Do Wealth Advisers Need Wealth Advice?

Bryan Chan

Earlier this month, I celebrated my work anniversary at Providend. Since joining the firm as an Associate Adviser in 2019, I have had a wonderful experience and one through which I have learnt an immeasurable amount.

After two years of the best training, mentorship, and work experience, I am delighted to share that I am now a Client Adviser.

My wealth advisory learning journey.

While I was starting out brand new in the wealth advisory space, personal finance, investing and even insurance concepts were never really new to me.

I was originally an economist by training (on account of my bachelor’s degree), before I pursued a part-time master’s degree in professional counselling, and eventually ended up where I am today.

Although I did not have an intentional plan to take that specific winding path to becoming a wealth adviser, I would like to believe that it has given me a good foundation in the relevant mathematical concepts and a way of thinking that is often important in understanding the financial markets; and, some of the skills to be able to engage clients in meaningful advisory relationships, support them in reflecting on their personal values and life goals, as well as help them effectively manage their behaviour as investors.

(If you are interested, I once wrote a short piece in our quarterly Coffeebreak newsletter, and later did an interview with Chris about the winding path I took to get here.)

Along the way, throughout the entire time I was an undergraduate, and eventually while working in operations roles in SMEs to put myself through graduate school, I would also spend much of my free time reading and doing research about the best ways to plan for my own personal wealth.

And now, through my work, I am lucky to have had extensive paraplanning and wealth advisory experience.

All this not to brag, of course (really – because I know that there is always much more to learn both in this space, and in life!), but to say that on a personal level I feel that I should be confident enough, and be in a good enough position, to create and execute a sound wealth plan for myself.

Surprisingly, I often find myself wondering if it would make sense for me to eventually engage a wealth adviser of my own.

Why would I want or need to do that?

It may seem strange, even silly, that despite being a wealth adviser myself, I feel there could be a need for me to consult with a fellow professional when developing my own wealth plan.

I realise this is like the feeling that perhaps some prospective clients, particularly those who feel they are more than capable of gathering the required knowledge to create good plans for themselves, must experience when they wonder why they should need an adviser at all.

Isn’t the do-it-yourself (DIY) route cheaper? Isn’t most, if not all, the information is readily available everywhere on the internet? If I learn or know enough, why do I need to seek advice?

For me, the answer lies in my belief that the best wealth advice is so much more than an understanding of planning methodologies and a deftness with numbers. Aside from the knowledge that I have gained over time, I find that I have also learnt that the right wealth adviser can provide a level of assurance that can be hard to find elsewhere.

Of course, my personal belief in the value of high-quality wealth advice, and perhaps my human need to justify my choice of career could be a very real cause of bias. Still, I have decided that as soon as my wealth grows reasonably, and my life becomes a little more complex, or perhaps when retirement is just a little closer at hand, that I would seek appropriate advice.

Here are some of the reasons behind that decision.

Validation of my plan.

Wealth planning as a solo activity can be scary.

For those of us with the time and knowledge, creating a wealth plan on our own is a real possibility. The problem is that as individuals, it is difficult to know what it is that we do not know or what we might be missing. There is always the chance that we make a crucial human error even though we check our own work.

Everyone has blind spots, and where wealth is concerned, it can be very costly when they go unnoticed or ignored. That is why, at Providend, even for professionals, we take time to go through internal supervisory approvals, and consultations with the solutions and investment teams, where necessary, to ensure that the plans we create for our clients are sound.

We have come across clients who have done thorough online research and even planned out a sort of bucketing strategy (mimicking RetireWell) for themselves based off the information that Chris and others at the firm share openly online. But they came to see us anyway.

What such clients were really looking for in an adviser (and a team) was for a second opinion. Someone to check their work, ask important clarifying questions, suggest changes based on the best practices, validate what they have planned, and to ultimately support them in executing it well.

