What’s your financial advisor paying attention to?

I often hear financial professionals talk about the wealth they manage. They usually talk about how the market has impacted financial capital. Or about what the next exciting stock is going to do in the next quarter. I rarely hear them talk about their clients.

A lot of financial professionals focus on the net worth of their clients. They may not pay enough attention to what their clients are actually going through in their lives. Do they want to purchase a second home? Are they worried about their children taking over the business? Dreaming of a long-overdue vacation? Just received an unexpected medical diagnosis? These things are the important determinants of their financial situation – not the stock market.

Conversations with my clients about what’s happening in their lives go a long way towards creating a direction for their investments. Time spent in these discussions is a far cry from market forecasting, but it is never wasted.

What you give your attention to makes all the difference.

Who’s Got Your Back?

Have you ever explored the full meaning when someone says, “I’ve got your back?” 

Is it that they’re committed to watching out for you and taking care of things that you are likely to miss?

Are they dedicated to being that second set of eyes and hands for you when necessary?

Is it someone willing to help when you need assistance, even before you know you need it?

How about somebody who will literally enter into a physical battle on your behalf?

Have you ever taken the time to consider who’s got your back in your business? 

Perhaps it’s an advisor who has a single-minded area, whether it be law, accounting, or lending. 

Maybe it’s that individual who’s able to rise 30,000 feet for a broad view of your world and then tell you how your business fits in your life, particularly during stressful times. 

Maybe it’s the person who can keep the bigger picture in mind when aiding you in your day-to-day business battles. Or someone who can pull you aside – despite your protests that you ‘don’t have time’ – and offer strategic perspectives and advice you can trust.

These “have your back” individuals will ask questions that stop you in your tracks, that allow you to take a deep breath while the stress of the moment leaves your body. They do this without fear that their questions might be simple, naïve, or lacking a complete understanding of your business. 

They don’t worry if they’re the biggest thought leader or genius in the room. They’re focused on helping you slow down, making certain that you’re not ignoring the larger implications of whatever task is at hand.

They maintain the big picture, yet they are at the street level, working right alongside you. They open their network and introduce you to the accountant, the attorney, the banker, even the medical professional, and ask them for exceptions on your behalf, all because they truly believe you are exceptional. 

These are the people who see you for who you are, believe in what you are trying to accomplish, and give all they’ve got to help you get there. In effect, fully defining what it means to say, “I’ve got your back.” 

We all need someone like this, don’t we? I know who it is for myself and the impact they continue to make in my world. Who has your back, in your business, and in your life?

AUM vs. LUM

“What’s your AUM, Tom?”

During financial industry conferences and meetings, this seemingly innocent question surfaces almost without fail.

AUM = “assets under management.”

To me, that question is a veiled and vulgar way of trying to find out the total assets being managed by our firm. When using the term “assets,” the person inquiring doesn’t mean the humans and their lives that we’re helping to navigate. Rather, it’s all about the dollars and cents under our direction. The question they’re really asking is, “How much of other people’s money do you control?” To many in our industry, this is the badge of honor that they believe measures success.

I believe that “assets under management” is a crappy way to categorize clients.

I also believe that if all you have is financial capital, then you don’t really have all that much.

While it’s an important data point for valuing a business, it unfortunately doesn’t indicate the true value of a financial professional or their client base. At Note, we have a different standard of that value for both.

We like to think in terms of “lives under management.” 

When considering the “assets” we manage, our focus turns to people we advise. The human beings we help to successfully navigate their personal and financial challenges. Challenges such as:

  • Investing their limited resources of time and money in starting a business. 
  • Taking on the financial capital risks of borrowing money to begin and/or grow a business. 
  • Sweating-out the personal guarantees needed to secure loans in early-stage businesses, or businesses under stress.
  • Lost sleep and compromised health due to the pressures of financial and business risks. 
  • Business distractions that prevent clients from being “present” with their family, spouse or significant other, and the resultant dissatisfaction over a loved one being mentally somewhere else.

Often when we begin advising clients, they find themselves in uncharted waters as we help them navigate their “lives under management.” Yet because of our years of experience, we know the management plan we are creating for them will deliver results. We’ve seen it. We can smell it. We know it, often before those we are working with actually experience it.

We also know that helping people transition their sweat and tears into something of value, and extracting that value over time in the form of financial capital, can give them valued independence. People can live in ways that allow them increased control over their time. They can enjoy extended vacations. They create the ability to transition their business to family or employees, or sell their businesses and move on to their next venture with a smile on their face.

