In an earlier day, before I knew better, I had an experience that I will never forget. It taught me that, instead of an advisor, I hired a technician.
A gift of stock was given to me by an old, living relative. Being ever thankful, it was enough to finally push me over the edge to find an advisor to guide me in all things financial. A particular individual was recommended to me and, upon interviewing him, seemed like a good one who could help me. He emphasized that he wasn’t a broker; he was a financial advisor. Good to hear.
After reviewing my goals and total financial position, his first recommendation was to diversify the stock gift and he would give me some options that would both grow and protect my holding. After some discussion, we agreed on a plan and he executed the sale and purchases.
All seemed fine until I received my year-end statement that showed I had incurred an ENORMOUS tax bill as a result of this one recommendation. I was totally surprised and confused by it. Upon inquiry, my “advisor” explained that the stock gifted to me was purchased 30 years ago, meaning that the appreciated value was to be taxed upon its sale. Do you know how unhelpful his lame attempt was to educate me on the tax law? Was that supposed to assuage my gut-punch? Why hadn’t that been a part of the conversation? Why didn’t we discuss some alternative strategies to prevent a huge, lump sum payment to the IRS? What other ideas did he have?
I will own up to my part: I placed too much trust in my “trusted advisor.” That was my error. I learned that just because someone tells me they are an advisor doesn’t make it so.
As you reinvent or refine your career to the new reality (and I hope you are because there is no more horizon on your previous trajectory), please remember that your clients need a technician less and less, especially because of the advancement of AI, robots and other technologies. You will never be able to compete as an assembly line worker producing compliance documents, regardless of your expertise and experience. In short order, you will no longer enjoy the fees that your clients pay you now.
What clients need and want from you—and value most—is someone who sees the big picture, understands the ramifications of various options and clarifies the risks associated with opportunities. They want someone to discuss the big questions for which there are no right answers or sure predictions. Only then will your solutions be trusted and considered highly valuable.
You can be that one. You must be that one. This is your opportunity to step into the advisor role where you make your mark on the world. Let this aspiration direct every moment of your work and your career. And PLEASE—don’t let your clients think that, instead of an advisor, they hired a technician.
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