Any time I think about the best way to take care of the people who come to me for advice, I get the same picture in my head. It’s of a group of professionals heading down one path together, all focused on what’s best for the client and working as a team to make that happen.
Unfortunately, all too often the stories I hear go more like this:
Joe meets his financial adviser for lunch to discuss the market. “I’m getting sick to my stomach because it’s a roller coaster out there,” Joe says. “I think we need to rein in the risk.” Then he gets in his car and races across town to talk to his CPA – and finds out he’s not getting a tax refund. Later that afternoon, he calls his estate-planning attorney because he realized it’s time to update his power of attorney. And just before he heads home from work he hears from his insurance agent, who tells him the deductible on his home insurance is probably too high – can he come by for a chat?
Joe is pretty sure the professionals he counts on have never made an effort to share their concerns about him or his future, or to talk about how their plans might interact. They probably don’t even know each other’s names. And that means more work for him. He keeps falling into the cracks between where one profession ends and the next begins.
Those cracks may be hardly noticeable at first glance. But Joe is learning that even the smallest ones can trip you up if you’re not paying attention. That’s why I believe in taking a total wealth-management approach – filling in those cracks with deliberate and intentional collaboration.
Teamwork always beats working in silos. Here are some things to look for when building your team:
1. Find professionals who play well with others. You want advisers who check their egos at the door, who don’t think their profession or role is more honorable than someone else’s. Avoid those who hold too tightly to the idea that they should control everything; collaboration is the key.
2. Make sure you’re working with a fiduciary, not a product pusher. Your advisers should be looking out for your best interests and avoid any conflicts of interest.
3. Hold out for a team that’s in it for the long-term. You want people who are in the transformation business, not the transaction business. Look for firms with a reputation for being proactive rather than reactive.
4. Find a team leader who understands the big picture and how all the puzzle pieces fit together. It can be your accountant, your attorney, your insurance agent or your financial adviser – whoever best fits the job. That person should be your go-between, responsible for making sure everyone is communicating and that you’re kept in the loop.
5. Focus on specialization. Get people who have expertise in the things that matter to you. If you’re getting up in age, you may want an elder-law attorney. If you’re close to retirement, you should have a financial adviser who can get your portfolio from the accumulation phase to the distribution phase and a tax expert who knows how to protect your money. If you have a business, you need someone in risk management who handles property and casualty insurance for business owners as well as personal coverage.
These professionals don’t have to be in the same firm – or even the same building. But it’s helpful if they’re all on the same side of town. It will make it easier for you to meet with them and for them to meet with each other.
Their goal should be to help you reach your goals. And you can all start by closing up any cracks in the path to financial success.
Andrew McNair is the president, Investment Adviser Representative and Insurance Professional of SWAN Capital, which he founded in 2012. He specializes in the fields of retirement income, long-term care and wealth preservation and has a strategic partnership with an attorney for estate planning services.
Investment advisory services offered through AE Wealth Management, LLC.
Kim Franke-Folstad contributed to this article.
Andrew McNair is the president, Investment Adviser Representative and Insurance Professional of SWAN Capital, which he founded in 2012. In the same year, he established the Veteran Benefit Project, an organization that helps veterans qualify for VA benefits. He specializes in the fields of retirement income, long-term-care, wealth preservation and has a strategic partnership with an attorney for estate planning services. He has helped inform thousands of individuals about planning for retirement.