I get many e-mails from readers asking whether I have a financial planner and if so, who? I get some e-mails even from financial planners simply looking for business.So, the answer is yes, I do have a financial planner because I don’t believe in doing it myself--sort of akin to the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client or the neurosurgeon who decides to operate on herself. Nope, I may know a lot but I still don’t know what a tried and tested financial planner knows.
After thinking about it for quite some time, I selected one. I usually don’t name names but for you financial planners out there who may want to question what my modus operandi was, I generally follow the Grouch Marx edict to go to the top. I know that sounds a bit pompous but with something as important as this, I opted for someone who was in my sphere of reference in that they had to know who Arthur Godrey was. With all due respect to the young financial planners out there, I went for an individual with whom I could communicate on a one-to-one basis from a common frame of experience and background. If we both rode up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt, all the better.
I went to a highly respected person in the field, somebody that I have known for many years and had even written about. I refer to him as “The Other Stuart,” and he does similarly to me. That’s Stuart Kessler, managing director of RSM McGladrey, the former chair of the AICPA, and the current chair of the International Standards Organization’s Technical Committee on financial planning. He’s a CPA, attorney, financial planner, et al. And I also wanted a fee-based planner only.
Interestingly enough, when I made the first appointment, he said he wanted to see my wife, Rosie, first in a separate meeting and then me in another meeting before he brought the two of us together. I thought I was going through another divorce but he had his reasons. “Sometimes a spouse will not want to say something in front of you that he or she would readily say in front of a stranger.”
Now, I bring this all up as background to a new summary that New York Life Investment Management’s MainStay Investments just released called “Across Generations.” It found that affluent married couples were not necessarily communicating with each other about the responsibility that they each share when it comes to making financial decisions. In fact, in a study that polled more than 1,500 individuals between the ages of 27 and 83 (that covers four different age groups), 81 percent of married women vs. 44 percent of married men believe that they share equal decisions about financial planning with their spouse. In addition, 56 percent of men stated that they make most of the financial decisions on their own whereas less than 25 percent of women believe the same.
Of course, what becomes a little more satisfying is that overall 68 percent of married men and women agree on their financial goals and the best way to achieve them.
Reinforcing what The Other Stuart says is Mike Coffey, managing director of MainStay Investments: “Married couples often believe they are on the same page when it comes to financial goals, but when advisors begin to talk with them individually, it is apparent that they are often carrying different play books altogether. It’s the advisor’s obligation to get the husband and wife together physically in the same room and mentally on the same page.”
That’s exactly what happened to me. I met separately and then together as did my wife…and we were able to construct a playbook that applied to both of us.
Incidentally, I travel to many financial planning seminars around this country and it is somewhat refreshing to hear other planners talk about this procedure. Where possible, they attempt to do the same thing. One planner told me that a strong relationship with both spouses helps her prioritize the couple’s financial goals properly. “And, this can only be done when there is confidence in what I am doing. So, meeting separately first is an important aspect.”
Also, the MainStay survey brought up an arresting fact relating to selecting a financial advisor. More women, they say (some 55 percent), than men (42 percent), consider communication skills an extremely important attribute. As a result, when working with married couples, advisors may need to use various communication strategies. While men are seemingly more direct and have a tendency to act on instinct rather than consensus, women have a tendency to be much more methodical in their decision making process, often discussing their options openly with their spouses or peers. “By tailoring a communication strategy to complement the decision making process employed by each spouse, a financial professional can engender trust and position themselves as the primary advisor.”
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