Most importantly, they become fully aware that they are not simply “assets under management.” They are human beings who we value and whose lives we are helping to build and enjoy.

Great Advisors Ask Great Questions

In the decades I’ve spent advising individuals on their businesses and their wealth, I’ve observed that people are often concerned about having the “right answers.” It makes sense. We all want to be correct, feel affirmed, and know we’re on the path of success. However, I’ve learned that to arrive at the “right answers,” you need to ask the right questions. At Note, we believe great advisors ask great questions. The kinds of questions others might not.

Questions you never get to fully contemplate in the day-to-day demands of running your business. 

Questions which, by the time you recognize they should have been asked and addressed, rob you of valued financial capital and time. 

“What made you decide to start this line of work?”  

“Are you still doing it for the same reasons?” 

“What has to happen over the next three years for you to feel professionally fulfilled and successful?” 

“When was the last time you took off a couple of weeks, or even a month, from your work?”

 “If you don’t have the support in place to take a month off or more, what do you think would happen to your business if you become unable to work for an extended period of time due to illness, injury, or premature death?”

These kinds of essential business questions don’t stop there. For many business owners, there are succession concerns that can implicate partners, family, and employees.

“How do you plan on getting out of this business alive?” 

“Are your children working for you? If so, do they expect to own the business someday?”

“Can you identify key employees in your company?” 

“Do they know they are your key employees?”

Some business owners have shareholder involvements. 

“Have you reviewed your shareholder agreement to make sure those integral to your business aren’t robbed of ownership positions, like your children?”

“How might this impact partners and co-shareholders you might have?”

“Does your shareholders agreement address liquidity needs that may occur during their lives—college education funding, unanticipated expensive medical care, helping a child with a home down payment or a grandchild with their education?”

“Can these needs create the unintended consequences of diminished business focus, or loss of a key shareholder?”

There’s also the challenge of managing relationships with varied business advisors.

“Do you have a collaborative team of advisors—an accountant, a tax expert, a lawyer, an operations pro?
“How do you coordinate communication among them all? 

“Do you have one core advisor facilitating such communication? Or do you find yourself spending your business time interpreting the work of each one of your advisors for everyone else?”

“How’s that working for you?”

If any of these questions hit a nerve, I want you to know that I see you and the challenges you’re facing. That’s why I’m passionate about asking great questions that grab your attention and give you pause. Questions that inspire the right answers for your family, your business, your wealth, and your legacy.

If you’d like to start a conversation filled with great questions, I can be reached at Tom@NoteAdvisor.com.

How Would You Rate Your Financial Know-How?

If someone asked you to rate your financial know-how on a scale of 1-7 (with 7 being the highest) where would you place yourself? 

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If you are like the Americans who participated in the 2018 Financial Investor Regulatory Authority (FINRA) National Financial Capability Study (NFCS), you would probably give yourself a pretty high score. 

In that study, 76% of respondents placed themselves in the 5-7 range. The reality is that only 34% of those who participated could correctly answer at least four of five basic financial literacy questions on topics such as mortgages, interest rates, inflation and risk.

Curious about your own answers? Here’s your chance.

Click on this link at the bottom of this post to take the Financial Literacy Quiz. It not only gives you an immediate score, it shows you how you compare to others in your state. 

Whether the quiz confirms your knowledge or serves as a personal wake-up call, the generally low results of the NFCS definitely demonstrate the need to improve financial literacy in our country. The good news is that there’s tangible proof that financial education works.

  • According to the 2018 NFCS, nearly half of Americans (49%) who have received more than ten hours of financial education report spending less than they earn, compared with 36% of people who received less than ten hours of financial education.
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  • Research from the 2020 Council of Economic Education Survey of the States shows that students who receive financial education borrow more sensibly, from student and personal loans to credit cards.
  • Results from the PISA assessment show that young people and adults in both developed and emerging economies who have been exposed to high quality financial education are more likely than others to plan ahead, save and engage in other responsible financial behaviors.

The good news is that whether you are a parent, a teacher, an employer or a concerned member of your community, there are things you can do to help promote financial education for everyone in your community.

