The financial services industry typically divides the world of “wealth management” into areas of technical expertise – investments, insurance, banking, taxes, retirement planning, estate planning, etc.
Though this approach has produced an impressive array of financial services and products over the years, experience suggests it is insufficient; a remarkably high percentage of people who have lots of money are not taking as good care of their financial situation as they could.
At McKinley Carter, we think this is in part because advisors and clients have focused too little attention on developing clients’ core capabilities to think and act effectively on behalf of their own financial future.
For instance, there are many advisors who help clients design complex estate plans for the benefit of their children, but relatively few who help clients nurture the development of the knowledge, skills and moods their children will need to make the most of inherited wealth.
Similarly, many advisors are keen to help young adult and midlife professionals and executives manage investments and acquire insurance, but few help those clients think through strategies to optimize the value of their biggest asset — their career.
Accordingly, in addition to providing expert help with technical financial issues, McKinley Carter also provides clients with the coaching and coordination services they need to take the best possible care of their personal finances.
A first step toward helping clients take better care of their own financial situation often focuses on record-keeping — compiling and maintaining an updated inventory of the assets, obligations, current and future sources of income, and spending patterns, that make up each client’s total financial situation. Though most financially secure clients are smart enough to put much of this information together on their own, most do not get around to it. For this reason, each McKinley Carter client is assigned a “coordinating advisor” whose job it is to gather and continually update a detailed account of each client’s total financial situation.
McKinley Carter advisors also help many clients take better care of their own financial situation by promoting and projecting moods of prudence – that is, moods that support the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason. The most common reason that clients do not take as good care of their finances as they could is that moods of naiveté, greed, fear, despair, resignation, and arrogance drive financial decision-making in unproductive directions. We believe that often the greatest value we can bring our clients is helping them avoid costly mistakes associated with imprudent moods.
Probably the most important capability that advisors need to help clients develop is articulating a personal financial ambition and then aligning all financial strategies with that ambition. While the advisor’s role is to make sure the ambition is coherent with marketplace realities, this area of client work focuses mostly on financial matters the client is the expert on – such as what it costs to live a good life, when to retire, and what to do when there is “more than enough”. For most clients this involves conversations about personal preferences, family, career, and community more than it does stocks and bonds, interest rates, and economic conditions.
The final focus for McKinley Carter’s coaching and coordination services is generating client action. Our clients are often too busy making money, taking care of family, or being involved in the community to perform and coordinate the activities needed to take the best possible care of their total financial situation. For this reason, McKinley Carter has invested in real structures (staffing, information technologies) keeping track of what financial projects are being worked on, who is going to handle which tasks in those projects, and when those tasks need to be completed. In this respect, we analogize our role to that of a personal trainer – if our clients are not doing the financial equivalent of meeting us at the gym and sweating, then we may not be doing our job.
The coaching and coordination services described above are a supplement to, not in lieu of, the technical expertise we offer our clients regarding the more traditional financial services such as investments, insurance, banking, taxes, retirement and estate planning. This integrated approach allows advisors and clients to build an operational framework that makes optimal use of our help in both domains in order to achieve the ultimate objective – maximizing the client’s financial capacity to live a good life.