Taking the path to financial health

    Better done in partnership with a professional*.

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    Rob Macdonald, Head of Strategic Advisory Services, Fundhouse

    Rob Macdonald has held several senior positions in the investment industry. At Fundhouse, he acts as a consultant and coach to financial advisors and develops and facilitates training programmes in behavioural coaching and practice management. Before joining the financial services industry, Macdonald was MBA director at the UCT Graduate School of Business. He is co-author of the book Rethinking Leadership and has consulted, written and spoken widely on a range of topics. Macdonald has a Master’s degree in Management Studies from Oxford University and is a CFP® Professional.


    I had a meeting recently with an extremely capable and experienced schoolteacher. Inevitably our conversation turned to matters financial, not always an easy topic for schoolteachers, a notoriously underpaid profession. This teacher said that he didn’t know if he would have enough money by the time he retired. I asked him if he knew how much money he had in his retirement fund at that point. He didn’t. He was living in hope that he would have enough by the time his days of earning a salary ended. But in case he didn’t have enough, he was too scared to look. After all, if he did look, it might require him to take action. It might even require change. A different job? A second career? A side hustle? Much easier not to go there. No surprise that he turned down my suggestion to consult a financial planner.

    But he is not alone. I have friends in better-paying professions than teaching, who after 30-year careers have not consulted a financial planner. As a result, they have had varying degrees of success in both life and money. What is it that stops a person from consulting a professional financial planner? Is it simply a case of putting one’s head in the sand, or is there something more? After all, if we look at any successful sportsperson, they have invariably not achieved their success on their own, but with the help of a coach.

    Our money and our lives are too important for us to try to go it alone.

    I don’t think I need to convince financial planners that our money and our lives are too important for us to try to go it alone. Yes, there is much that people need to take ownership of in both, but if you are wanting to encourage clients to work with you, I believe there is a a free lesson from the sports arena which you could share with clients.

    Nick Kyrgios, widely regarded as the most talented male tennis player in the world, has yet to win a Grand Slam. His best effort has been playing against Novak Djokovic in a Wimbledon final. The challenge that Kyrgios faces is that he refuses to work with a coach. He believes he knows better. And I’m comfortable predicting that without a coach he’ll never win a Grand Slam. None of us know what we don’t know.

    When talking with a client about their life and money, I believe it’s critical to explore with them their perspective on working with a professional like yourself. There is no point in continuing to invest in a client who will not or cannot see the value of a financial advisor. However, even if you start with the right level of mutual understanding, you cannot take it for granted.

    I believe it is the job of financial planning professionals to build and continually reinforce the client’s trust in them and the process. This involves key personal skills: being clear and confident in the value you offer; recognising that sound advice lands best on the back of connecting emotionally with clients; being curious about their lives; collaborating with them as they make decisions; communicating consistently and being courageous at critical times. It’s not just the schoolteacher with his head in the sand who needs a professional partner with these skills. We all do.

    *The ideas in this article are explored more fully in my forthcoming book: The 7 Pillars of Financial Health – Partnering with a Professional to Thrive, to be published this September by Vindigo Press.