  1. The Global Financial Literacy Center offers FastLane, with practical ideas and action plans for groups and individuals.
  2. On CheckYourSchool.org, you can find the schools in your area that offer financial education and the ways you can start/reinforce local financial literacy programs.
  3. DonorsChoose offers lesson plans and activities for educators that have been created by teachers in the field, for teachers. There are also opportunities to find school programs in your own community that you can support.

At the end of the day, there is a growing global awareness that financial literacy is an essential life skill that means not only greater prosperity, but better choices, increased confidence, and the ability to more successfully handle real-life financial challenges. 

Financial literacy isn’t just about math. It is about attaining the knowledge and skills to confidently manage our everyday financial lives and the need for financial education, which is greater than ever locally, nationally, and globally

TAKE THE FINANCIAL LITERACY QUIZ


Parts of this blog were excerpted from an onlne post by Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz,CFP®, Board Chair and President, Charles Schwab Foundation; Senior Vice President, Schwab Community Services, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.; Board Chair, Schwab Charitable

Good Business Fundamentals in any Economy

Over the last three months at Note, we have been engaged in virtual meetings with clients, working on ways to sustain their businesses in these trying, pandemic times. 

Although a crystal ball might seem like the most needed tool in our advisor’s arsenal right now, here are some “good business” fundamentals we regularly share with clients that are important in any economy.

  • Hire the Best CPA, Attorney and Financial Advisor you can afford. Anything less can often become a big expense. Along the same lines, free advice often proves to be the most expensive.
  • Accumulate cash for opportunities and challenges. Keep in mind that other’s challenges may become your business opportunity.
  • Define the Core Values of your business and communicate them to all involved. Make sure to deliver customer service that clearly supports those values
  • Examine how to WOW your customer in a way that Amazon-at-your-door cannot.
  • Invest in the best employees you can attract.
  • Empower your employees to make decisions. Give them a budget for fixing mistakes and providing the highest level of service in their customer interactions.
  • Ask someone brutally honest and unfamiliar with your business or services to act as a customer and then grade their experience.

If you have questions or concerns about your business or need to discuss COVID-19 financial issues, we are here to help. Please contact Sarah Neuner at sarah@noteadvisor.com or (716) 256-1682 to make an appointment to meet in our office, via phone or virtually, online. 

Help Your Finances and Soothe Your Mind

With May designated as Mental Health Month, it seems timely to focus on the important part finances play in our sense of well-being.

Below is information related to understanding the ways money management skills can affect people’s happiness, along with practical steps to stay financially and emotionally healthy.


THE EMOTIONAL SIDE OF MONEY

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by money worries? You’re not the only one. 

According to a 2019 survey by CompareCards.com, seven in ten Americans admit that they’ve cried over something related to their finances. Additionally, age and gender aside, many acknowledge money as an emotional trigger.

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In a 2018 Harris Poll, it was revealed that money was a major source of stress for 44% of respondents. Specific financial stress inducers included low income, the rising cost of healthcare, too much debt and a lack of retirement savings.

These findings are troubling not only because of the significant percentage of Americans who are struggling with money concerns, but because of how those concerns can impact our lives.

FINANCIAL ANXIETY AFFECTS MORE THAN A SPREADSHEET BOTTOM LINE

A number of studies show that financial insecurity leads to a host of other problems from general stress and anxiety to poor physical health and reduced job performance.

Within the medical industry, worries about the cost of healthcare are being defined as, “financial toxicity,” as patients struggle to pay for health and hospital care and prescriptions. Worry about large medical bills and related debt have been proven to cause illness and even increase the amount of pain people feel.

When financial stress hits close to home, it can cause relationship problems among spouses, parents, children and even friends. Additionally children raised in poverty have been shown to suffer from far-reaching physical and mental health issues.

While these are concerning statistics, a 2015 Gallup poll regarding the link between relationship problems and financial well-being offered hope. According to those who participated, the solution to reducing stress and increasing financial security wasn’t as much about the amount of money individuals possessed, but more about how well they managed their money. The good news is that managing money is something everyone can control.


WHAT YOU CAN DO TO FEEL MORE FINACIALLY AND EMOTIONALLY SECURE

Worry is caused by uncertainty. While you can’t know what lies ahead, you can take steps to get a better handle on the present and more fully prepare yourself for the future. The following basic money management tips can help

Know where your money is going

  • Write down your monthly expenses. How much are you spending on essentials like housing, food and transportation? How much are you spending on extras? Make adjustments so that you don’t spend more than you earn.
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Get a handle on debt

  • If you’re carrying credit card balances, create a payment plan that is realistic and that you can manage. Try to pay more on higher interest debt first, making sure to pay at least the minimum on all debts, including student loans.

