In my first meeting with new clients, I always tell them that they must get a little bit naked with us. As their faces involuntarily register a blend of horror and prepare for a speedy exit from the conference room, I quickly qualify this by saying “in a financial sense, of course!” This does little to assuage the initial shock. Fair enough.
Our culture has taught us it’s impolite to talk about money, so it can be difficult to discuss it openly, even with professionals. However, trying to cover up less than desirable spending/ savings habits, high levels of debt, or piles of cash under the mattress with financial Spanx® doesn’t help anyone optimize their financial health. Practically every client I’ve ever met with feels like they haven’t made the “right” financial decisions, and are embarrassed about some of their choices. Y’all, let it all hang out! For every aforementioned client who begins our consultation with worry and even a bit of shame, a sense of confidence emerges with a personal plan built to capitalize on strengths/opportunities (often unrecognized) and defend against weaknesses/threats. Understanding the good, the bad… and the ugly allows us to develop that plan!
To be clear, simply having a plan doesn’t guarantee you’ll immediately emerge as the financial equivalent of Giselle. It takes work to implement the plan, and only a disciplined approach over time will deliver results. But, you may find that your financial plan demonstrates that you’re further along your financial fitness journey than previously realized. And, in an industry focused on the uncontrollable nature of market returns, there remain areas you can control with long-term significance including spending habits, optimized savings/distributions leveraging qualified and non-qualified account types, levels of investment risk, insurance policies, etc.
Getting financially naked is important, but it may also make you feel incredibly vulnerable. Your financial information is deeply personal! it’s not just a bunch of numbers… It’s your desire to share joyful experiences with the love of your life, to provide for your children’s future, to share your financial resources with heartfelt charities/causes, to live a life of which you are proud. You deserve to share this intimate process with someone whom you also share mutual trust and respect. So, take the time to get to know a potential financial advisor, and learn about how they collaborate before moving forward. Make sure their discovery process is comprehensive as it’s impossible to discern anyone’s best interest after a cup of coffee. Anyone who expects you to get naked at the first meeting is demonstrating a lack of respect, and you are worthy of so much more! (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)