How to Be Smart in a World of Ignorant Financial Planners

marilyn

Can I be painfully honest with you for a moment? Can I say something that will quite likely make you mad?

Prepare to be shocked.

You know how you’ve been struggling to help more people with your financial planning service? Tried everything, and it’s just not working?

Well, it’s not because people don’t trust you. It’s not because you’re too expensive. It’s not because people don’t understand what the benefit of financial planning is.

It’s something I’ve been holding off telling you for years now, hoping somebody would do the dirty work for me. Because it takes real guts to say something like this. But no one has. So, out of respect for you, I want to tell you the truth.

So, here it is:

It’s because you’re ignorant.

Did I Just Call You Ignorant?

Yes. I’m sorry. And no, I’m not talking about IQ or your analytical qualities. Because those are outstanding.

Yet, I understand if you’ll never visit my blog again after this verdict. Because you might be part of the financial-planner-minority who has a meaningful impact on hundreds, maybe thousands of people with your financial planning service.

The rest of you though?

To you, I’m pleading. And I’m doing it out of love. Because you see, most people have been lying to you. Maybe even your parents. If people ever said these things to you, then you’ll know: 

“To earn a decent living, you need a college degree”

“Knowledge is power”

“You’ll have a job-guarantee when you’ll pass your CFP-exam”

If you ever had this advice, then welcome to my world. Because this is what my dad always told me. “Ronald, you need to get good grades and go to college and pursue a profession that delivers a decent living.”

Now my dad has been a poulterer (a dealer in poultry) his whole life. And he still is. He’s now 64 and at the end of next year he’s going to retire. And he’s really looking forward to it.

And I’m proud of him. I respect him. He has built a successful business from the ground up. Just like many others of his generation he has worked really, really hard to earn a living. And I don’t know what you consider as “working hard” but I believe “working hard” is when you work 6 days a week with the worry of staff, the bookkeeping and all the other worries of a small business entrepreneur.

PS: my dad’s the one on the right

 

And I think I understand why he gave me his advice to get good grades and to look for a decent job. I believe he didn’t want me to work as a poulterer, because he knew what I had to do to have a decent living if I became a poulterer too. I believe he didn’t want that for me.

I think he wanted me to become successful by using my brains. And luckily for him (and for me of course), I was a smart kid. I was good at school and I was especially good with numbers. And because of my number-skills it was to be expected that I become an accountant, or an actuary, or a financial planner.

And there’s a reason why people like my dad believe that financial planners are, by definition, successful.

It’s because “it has always been this way”. It’s because people have this worldview that you still have an information advantage. It’s because you know things, most people don’t know. And you can make a good living out of it, because people are willing to pay for the information they don’t have. In other words, they pay you for your knowledge.

That’s why professor Peter Drucker gave these professions a somewhat wanky name: knowledge workers.

Knowledge workers are people who get paid for putting to work what one learns in school rather than for their physical strength or manual skill

Now, that is exactly what my dad wanted me to be: a knowledge worker.

However, compared with the time when I was a kid and today, there has been a major change in the supply of knowledge and information. For most planners these developments are changing the emphasis of financial planning. Away from left-brained routine, analytical and information-based work. Toward right-brained empathy, narrative finance and comprehensive care.

And It’s Not Just That

Here’s Seth Godin:

Most of your customers have a very simple default frame. If it’s not remarkable or exceptional, ignore it

If you want to have a thriving financial planning service, you need to get smarter. No, not smarter as in pursuing another financial-planning-degree. What I’m referring to, is leaving people with a mind-blowing experience.

Like when seeing Marilyn Monroe for the first time and thinking, “Thank you, my Lord.”

Like when people having a conversation with you and walk away thinking, “Holy crap, that financial planner is amazing!”

Like when people come away from your conversation with a whole new perspective.

And I hear you think: “That’s not necessarily smart. That’s just using your skills.” But I don’t think that’s all it is. Just a few examples:

  • Smart planners are able to find people’s problems by asking the right questions
  • The things smart planners say are truly original. People have never heard it anywhere before. Ever
  • People find themselves thinking about things these planners said weeks or even years into the future

These planners are building magical connections with the right people, and doing work that really matters because they are having an impact. Bottom line is that these planners are truly smart financial planners because they understand what needs to be done to matter.

On the flipside, there’s ‘the rest’ who are some combination of unoriginal, boring, or even forgettable planners.

So, it’s time to ask yourself the question: Which group do you want to belong to?

The Truth About Smart Financial Planners

It’s not only about the work you do. It’s also about who you want to become.

If you’re smart, it’s relatively easy. Your work, your conversations and your relationships are like a strike of lightning. People instantly start talking about you. And referrals will flood your inbox.

But if you’re not smart?

It’s nearly impossible. You can do everything the educators and regulators tell you to do, and you can do it absolutely correctly, and you’ll still fail.

So, does that mean you won’t be able to help more people with your service? Not necessarily. Here’s why:

This isn’t about genetics. This isn’t about inborn talent. This isn’t about fate.

It’s about deciding who you want to be and then making yourself into that smart planner.

