Financial planning is about more than products
As a Financial Planner I am in the very fortunate position of meeting a wide variety of people. They all have different backgrounds, experiences and are at different stages along their journeys. I have laughed with clients, and I can honestly say I have cried with clients, as they have shared their lives with me. Love, loss, fear, success and failure. My time with my clients has enriched my life and reminded me to be grateful, to seize the day, to understand different perspectives and to be patient.
While all of the clients I meet are unique, they often forget this when they first come in to meet me. Perhaps this is due to pre-conceptions. Of course, pre-conceptions about pensions and investment markets and so on. But more specifically, pre-conceptions about what we actually do.
So, what is Financial Planning. Real Financial Planning.
I frequently arrive to a first meeting to find a client is holding a folder or paperwork in their hands. It may contain some bank statements, it will usually contain details of some former or existing pension policies and maybe investments. I am frequently asked if they are invested in the right fund? Are the fees high? Have they funded enough? These are all valid questions and are important for sure. But should financial planning be centred on financial products? In my opinion, the answer is no, it should be centred on people.
It may be due to past experience. It may be due to the advertising on TV and Radio, pushing the latest fund, mortgage, savings plan etc. But to me, a client shouldn't be reduced to a stack of policy documents. The most important thing in the room is the person sitting across from me. Their story, their family, their personal and financial goals. If I don't know where you are and where you want to go, how can I honestly claim to able to advise you on what to do next?
Yes, clients need to invest in appropriate portfolios, make use of tax efficiencies and fund correctly. But these aspects are just tools or peripheral elements to help facilitate the main plan. If I could use the analogy of a road trip. Financial products might be the nuts and bolts that help the engine to run. But a Financial Plan is the people in the car, the route and most importantly the destination.
Sometimes clients haven't really thought about what their goals are. Often, they have never been asked. I often meet couples who have been so busy with their careers and raising a family that they haven't actually discussed their long term goals together. Financial Planning Sessions can help to tease out these ideas and then create focus.
Understanding funds, protection policies and pension funding should be the bare minimum expected from a Financial Planner. It is after all their area of expertise. Understanding your unique situation and crafting a solution to bring you on your journey in the best way possible is what sets apart real Financial Planning from merely selling financial products.
Senior Financial Planning Consultant
Padhraic has over 12 years in the pension and investment industry having worked with Aon Hewitt before joining Invesco in 2012. He has expertise in all aspects of financial advice including investment and retirement planning, but specialises in cash flow modelling and goal orientated financial planning. Padhraic is a Financial Planner (CFP®), a Qualified Financial Advisor (QFA) and an Associate of the Irish Institute of Pension Managers (AIIPM).