It is that time of the year, when everyone seems to be in a bit of a party mode. It is also that time of the year, when increasingly, school/college friends are meeting up for reunions! I was at one such reunion a couple of weeks back, and, as is oft the case, was meeting some friends after many many years. After many hugs and a few jugs of beer, during which time we reminisced about old times, discussions veered towards the serious stuff, including politics, the economy as well as catching up on each of us, both on the personal and professional front.
With everyone’s kids around similar age bands, there was some serious collective letting-off of steam about the pressures involved in being parents to children who preparing for their Std X or XII exams (Eg. don’t ever remember studying so much even for an engineering paper in our 3rd year as compared to what kids nowadays have to do for a Std X paper, OR how the current standard of Maths and Science in Std X is akin to what was done in 1st or 2nd year graduate courses in our generation!)
Things then moved on to what we were doing on the professional front and how we were coping with the pressures on the job, the state of the economy, and so on. I had left my corporate career to join my spouse in our small personal financial planning and advisory business and when I explained that I was a financial planner, there were the usual reactions – how exciting it must be to be on our own, how courageous we were to have taken such a step, some questions on how I was liking it, etc.
Of course, there were some who also wanted to know what exactly financial planning was, and what exactly it was that I do, which again is something that I am (by now) used to. I then (as usual, passionately) launched into a description of what we do as financial planners, how it helps people, and what our typical assignments are. Things took an interesting twist, when one of them asked a very interesting question – “What problem of mine can you help me solve?”
While I of course answered the question and the follow-ups that came post that, it set me thinking. As I have discovered over the past many months, over various interactions with customers and others, financial planning means different things to different people. Importantly, it actually is “solving different problems” for different people, as long as the problems related to money. In fact, it actually doesn’t matter what I say I do as a financial planner, as long as people, including my customers see that I am helping them solve some money problem of theirs, which for them becomes “their understanding” of financial planning.
So, what “money problems” can a good financial planner-adviser help you solve?
The “LIVING BEYOND MEANS” problem
A few people we meet are earning well and spending even better. No, it doesn’t mean that they don’t have any savings or assets, just that they underestimate the needs of the future while getting hooked onto today’s pleasures. For such a person, a financial planner acts as a quick wake-up call, who puts things in perspective, and is a catalyst for habit changes.
The “TOO BUSY TO GIVE TIME” problem
Quite a few people we see are financially prudent, but are successful individuals, so caught up in their day-to-day work and life that they are simply are unable to spend quality time on growing their money. Their investment decisions therefore are impulsive, driven by products that get sold to them or event-driven eg. taxation insurance. They end up collecting a disparate set of investments, lacking purpose and inefficient in performance. In such cases, a good financial planner can help become both the filter to weed out wrongly-sold or ill-intended products as well as the channel to invest their money in vehicles that are both risk-appropriate and goal-appropriate.
The “INCORRECT ASSET MIX” problem
Many customers in the middle years bracket (age 40-50, double incomes, good jobs) are reasonably secure on the wealth creation and savings front. Like most of their generation, they own multiple houses, and while these were popular investment avenues, they are not necessarily the right asset-mix for future goals like children’s education and retirement, due to their illiquidity, as well as the current question-mark on long-term appreciation prospects. For such customers, a good financial planner helps them restructure their portfolio, keeping their risk profile and goal horizons in mind.
The “WHERE TO INVEST” problem
Some customers we meet are both personal finance savvy and investment-aware, meaning they have a good handle on their financial position as well as understand most investment asset classes and their risk features. That said, they lack the time as well as inclination to identify the right products, which will give them the right performance metrics while keeping in mind their interests and their risk appetite. In such situations, a good financial advisor helps provide the right mix of adequately diversified high-quality products to meet their needs.
The “NEED PEACE OF MIND” problem
Lastly, a few are completely sorted and only need a bouncing board to help validate their approach as well as decisions. Some may be good on the financial investments front but are inadequately prepared to face unplanned challenges in their life in case of unforeseen events. For such people, a good financial planner provides peace of mind and a tangible improvement in quality of life by allowing them to outsource their worrying nature as well as the outside chances of having uncovered risks.
Whichever it is, suffice it to say that a good financial planner/advisor’s primary role is to “solve money problems”. So, rather than try and understand from prospective financial advisors what they do, ask them – “What problem of mine can you help solve?”
Credit: M, a good friend from college whose pertinent question not only made me pen this, but also helped hone our customer propositions.
Image credit: Mohd. Hasan, Pxhere
Finwise is a personal finance solutions firm that helps both NRI and resident individuals and families plan for their financial goals, follow their passions and achieve financial independence.
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