patrick: Great question and great statement.
I don’t want to get into my process too much, but when I have my initial discovery, excuse me, my initial prospect meeting before we’ve signed up with each other, after I’ve listened to them and learned everything I can in the first meeting about their family, then I explain what we do and how we do it. I go through real quickly through our processes, our fees, our everything, and by going through our processes, it sounds kind of tedious and boring, but I explain it …
I used to explain, I was real proud of my process, so I would go through this eight or nine step thing and I was real proud of it, but, you know, their eyes glazed over. They didn’t hear any of it. Now, after listening to them for an hour, hour and a half, when I present my process, I present it in how to solve their issues they just told me about. “Well, we’re gonna do this and it’s gonna help you with this issue and we’re gonna do this… part of our process we’re gonna do this.” I’m explaining my process through their challenges and so they hear all of it, but they realize how we’re gonna address their issues.
When I finish that, and it takes only five minutes, then I say, “Here’s our fee schedule.” I have it printed out and I show it to them. The response is, “Wow. We thought it would cost more than this.” I’m on the high side in Dallas of planning fees, but the reason they feel that way is when you explain all this stuff you’re gonna do and how you’re gonna solve their problems, or at least come up with a plan to start solving their problems, they’re thinking, “Wow. Wow. Wow. Big, big,” all of a sudden, you know, how much is this gonna cost them. When you say, “It’s $5,000,” they go, “Oh, my gosh. Is that all?”
I believe it’s the way you present it, not the price. Price is only an issue when there’s no value.
Patrick: Could I go back to the implementation when I present the Gantt chart?
Hannah: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Patrick: The Gantt chart, again, I explain is the next 12 months on this timeline and each month we take on a major implementation piece. It explains what to do, when to do it, and the action, and who’s going to perform the action, but you’re the quarterback. This is where a lot of people say, you know, “You need to hire an attorney and adjust your estate plan.” “Okay. We’ll call our attorney.” Well, that never happens.
I ask them if they have an attorney they want to use, fine, or if they don’t I recommend somebody, but I call the attorney and set up the appointment even if it’s their attorney. I’m the quarterback. If your plans aren’t being implemented, it’s the planner’s fault. So I contact their attorney and I plan the meeting and I’m always in the meeting with them. Is it more work and extra hours? Yeah, but you’ve spent weeks or even months getting to know this family, learning about them, and the estate planning attorney, you fill out their questionnaire, and you go in to meet with them and they think they know how to provide your estate plan.
I’ve done that with clients early in my career and they come back with trusts they don’t need and they come back with just bad information because the estate planning attorney, you know, they bill by the hour, so they’ve got to make use of their time, and so they don’t want to spend weeks with the clients like we do. That’s what we charge a fee for our plan and then we meet with them whether it takes 10 hours or 50 hours. My average is 20 to 25 hours before I present the plan.
I think you should always meet with the allied professional and the client and you, whether it’s an attorney or an insurance provider or whatever it is, you need to be in the meeting. If you’re not committed to do that, you shouldn’t be in the comprehensive planning business.
That’s the way the plans get implemented is you’re the quarterback, you’ve set up the meetings and the appointments. If they have an insurance provider, you ask them who it is and say, “Let me set up that appointment for you.” They don’t have time to do it, so they’re happy for you to take that on. If they don’t have an insurance provider, I’ll provide one, but another thing I do is I always the provider to come into my office because the client sees you as handling everything and implementing the plan and helping them by being the quarterback.
So if a client needs insurance, I don’t want to send them to an agent who’s gonna say instead of me recommending a 20-year level term, the insurance goes, “Aw. You need a whole life policy.” They’re doing what’s in their best interest, not your clients. So I explain to the client, “Because of the plan we’re gonna go through and all this time we spent with our process, we all believe, you and me both, that you need term insurance.” So, I call three or four of my friends that are in the insurance business and I say, “These are 45-year old clients. Here’s their birthdays. Here’s their average general health. Give me your best three plans.” They come in our office with me and the client on one side of the table and the insurance provider on the other and they present their plans and I help the client pick the best one that’s for them.
All of this is part of this implementation that needs to happen, but you need to be involved. It’s not just giving them a list and having them do it.
Hannah: You know, one of the things I’ve realized is, you know, when clients sign up for financial planning, and you were one of my big mentors, so I’m all about selling financial planning, right, versus all the other stuff, is they’re really committed to it and I have the expectation they’re gonna be in my office six times in the next year, and so they know where my office is. They feel comfortable in my office and so when you start talking about attorneys, and I’ve offered up “We can meet at the attorney’s office or we can meet at mine,” and just about every single client is like, “Let’s just meet at yours.” It’s familiar. It’s consistent. It’s just part of this bigger service that you’re providing and clients are drawn to that.
Patrick: Yeah and we all like familiarity. You know. If you do something a lot, you get used to it and it’s comfortable and you don’t have to find out where the new office is or drive there. You just know where you’re going every time.
The other thing is this part of this implementation is if it’s a couple, I don’t meet with one of them alone ever because this is a group deal and you can’t expect to explain to one person and then them explain it to their spouse the right way. So they both need to be there. The other thing is often one or the other spouse is kind of the head. They do the financial stuff in the household. Sometimes it’s the man, sometimes it’s the woman, but they both need to be involved enough to know that if it something happens to their spouse, or if something happens and their spouse is traveling in another country, they feel comfortable enough with the planner to come take care of it. “Oh, my husband’s out, so I can’t call Patrick because I only met with him once.” But if they’re involved in the whole process, doesn’t matter which spouse it is, the lead person financially or not the lead person, they feel comfortable to call you.