How To Make Yourself Smarter

I was not what you would call a very smart person. I was “just” a financial planner. And just like most of you, for years I’d been building my knowledge with the goal of helping more people. In fact, I always thought that people would hire me because of my degrees and extensive knowledge.

But after 12 years of following rigorous financial planning programs, I got fed up with myself.  Because I realised these programs didn’t help me one bit to have more impact. I realized these programs wouldn’t help me to serve more people and to have a thriving financial planning service. I realized there was more to it, than “doing my work and following the rules.”

So, I decided to change things.

Instead of reading tax-magazines, I read business books. Instead of listening to my manager, I listened to audio-books. On the weekends, I stopped writing left-brained summaries, and started writing about right-brain potential. Nobody told me to do it, but I knew I had to do something different to have an impact. To make financial planning matter.

And a crazy thing happened. Within a year people started to call me an expert, asking me for advice, inviting me for conferences all over the world.

Now, you may think this is awesome. I mean, who doesn’t want to be seen as “smart”?

However, I wasn’t prepared for the unexpected. So, if you don’t want to make the same mistake I did, here’s my advice:

Be Prepared For Resistance

More than likely, the financial planner you are right now is going to have severe problems becoming a smarter financial planner.

Why?

Because your environment, your peers, and even the industry won’t support you. They’ll call you strange, off-balance, maybe even soft, or fluffy. They’ll resist who you are becoming. They’ll resist you becoming smarter.

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win ~ Mahatma Gandhi

But don’t blame them. Because these people don’t know that it takes more than building your knowledge and analytical qualities.

You see, probably 95% of every financial planning program is about tax, numbers, laws, mathematics, investment strategies or other left-brained essentials. So, you can’t blame them for not knowing, when financial planners have been brainwashed by our educational system. Because the system teaches us that left-brain-knowledge-building is a gateway for success.

Sure, this may be true when you have an information advantage, when knowledge is scarce, when you still live in the 80s.

But what happens when every bit of information is just one swipe away?

Do You Want To Know What’s Really Painful?

If you want to be a smarter planner, you have to stop spending time with people who used to be of great value to you.

Why?

As Jim Rohn famously said: “You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” There’s no scientific evidence I know of to support him, but pretty much every successful person will tell you it’s true.

I’d be lying to you if I said this was going to be easy, but if you want to become a smarter planner, you have to become something new, change the way you think, how you talk, and yes, leave people who still believe in old-school paradigms.

Want to become a smarter financial planner?

Find planners that are a little better than you are, online, in real life, wherever, and become friends with them. Exchange work, give feedback, talk to them.

At first, it might be painful. You’ll feel like a child going to school for the first time. Eventually though, you’ll get smarter, just by hanging around with them.

And After A While You’ll Find Out

You’ll find out that if you want to be a smarter financial planner, it’s not sufficient anymore to only focus on your existing qualities. If you want to be smarter, you need to fulfill your potential. Or, as I like to call it: your right-brain potential.

That means not just using argument, but starting to use story. Not only giving advice based on logic, but also on empathy. Not just accumulating wealth, but also meaning. Not just service, but also giving. Not just function, but also design.

It will change you. Drastically. You’ll still be you, but you’ll be a better version of you. And you’ll see the results.

Where your service used to get a half-hearted response, you’ll start getting compliments. Where people used to ignore you, they’ll suddenly give you a call. Where you used to only see small growth, your business will thrive within a year.

Not because you’re using some sort of technique.

It’ll happen because you are smart. Slowly and painfully, you’ll transform into someone worth listening to.

Are you ready to be this smart?

Or are you going to be just another ignorant financial planner?

The choice is yours.

Let’s make financial planning matter.

Ronald

 

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Comments

  1. Dennis Edel says:

    Thanks for this article, a couple of points resonated, namely that it isn’t about the qualifications, nor the complex solutions you can implement. Clients expect you to know this. I also found that to demonstrate experience, is the ability to translate theory and complexity into the client’s language. Ensuring that it always links back to their goals and aspirations.
    Thanks for your articles and enjoyed this one. Signed: A NZ based adviser.

  2. Bravo!

  3. The standard issue value proposition doesn’t work, we are perceived as the same and the next guy or gal. How do we generate interest if we sound the same and say the same things? This gets to the heart of the issue. Now, how to stand out?

  4. Ron, thank you for sharing your thoughts. They are inspiring!

  5. Awesome story, now to start changing!! Thank you for putting in the time to get this out… Cheers Benjamin

  6. Although I am finding lesser and lesser time to read now, but can’t resist going through your write-ups with whatever little time is available. (Please correct the typo in the name of ‘Mahatma Gandhi’). Keep guiding with great thoughts, Ronald. Thanks!

  7. Thanks. Great article. Sounds like creating a bug free mind. Check out my website.

  8. You’re a smart guy Ron. The business environment is clearly changing very fast and you are spot on about client expectations and being amazing in what you offer. Business was perhaps too easy in the past for many but those days are gone now with ‘the knowledge’ everywhere.
    Great insight here and your work always worth reading. Be really good to have a coffee next time I’m in Netherlands , thanks again
    S

  9. Thanks!

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