Just as fall is the time we review employee benefits for those of you who work for an employer, the beginning of the year is the time when we create your planning checklists for 2018, and review your insurance to make sure your coverage is appropriate for where you are in life.
We actually pull a list of everyone we've ever done life insurance for, and I have a couple of fun stories to tell that have nothing to do with life insurance. There are always a few blast from the past names on this list, and sometimes we'll also see notes on other financial decisions those clients - some current and some former - made. These notes sometimes highlight why it's important to have a financial plan - and a financial planner who will be straightforward with you and not just tell you what you want to hear.
For example, let's call this former client Mr. X. He started working with us in 2008, and we created a plan that he and his wife did work hard to implement over the next couple of years. Even though they are now former clients, we did them a service by helping them get to a better position moving forward, and we helped them avoid some potential potholes they'd overlooked. While I haven't talked to them in some time, I bet that they'd tell you we helped them get to a better place today.
So, you're wondering, why aren't they still clients? Well folks, this is where I had a good chuckle remembering this story. In 2009, he called our office and said he wanted to pull some money out of his IRA, and he certainly wasn't retired. We suggested that he take the money out of a non-qualified accounted for tax purposes, but he insisted that he wanted to take the money out of the IRA and didn't care if he paid penalties. We asked him what he planned to spend that money on, and he told us that he had no intention of spending the money, he simply wanted to know that he could get it out. This was during the market correction of 2009, and he'd lost all faith (as some of you might have this week!) in the financial markets. We told him that yes, he could take the money out, but that it made no sense to do so. He then told our staff that the customer is always right.
This is where we pause and just shake our heads. It's like watching that character on your favorite TV show do something cringe-worthy, and all you can do is grip the couch cushion, clutch your coffee mug and think, "he did NOT just say that!"
We are in the financial services industry, and I am all about good customer service. But I know for a fact that the customer is not always right! When our team is cornered by a runaway client, well, that's where we draw the line. Mr. X did take that withdrawal, and to the best of my knowledge, he paid the taxes and penalties, and put it in the bank. Since then, they have continued to pay their life insurance premiums, and I imagine they're still saving in their 401(k)s and keeping their debt low, and the markets most likely have given them some great returns since 2009. Hopefully they're making progress on the financial plan we made for them way back when. I still shake my head, and I do wish them the best.
During this time when we're conducting these life insurance reviews, we also encounter those three to five clients each year who come in, pay our fee, have us create a plan for them.....and then do nothing. If I owned a gym and I got you to sign up for a year-long pass in January, or I run a movie theater and sold you unlimited passes for the year, I'd be totally fine if you never came back. I'd have that much more room to sell additional passes. The problem is, we don't have a theater and we aren't running a gym.
In working with our clients, we know everyone has different goals and objectives, and we know all of you who do something other than financial planning for a living are lazy financial planners. I get it. I don't like to prepare my taxes, fix my computer, or iron my clothes. And despite my attempts, I'm terrible at diagnosing my own illnesses. We're all good at something, and those things seem easy because you do them all the time. We truly enjoy financial planning, and we don't want to meet with you just to meet with you. We want to help make sure your family is in a better situation each time you come in. Plus, people are watching to see if you're successful. Then they'll ask who you're working with, and when you send them our way, we have the opportunity to help even more families work toward their goals.
Yes, we are capitalists - don't you want your financial planner to be one? We do have to charge you so we can feed our families and work toward our own goals. But I hate to see our team create a plan that gets treated like a gym membership. They paid a fee and think their life will get incrementally better just because they have a financial planner. Folks, we never want to be that hip! We want to help you make your goals become reality for you and your family, and even if some of your goals are not realistic, we want to help you find ways to make them realistic.
So, my challenge to all of you is to be like Jerry and Rod
- help us help you. Let's make sure you're making financial progress in 2018.