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FA Center: 3 lessons from financial advisers who need help managing their own portfolio

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Even experts need experts. Accountants may hire an outsider to do their taxes. Doctors turn into patients when it’s their turn to get a checkup. And some financial advisers enlist another planner to keep their financial house in order.

The vast majority of advisers handle their financial planning on their own. With luck they practice what they preach to clients: make a plan; stick to it, and adjust along the way to ever-changing life events.

Yet some of them benefit by paying a peer for financial advice. In early 2020, Brooklyn Brock launched her own practice. After several years learning the ropes at her family’s advisory firm — she’s a third generation financial planner — Brock set up shop with an eye toward an untapped niche: helping other financial advisers. She offers financial planning and exit coaching (consisting of continuity planning and succession planning). She does not offer investment management.

In 2019, Brock had heard industry guru Michael Kitces speak at a financial planning conference. When he said that if he were to start a firm, he’d focus on other advisers, Brock took notice. “I thought, ‘That’s the niche for me,’” says Brock, a certified financial planner in Tulsa, Okla. “He said that he knew how much advisers earn and that most of them are business owners,” so they face complex financial challenges.

It’s said that doctors with a great bedside manner struggle when diagnosing their own family. Similarly, advisers who excel at helping clients may not necessarily oversee finances within their own household with equal success.

From working with other advisers, Brock shares three lessons that apply to the rest of us as well:

1. Seek listeners, not lecturers: The best experts don’t impose their personal beliefs on clients or spoon-feed solutions to them. Instead, they listen and ask lots of open-ended questions before they offer answers. “Money is so personal,” Brock said. “It’s so different for everyone.”

If she disagrees with a client, she asks, “Why do we think about it this way?” This leads them to discuss their priorities and values in search of more nuanced answers to tough money questions.

2. Step back and see the big picture: Investors can get caught up in small ball—obsessing over a particular stock or fretting over a lavish purchase. But tunnel vision often proves counterproductive.

“Your insurance, your investments, your retirement date, saving for your kid’s college—it’s all connected,” Brock said. “It’s hard to solve one problem without looking at the broader picture.”

3. Follow the fees: When hiring any professional service provider, demand fee transparency. Establish in advance what you’re paying — and what you’ll get in return.

Brock guides prospective clients to an online fee calculator so that they can get a head start in understanding the cost of her services. From there, they review the calculations and the complexity of their financial planning needs before finalizing her annual fee. She customizes her charges so that clients only pay for what they need and what scenarios both parties anticipate will unfold in the year ahead.

More: How financial advisers can talk about their fees so clients understand just how much they’re paying

Also read: All the ways older people mismanage their money — and how to avoid them

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