Bill Keen is the Founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors and the Best-Selling Author of Keen on Retirement.
The past two years have taught us many lessons. Between the Covid-19 pandemic and the numerous conflicts around the globe, the world seems to be in a perpetual state of crisis that leaves many of us feeling anxious about the future.
For financial advisors, fear and anxiety in the world raise a red flag because this is when knee-jerk decisions can derail the best-laid financial plans. As I’ve written about before, the fight-or-flight response can be triggered during these times, causing people to make decisions that can irreparably damage their future. This, despite the fact the market has historically recovered and grown in the face of the “unprecedented times” we’ve seen in the past.
One of the biggest lessons I’m reminded of during times like this is the importance of open and honest communication between financial advisors and those they serve. I’ve found it can be an antidote to the fear and anxiety many people feel during turbulent moments. On both sides of the equation, there are responsibilities to ensure the communication remains strong.
Avoid The Temptation To Disconnect
The past two years have amplified feelings of anxiety in millions of people. According to medical professionals, one of the symptoms (and causes) of anxiety is isolation, which can “have a profoundly negative emotional impact, in a way that few people even realize.”
In times when anxiety is heightened (e.g., right now), the temptation can be to disconnect and stop communicating with people who are important to you. This extends to friends, family members, colleagues and, for the purposes of this discussion, financial advisors.
The danger of isolating and breaking off communication with your advisor is that it can come in combination with a desire to make emotional decisions during times of uncertainty, which can lead to permanently damaging your financial future.
I’ve written elsewhere about productive ways to deal with the fear you might feel when global events like war pop up and seemingly upend the markets. In addition to dealing with any fear you feel, your other responsibility is to recognize when you’re tempted to cut off communication with your advisor, and instead of going down that road, pick up the phone and call them.
This, of course, assumes you have a healthy, trusting relationship with your advisor—and if you don’t, I’d look to remedy that first. During times like these, it is important for advisors to make time for clients who need an ear to listen and reassurances that their plan is intact, no matter what their fear (or other outside voices) might be saying.
What To Expect From Your Advisor
Your advisor should be in regular communication with you. That communication may vary from advisor to advisor or your personal preference. Ultimately, you should have regular yearly check-in meetings. At Keen Wealth Advisors, this is either face-to-face or over Zoom. The team typically has quarterly calls with a specific purpose in mind. In the first quarter, the team generally calls with tax-related questions, while in the fourth quarter, they’ll review client accounts to see if they have taken care of required minimum distributions and any charitable contributions the client would like to make.
In the middle of the year, the team calls to assess whether any big life changes have happened. Was there a new grandchild? Are you planning on moving? Did you co-sign on a student loan? Even though there’s a questionnaire we’re working through on each call to get the meaningful data we need, our aim is to always keep the calls conversational. In fact, many of the individuals we speak with don’t know we’re working through a questionnaire because of how we approach calls.
One-To-One And One-To-Many
The communication cadence I described above is one-to-one communication, and it’s the cornerstone of an advisor-client relationship. The team and I also believe it’s important to engage in one-to-many communication, which has been aided in recent years by technological developments like web conferencing, social media and live video platforms.
For example, the regular cadence for one-to-many communication for my team is a blog post and podcast episode every two weeks, a monthly financial planning webinar and Forbes article, a quarterly market outlook, and content for social media that is posted regularly every week.
What the team aims for is multiple ways someone can plug into the firm’s thinking, and because everything posted lives online, they can check it out at their convenience. This type of communication can allow you to educate and inspire clients and friends, as well as help people cut through the noise whenever the world gets a little chaotic.
The combination of one-to-one and one-to-many communication has been hugely successful for my team, and it’s a significant part of what we believe makes a financial advisor so valuable to clients.
Communicate, Don’t Isolate
The pandemic and other world events might have kicked up some anxiety or fear about your financial future. It’s totally understandable, and I can say with certainty that you’re not alone in those feelings. It’s what happens next that’s most important.
Make sure you have an advisor who excels at one-to-one and one-to-many communication so that no matter what’s going on in your life, you can plug into how they’re thinking. And if you need a more personal touchpoint, pick up the phone and call or set an appointment to go see them. Rather than cutting off communication, lean into it. You’ll be thankful you did.
The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.
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