Plan for emergencies

  • Aim to put aside enough cash to cover 3-6 months of essential expenses in a savings or money market account. Starting from scratch? Aim for whatever regular amount you can afford and work your way up from there. Acknowledge there may be months when your ability to reach that aim will fall short, but don’t give up. Next month get right back on your savings track.

Boost your savings

  • Make savings a part of your monthly budget. Even a small amount saved on a regular basis can make a big difference.

Contribute to your 401(k)

  • Contribute at least enough to get the company match, more if you can.

Take advantage of workplace financial wellness programs

  • See what your company offers in terms of retirement planning, healthcare, and financial education and planning.

MONEY MANAGEMENT AND HAPPINESS

There’s one more Gallup poll that offers particularly positive results. It found that among Americans worried about paying bills, 63% said they enjoyed saving more than spending.

Saving as much as you can, controlling your expenses, and feeling like you’re in control can reduce your financial stress and help you maintain a positive attitude no matter what life throws your way.


This blog was excerpted from an online article by Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, CFP®, Board Chair and President, Charles Schwab Foundation; Senior Vice President, Schwab Community Services, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc.; Board Chair, Schwab Charitable

What I’ve Learned and Relearned as a Financial Advisor During COVID-19

In 2011, a LinkedIn Group led by a man named Joe Paris formed The Operational Excellence Society. The society’s goal is operational excellence by design over coincidence.

A significant impact of this group has been the universalization of the catchphrase “Words Matter.” It’s a simple concept that has encouraged international awareness of how the words we say and how we say them have far-reaching effects, often in ways we may never know.

Over the last three weeks, “Words Matter” has guided me through this new world order in which we are living and working. It’s been a time of stress, challenge, worry and, every once in a while, laughter. Most centrally it’s been a time of choosing words that matter as I have counseled, advised and spoken with family, friends and clients. Through each day’s experiences, this is what I have learned and relearned.

  • I love what I do every day, but especially when I can help clients through challenging times like the one we are now facing. I’ve been asked a lot lately how I’m dealing with the huge influx of COVID-19 calls from clients concerned about their investments and the roller coaster market. My answer is always the same. I truly enjoy engaging in conversations where I can calm people’s fears and help manage their worries.
  • Words matters. Clients turn to all of us at Note Advisors as confident voices in times of “noise” and turmoil. Staying positive and giving sound advice is what our clients need and deserve. It’s a purpose that we honor.
  • People with a financial plan in place are far less anxious than those without one. Enough said!
  • Retirement plans that we’ve designed for our clients are working exactly as intended. People are able to take their needed monthly income while leaving the principal of their investments in the market to recover. Planning plus thoughtful execution equals positive results.
  • For younger clients who think this is the time to stop investing in their 401k or IRA, it’s been rewarding to educate them on increasing their 401k deferrals and putting long term cash to work right now. It’s a huge step in positively shaping their financial outlooks and their futures.
  • Helping all of our clients understand the volatility of the COVID-19 stock market and encouraging them not to make reactive changes is leading to long term positive impacts on their financial futures. It is also developing stronger partnerships between us, as advisors, clients and individuals, as we face this crisis together.
  • The value we, as financial advisors, provide in uncertain times truly makes a difference in the lives of our clients. We are working to develop bonds of mutual respect and trust that are impacting their financial security as well as their personal well being.

As we continue to find ways to manage and move forward in this time of quarantine and social distancing, all of us at Note look forward to hearing from you—to listen to your concerns, hear your questions and partner with you in managing your human, social and financial capital.

In the meantime, because words matter: Stay safe. Stay well. Stay in touch.

To contact Shawn or any Note Advisors team member, call 716-256-1682


Shawn C. Glogowski, CFP® is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ practitioner and Principal/Chief Compliance Officer for Note Advisors, LLC. He is responsible for helping clients create, implement, and monitor their comprehensive financial plans and is truly passionate about the planning process and educating clients on investment, tax, retirement, and estate strategies to meet their needs

Shawn holds a Chartered Financial Consultant (ChFC), Chartered Special Needs Consultant (ChSNC), and Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designations with The American College. He is also an Enrolled Agent with the IRS which allows him to represent taxpayers before the Internal Revenue Service.