That’s the other part about meeting in the office and just familiarity that comes from several meetings. I just don’t think you can do it in two meetings. I think you’re doing a disservice to your clients and for yourself.
Hannah: So, one of the new, I don’t even know if I can call it a trend anymore, but this idea of virtual planning, and meeting with your clients online. What are kind of your thoughts on that? Maybe how I should focus that is what are your thoughts on getting in that virtual environment, getting clients to implement?
Patrick: I don’t think there’s a right answer to that. I certainly prefer to have an initial relationship face to face. I understand expenses and flying and time and everything. If somebody lives out of state, it’s hard. I have a client, one of my favorite long-term clients moved to Arizona recently. They’re technology savvy and I am too, our meeting’s usually through Skype. We’ve set up a server so that they can go online and get their documents and I can go online and get the documents and we send them back and forth through the server so I don’t have to email anything, but we have great meetings. We try to meet face to face at least once a year.
That’s what I say to my clients when they move or for whatever reason, if it’s a new client even in another state that we just started working together, I always ask if we can do it face to face in the beginning and then after we get everything situated, then I don’t think there’s a problem doing it long distance. But I do try to do it once a year face to face. Sometimes they come here. Usually, they come here, but sometimes I go to them.
The rest of your question, I guess, about virtual. I think this is a relationship business. Now, if you’re working with a Millennial, maybe they could care less whether they ever meet you. I think if you’re a Millennial planner, that may be perfect for both of you. I probably wouldn’t be a good fit for most Millennials. I have clients who have Millennial children who we’ve talked about it and I say, “You know, I think they’d be more comfortable with XYZ,” and I’ll refer them to a Millennial planner I know.
Part of it is whatever you’re comfortable with. I don’t think I would be comfortable with somebody that I never met. I don’t think I would be as good a planner as they could get somewhere else.
Hannah: Well, again, it kind of goes back to what is your serving that you’re providing.
Hannah: So, you talked earlier about the power of financial planning. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
Patrick: The power of financial planning really is depending on the client and what they need to have done for them. Sometimes it’s helping them figure out how to afford their elderly parent who needs help, but they can’t stay in their home, but they really can’t afford to put them in a nursing home. So, it’s solving problems like that. That’s powerful.
I’ll give you an example of the client I met with probably, I guess it was my sixth year in the business, fifth or sixth year. He was a TI executive and his wife was a full-time homemaker. He was pretty high up and he’d been there for 25 years. So he came in and we did the plan. This is when I wasn’t as good a planner as I am now, but I went through the normal process and then I presented a plan to them. They were really happy with it. I was feeling really confident and as they’re walking out of my office, they’re in the lobby, I hear the man say to the woman, “Maybe I’m finally gonna be able to teach someday.”
That word had never come up in our conversation, that he wanted to be a teacher. So I said, “Wait. Wait. Wait. Come back here.” So they come back in my office and what I had missed in my inadequate discovery process back then is that he really wanted to teach high school history and he knew that he had the family obligations and to support his family and send his kids to school, so he never thought that he could do that until he was close to his regular retirement age. We had him retiring at 60 in the plan and so he was planning to retire then and get his certificate and start teaching history. He was 50 years old at this time.
They came back in and we started talking about it and that was his big goal and I had missed that completely. I looked at his big job and his big paycheck and, “Okay. This is how much money you need to retire, so you work until you’re 60 and retire early at 60.” They didn’t realize the power of planning and so they said, “Okay.” He was accepting that he had to wait 10 years before he could retire. So when I heard that, we come back in, we looked at their plan again, and we were able to make it where he could retire at 52 and start teaching at 52 instead of 60. That’s the power of planning. It completely changed his life from being able to wait until he was, probably, almost to retirement, 60 years old and probably not as much enthusiasm because he’s older, but now he’s gonna retire in 2 years. So now he’s gonna work on his certification and get that ready so in two years he’s gonna quit and be a high school teacher.
Hannah: So, did he do that?
Patrick: Yes. Yes. He’s happily employed in the Dallas school system right now.
Hannah: And like, oh my gosh, could I please have a person like that teach my kids?
Patrick: Yeah. Yeah.
He loves history and I’m sure his students love him because he brings it to life for them. He pulled out a coin to me one day, he said, “I saw this coin one day and I wondered,” it’s dated 1896 and he said, “Where has this coin been? Who held this coin in their pocket?” And he said, “That’s what history is to me. It’s fascinating. It touches every part of our lives.” And so he is now teaching his kids with this enthusiasm and wonder about history that they’ll never get anywhere else. That’s the power of planning. You can really change somebody’s lives.
Part of what we do is we look at the human capital of our clients. In addition to the financial capital, which we all look at, I think it’s important to do the human capital. Sometimes you can help them have a better career, change careers, or just get better at the career they’re in.
Hannah: Do you advise them on, like, career move? I mean, obviously, there’s like the financial aspect of it.
Patrick: I try to help my clients have the best life they can have. They decide what that is. What’s the ideal life? So when my clients tell me what their ideal life is, I try to help them achieve it. That’s the power of planning. Most of the time they would never have done it without the plan. This guy would have never, it would have been 60 at least … He didn’t even know he could try at 60 before the first plan and then he was planning on working until he was 66 or so and then retiring and not ever teaching. When I told him 60, he said, “Maybe I’ll get to finally teach,” and when I heard that I said, “Okay. Let’s do that at 52.” That’s powerful.
Every client you meet with, they generally have things in their lives that they would like to do, but never thought they could do, or they don’t think they can afford to do it, or family situations don’t allow them to do it, so planning is helping them achieve the ideal life that they want to have. That’s pretty powerful.