Having a team to back me up and provide that kind of assurance and peace of mind, especially when it involves my key life goals is very important.

Change is constant.

One of the other difficult parts about wealth planning is that it is not a one-off exercise.

Our lives change, the markets change, the prevailing policies and laws change, the range of accessible instruments changes, new research is done, and new methodologies emerge. Keeping abreast of all these developments and how it may affect the way you should plan for your wealth is not easy. Not all these changes may require actions to be taken, but some of them certainly might.

I have the benefit of access to most of this information through my daily interactions at the firm, internal training sessions and updates from our investment and solutions teams which ensures that as advisers, and as a firm, we remain up to date.

As an individual, though, this would be, in my opinion, an all-consuming task. You would need to spend countless hours doing the appropriate research, thinking about the implications of any given changes in the world or your own life, and figuring out how to apply it to your wealth plan each time, if needed.

A good wealth plan is supposed to give you freedom, not become a time sink. That is why I believe that sharing the load with a trusted wealth adviser can be so valuable.

Facilitating some of life’s important conversations.

My colleague, Eleanor, recently wrote a post about getting the best value from your wealth adviser. She mentioned how Providend’s planning process begins with a meeting at which your adviser will use coaching questions to encourage self-discovery.

This piece of the wealth advisory experience, skilfully done, goes a long way in helping clients to clarify on their life purpose, values, and priorities, and is essential if you want to create a wealth plan that really reflects and emphasises the things that you feel are truly important in life.

I would add that this self-discovery process is not always easy to replicate outside of a conversation with a skilled, neutral, trusted party. In addition, such sessions are also helpful as conversations are not just between the adviser and the client, but also the client’s spouse.

Sometimes, conversations about money can be tough, especially when spouses have differing money values or beliefs. And they can be made even more difficult when one party is better read about personal finance and much more involved in managing the household finances than the other.

More often though, these conversations can be a fun way for spouses to share about their values, hopes and dreams in a way that they may not have had the time or chance to do before, particularly for the one who is quieter about money.

Although I would like to think that I can have these conversations on my own, I recognise that finding a skilled third party to guide them can make a big difference to the outcomes.

Wealth plans are about your loved ones as much as they are about you.

I think well over ninety-five per cent of our clients seek our support in creating comprehensive wealth plans with their loved ones’ well-being in mind. Perhaps that is reflective of the kind of clients we attract, or perhaps that is simply human nature.

Either way, while being competent and savvy when it comes to your wealth is a good thing, the same may not be true of your loved ones. Ideally, you will eventually be able to teach them and pass on that knowledge (and enthusiasm). But that may not be the case.

They could be less financially inclined, generally less interested in wealth and personal finance, or in the worst case, you may not be around long enough to finish teaching them.

To me, that is why a relationship with a wealth adviser (and a firm) that you can trust is vital in ensuring that your wealth plan goes beyond yourself. It would be of great comfort to me to know that if I can no longer be around, I can count on someone I trust to support my future wife and children in making sound financial decisions.

Wealth advisory partnerships.

When looking for a wealth adviser, I will really be searching for a partnership. One that provides me with assurance that my own wealth plan is sound, that it is adjusted appropriately as life changes, and that it truly reflects my values. I would also want to make sure that my loved ones will receive the best possible support when eventually creating and executing plans of their own.

And that is precisely the kind of partnership we strive to cultivate with our clients.

This is an original article written by Bryan Chan, Client Adviser at Providend, Singapore’s First Fee-Only Wealth Advisory Firm.

For more related resources, check out:
1. A Stitch in Time Saves Nine – Do Both Annual Health & Financial Screening
2. The Relentless Pursuit of Better Investment Options (Part II)
3. Why Buy Term and Invest the Rest Is Not the Whole Story

We do not charge a fee at the first consultation meeting. If you would like an honest second opinion on your current estate plan, investment portfolio, financial and/or retirement plan, make an appointment with us today.

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