For twenty years I served my clients as their financial planner. I tried to encourage them to stay patient with the market, not to over react to news stories, try to resist constantly checking the market and take everything you read with a grain of salt. I felt I was reasonably successful in getting my clients to adhere to these principals.
That was up to three weeks ago. Then I completed my retirement process and packed up my office and went home. Since my investments were placed and came with the luxury of a financial planner / guide, my accounts, like my clients’ accounts, were assigned to my replacement rep in my now former employer’s firm. And just like that, I was no longer the planner. I had suddenly become the client.
Now the question is, how will I behave? Will I heed my own advice or I will fall prey to the human nature that drives all of us? The first week turned out fine. I was able to just sit back and savor my new role. However, by the second week the background noise began to nag at the back of my mind. After all, there was hurricane Harvey and then Hurricane Irma, and as an added little teaser, North Korea. There were just so many things to worry about. In no time flat, I was asking for report access to my accounts so that I could look at them when ever I needed. Oh hell, admit it, whenever I couldn’t resist. I was one step away from becoming irrational. I was just one more bad headline, one more strategically placed piece of advice, and I would be calling my financial planner with the old “do you think we should be doing anything?’.
Here is the good news. I did heed my own advice. At least so far. I didn’t call my planner. I didn’t move things around. I didn’t even stop my auto investment from going through. I simply reminded myself that my long money was truly my long money and needed the patience and time it needed to reward me. Likewise, I knew that I had kept an appropriate amount out of the market and that despite a terribly low rate of return, reminded myself that safety and availability were the key goals for that money.
It is hard to be the client. It is certainly your right to use the copilot you brought along on your flight to financial freedom and to call on them every time there is a perceived crisis. It is their job to expect it and to be prepared to do what is necessary to calm your fears and keep you on track. When necessary, they need to be there to make the adjustments that will keep you on track.
I am glad to say that my planner knows how to do that. After all, I taught him everything he knows. Well maybe some of what he knows. Being the planner or being the client, what is important is to appreciate the dual responsibility that makes it work. No investor should have to go it alone and no planner can be responsible for all aspects of the process. The role of a great planner is to deliver service that feels like the best experience possible and the knowledge and communication necessary to keep the investor disciplined. The role of the client, is to exercise patience and to realize their responsibility to stay engaged in the process.
Trust is a critical emotion, but when the planner understands the client and the client understands their role, it is the one key ingredient in the relationship that makes the recipe successful. I loved being the planner and I am going to do my best to be a great client, but I would be less than truthful if I didn’t tell you it is an interesting transition.
I’m now your client Taylor. Keep me calm and I promise to behave.