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What You Think You're Getting

With tax filing season upon us, I want to share something I've noticed after working 12 years in the financial planning field. Too often, I see a disconnect between what a client thinks a professional will provide and what that same professional thinks they are responsible for providing.

A few cases to illustrate my point - first, while assisting a CPA prepare tax returns years ago, I would sometimes come across 1099-INT forms, investment statements, etc. that made me question whether the client was making the most of their financial opportunities. I would write notes to the CPA with my thoughts and sometimes recommendations on how the client could likely improve their situation. When I followed up with the CPA later to see how the client received the recommendation, I was told the conversation never happened. Instead, the CPA said they were unqualified to give such financial planning and/or investment advice. Next, consider a younger client who has sought out the services of an attorney to write an estate plan for their family. While term life insurance may be highly advisable for such an individual, the recommendation to purchase this type of insurance will usually not happen. Instead, I've learned most estate attorneys believe they are only tasked with planning for the assets a client already has, not making recommendations on advisable estate planning products. Finally, contemplate a wealthy couple who face constant conflict with less wealth family members. While they may hope their financial planner can advise them on how to relieve this point of stress in their life, a professional financial therapist would be much better suited for the job.

The moral of the story? Understand what the professionals in your life provide and what they don't. A CPA, estate attorney, mortgage lender, realtor, insurance advisor, etc. can all provide extremely helpful advice. That's why I, as a financial planner, refer clients out to these professionals when the need arises for expert advice in their respective areas of expertise. I don't want my clients to mistake the scope of work that I'm providing. Instead, I, and you ,should be clear on what you are and are not going to get from a relationship. Realize the limits of what another professional feels their role is in a relationship and plan accordingly.

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