1 on 1 Help!

This is what we do at PlanVision – it is kind of important to our whole business model.  It’s the energy of our firm – helping regular people in the middle class on a one-on-one basis.  We do it in 1 minute increments, or in hour long sessions, whatever it takes, wherever and whenever our clients want (well, within reason). Why and how do we do it?  Because we know it works – and what else would we do!

Rick Ferri wrote very well about the continued role and importance of personal assistance in the financial services industry here. These are the principles that have helped shape how we provide guidance to our clients:

1)  Financial planning, and advising, can be simplified for almost everyone.  It does not need to be some mysterious process that can only be known to industry insiders.

2) People do not necessarily need to meet with an advisor regularly to review their financial stuff – see point 3! Some people like that, it helps them feel more comfortable about what they are doing, but for many people it is just not necessary.

3) For most, simply having an advisor available for a quick call or meeting to bounce an idea off of, get a second opinion, or clarify a question or concern is more important than an account review.

4) Seminars at work, or provided by advisory firms in public, can be a good way to supplement personal meetings.  However, they have serious limitations and are far less effective than 1 on 1 guidance, for all these reasons.  Besides, almost all advisors use seminars for business growth.  They are fishing for clients – so be wary of the content at these events.

5) People learn when they are ready – when it fits into their life or an event forces them to learn more.  We do not provide guidance on our terms – we are available when they want to start.

6) People want to know how investments and financial planning affect their situation – not just in theory. How does this stuff impact me and what do I need to do about it?

7) Generally speaking, people learn about this stuff incrementally.  Lengthy meetings that review several topics are not as effective, we believe, as a series of shorter interactions which all build upon prior information.

8) Regardless of where they are in life, people start at different points when it comes to their understanding of investments and financial matters – so we begin our work at their starting point.  We never assume anything about our clients’ level of understanding.

9) While some people will actually read retirement plan or investment materials, most people don’t, regardless of how well written.

10) On-line retirement calculators and tools, while somewhat useful, have a low adoption rate. And in our view, they do not explain the built-in assumptions and risks in modeling, do not account for all of the variables that can affect someone’s future, and do not provide much interpretation – people have difficulty putting context on the results.

11) Advisors should charge, in almost all cases, a flat fee for their service.  They should be able to gauge how much time it will take to provide this level of guidance to a plan sponsor.  Charging on a percentage of assets can affect their recommendations, as will generating commissions or referral fees.

12) Almost everyone likes personal guidance when they enroll in a plan.  This event should take anywhere from 10 minutes to 25 minutes depending upon an employee’s experience and the mechanics of the enrollment process.  It will involve a quick review of the plan, an explanation of the investments and fees, an idea of the client’s experience with retirement plans and investments, the actual process of completing the enrollment, and some suggestions or recommendations on investments that make the most sense for their situation.

13) Finally, there are many people who simply have no interest in learning more about their investments and their plan.  They just want to be told what to do.  They may or may not even want to know the rational for recommendations.  However, if they can receive good guidance that does not take advantage of their situation, they could end up ok.