I had the weirdest Friday ever recently. I spent most of the day away from the office doing some personal stuff. The problem was every turn I made I was reminded of stupid stuff too many financial advisors do. Or maybe I was just paranoid. You tell me.
The morning began with an annual physical with my primary care physician (PCP). Now, my old PCP retired recently. I guess after dealing with me for nearly 30 years he had enough. While looking for a new one I decided to ask for recommendations from some friends. I ended up with a gentleman who came highly recommended.
In case I have not mentioned it before, I am not a medical expert. I rely heavily on my wife (nursing professor) to handle the health-related decisions in our family. I figured a first visit to a new doctor would be simple enough that even I would not have a problem. Yeah, not so much. He kept rattling off what seemed like an endless list of medical terms. All I remember were terms like LDL, BMI, NSAID, CT, b.i.d., BMP, HDL, and lots more. I was having a hard time remembering everything he told me and almost none of it made sense, but I just kept nodding as though it did. I swear at the end he recommended I take euthanasia to help my memory, but maybe it was echinacea. Regardless, I was overwhelmed, confused and frustrated.
After I left I called my friends and asked why they recommended this doctor. The responses were basically – He took over for the previous doctor who left and they were too lazy to look for a better option, so they just accepted the new doctor. They also agreed they usually had no idea what he was telling them, but he used lots of official sounding terms, had a fancy office and wore nice ties so they stuck with him.
Next, I stopped by my mechanics to have my tires rotated and oil changed. About an hour later I had my bill, but it wasn’t the $80 I was used to paying. The bill was in bps, or basis points, based on the car’s value. I asked him why and he said they now would charge based on the value of the vehicle instead of how much time, material and expertise was involved with the job. I drive a three-year old Acura with 50,000 miles and somehow my charges increased dramatically even though there was no more work involved than all the previous visits. Looks like I may have to find a new mechanic.
I also needed to get a new pair of shoes. I have worn Sambas since I played soccer in high school. Every few years I need to get a new pair. Well, I decided to stop by a new shoe store and pick up a pair. I walked in and an excited salesperson quickly pulled me over to their wall of shoes and proceeded to tell me all about them. Finally, he stopped talking and asked me what I was looking for. When I told him he then said Sambas were “okay shoes,” but I would be best served with some high end running shoes or expensive basketball shoes, some of which were ten times as expensive as my Sambas. After realizing he was trying to sell me what he wanted instead of listening to me and my needs, I decided it was time to move on.
Finally, I decided to pick up a couple of pizzas for dinner on the way home. I stopped by a pizza shop on the way home and placed my order. About 15 minutes later they brought the pizzas out and the cashier proceeded to tell me – “I get paid two ways. The charges for pizzas and with referrals. I would like you to write down three friends who need pizzas. Once you are done with that we will call them together so you can introduce me.” I quickly provided the names and numbers of my friends who recommended my new physician. It’s the least I could do after they were so helpful with their recommendations.
Okay, so none of this actually happened. Why? Fortunately, the rest of the world does not operate like the big, confusing world of Financial Services industry that I work in. However, I see this kind of stuff all the time.
- Clients accepting a new advisor who may not be a good fit after their previous advisor leaves, simply because it was too much trouble to find a new one.
- Being treated based on your worth/value instead of how complex your financial picture is.
- Having someone tell you what you need instead of ever asking what it is you really want.
- Finally, the most cringe-worthy technique of pestering a client for referrals at every single meeting.
As you know, I set up my firm to break free from the traditional model. I charge a flat-fee based on my knowledge and experience, not a client’s net worth. I like to think I ask good questions so clients let me know exactly what it is they want. And last but not least, if I ever start using cheesy lines like “I get paid two ways” I hope a client fires me on the spot. Actually, I might just fire myself.
I’m Dan Johnson, CFP®, founder of Forward Thinking Wealth Management. I run a flat-fee financial planning and investment management firm located in beautiful Akron, OH. Although I am in Akron, OH, I work with clients regardless of location. I cater to owners of equity compensation positions who are looking to organize their financial lives, keep more of what they make, and do the things they want in retirement and even now.