Managing Your Money

Truth and Clarity in Financial Advice

I had a conversation last week about brakes. Car brakes. About the cost of brakes today, versus brakes years ago. Something about, you just needed to change the brake pads, and now there’s a whole drum or disk or something like that. I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about, but honestly, I know nothing about car brakes and really didn’t understand the difference. And in the context of this particular conversation, it wasn’t important for me to understand the mechanics of car brakes, to get the point that was being made. Why am I bringing this up?

We all have different backgrounds and different levels of knowledge about various topics. And it’s not necessarily related to our level of intelligence or education. Yet so many people are shy or embarrassed to ask questions about stuff they don’t understand. Be it at the doctor, the mechanic, or the investment advisor.

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Now, I get that sometimes we don’t understand something, and don’t really care. As in the case of the car brakes. I like cars, and I’m interested in cars, and I have some curiosity about how they work. But in this case it really wasn’t that important to me in the context of the conversation.

The financial industry can be complex, especially for those who don’t have a financial background or an interest in finance. I have clients who are brilliant doctors, engineers, and scientists, who have a hard time getting their heads around certain financial concepts. And it’s nothing to be shy about! The important thing is being able to ask questions and feeling comfortable enough to say, “I don’t understand”.

Two days after the car brake conversation, I had clients with whom I patiently spent half an hour helping them to understand how their RRIF works and the taxation of it. It was the third time that I reviewed these same points with them. And throughout, I was thinking about the car brakes, and patiently recognizing that what is simple to me in finances is complex to them.

Whether it’s your accountant, lawyer, or investment advisor, having a relationship where you feel comfortable enough to ask questions is the key to success.  I often have clients who say “can I ask you a stupid question?”, and I swear, in my 20+ years as a financial planner, I have never considered one of those questions to be even remotely stupid. Now, if my colleague in the office next door asked me these same questions, I might give him a funny look. But for those who don’t spend their time immersed in financial literacy, I believe there is never a stupid question.

The bottom line here is that you are ultimately responsible for yourself and your decisions. Being in relationships with advisors, be it financial, legal, or medical, where you are not comfortable enough to be authentic in your understanding, can only be a detriment to you. It’s not at all to say that your advisor is not great, but if you don’t feel a strong enough connection to be “real”, consider taking the opportunity to meet another professional or two, and see if you sense a better connection. When you have no hesitation to ask a question, or say “I don’t understand”, you’ll know you’ve found a good match.

A good advisor in any field, should be able to provide you with enough understanding for you to make an informed decision, without bombarding you with so much information that it leads to confusion. This can sometimes be a subtle distinction. Surrounding yourself with advisors whom you trust and are comfortable with, will also help you to feel empowered in your own life and decision making. Your gut will usually tell you in the first few minutes of a conversation if you sense the beginnings of a good connection. Sometimes the hard part is listening to that gut feeling.  So take a step back and think about the connections and relationships you currently have with your professional advisors.

Important Note:
Alison Lush, Professional Organizer, and I will be presenting some workshops together, with tips and tricks for living an organized life, both financially and otherwise. These events will be in spring 2017 (dates TBD).  Please contact us at 514-981-5796 to receive a complimentary invitation to these workshops.

Lynn MacNeil, F.PL. Vice President, Investment Advisor, is a Financial Planner with Richardson GMP Limited in Montreal, with over 20 years of experience working with retirees and pre-retirees. For a private financial consultation, or more information on this topic or on any other investment or financial matter, please contact Lynn MacNeil at 514.981.5795 or [email protected].

The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of Lynn MacNeil and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Richardson GMP Ltd. or its affiliates. The comments contained herein are general in nature and are not intended to be, nor should be construed to be, legal or tax advice to any particular individual. Accordingly, individuals should consult their own legal or tax advisors for advice with respect to the tax consequences to them, having regard to their own particular circumstances. Richardson GMP Limited, Member Canadian Investor Protection Fund.

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