Managing Your Money

Curiosity is the foundation of understanding. And this is especially true in relationships, both personal and professional. In a professional relationship, be it with your doctor, lawyer, or wealth advisor, having the feeling that your needs, wants, or goals are being understood will lead to a higher likelihood of success and satisfaction.  Genuine curiosity will provide the questions that will lead to that understanding.

After a few recent episodes of low blood sugar, I visited my doctor last week. Since I’m otherwise perfectly healthy, he could have quickly given me a requisition form for blood tests and sent me on my way. But he didn’t.  He started asking questions, lots of questions. His curiosity led to me describing the fear and panic I experienced years ago when I saw my dad fall into a diabetic coma from low blood sugar. Then he asked me a very good question. And I’ve wondered to myself since that appointment how many doctors actually ask their patients this question. He asked, “What’s your biggest concern?” and then followed with, “What was your goal coming here?” I felt like he understood that it wasn’t just the low blood sugar that was concerning me, but a deeper fear. I explained that I really wasn’t that worried about the few incidents I had, and that I would start monitoring my diet more closely, but that my goal was to rule out anything more serious that could be causing it. I left feeling understood and that he cared.

Whether you’re buying something, shopping for a service, or working with a professional, everyone wants to feel understood. If I walked in to a car dealer and told the salesperson that I was shopping for a car, and they jumped into all the amazing safety features of this beautiful sedan without finding out that I was looking for a two-door sports car, I would feel like they didn’t care what was important to me, and I’d probably look elsewhere.

Likewise, when it comes to the management of your money, debts, taxes, investments, and your overall wealth planning, being and feeling understood will significantly increase your likelihood for success. It goes without saying that you want your various advisors to have the necessary qualifications and experience for the services you require. But when you consider your wealth management needs, the focus of your advisor should be on your values and objectives, which are the basis for your motivations, and not the hottest stock, or best performing mutual fund. Truly having a curiosity to know and understand you will lead your advisor to ask the right questions. Many advisors are very knowledgeable and tend to tout their expertise, but as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

I recently met with a couple in their 80’s who were referred to me. They started off by telling me about how they had recently lost money in an investment and they were unhappy with the advice they were getting. I took a quick look at the investment, and there was nothing wrong with it. Unfortunately, they may not have been properly informed about it by the advisor, or maybe they didn’t quite understand the possibility of fluctuations.  In any case, it went down soon after they bought it, they panicked and sold, and now they were upset about losing money. It turns out, as in most cases like this, that the advisor hadn’t asked them many questions.  I was curious to understand their ideas about money.

My first question was “What was your childhood like, financially?” I learned about some tremendous hardships that the husband lived through in his youth.  Circumstances that have kept a degree of fear and insecurity around money through his entire life. I went on to ask, “What are the biggest financial challenges you’ve experienced as a couple through your life?” I learned about a “sounds too good to be true” investment in which they lost a chunk of their savings, their experience with Nortel, and then having to take a 2nd mortgage on their home through another tough period. Through our conversation and many more questions, I got to know them.  I learned about their goals and their fears – and not just about money, but about life. When the conversation finally came back to money, I learned clearly why the investment they had previously been recommended was inappropriate considering their true objectives and concerns.

Savings and investments are a means to an end, not an end in itself. Understanding visions, values, and the underlying importance of money, is the key to making wealth planning about far more than just money. Ultimately, curiosity is a sign of caring. It can also reveal someone who is free of judgment and seeking deeper understanding. Then consider what that person does with the information they collect through asking questions. Do you make progress in the right direction? If you express concern to your wealth advisor over a particular fear and they minimize it rather than looking deeper into what’s behind it, you might expect that there is a lack of understanding which could lead to unsuccessful results over the long term. So, the next time you think about the relationship you have with your professional advisors, ask yourself the question… “How curious are they, about me?”

Our presentation, Trends in Downsizing, Senior Living, and Home Care was an overwhelming success.  Since we couldn’t accommodate everyone due to limited space, we will repeat the presentation in the near future, and bring together some of the top professionals in the field of Retirement Living. They will discuss topics ranging from downsizing and the stress of getting rid of stuff, to getting in-home assistance, and choosing the right residence to fit your lifestyle. To receive an invitation and secure a spot at this special event, contact Tania at [email protected] or 514-981-5795.

Lynn MacNeil, F.PL. Vice President, Investment Advisor, is a Financial Planner with Richardson GMP Limited in Montreal, with over 24 years of experience working with retirees and pre-retirees. For a second opinion, 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] Or visit our website at

The opinions expressed in this report are the opinions of the author and readers should not assume they reflect the opinions or recommendations of Richardson GMP Limited or its affiliates. Assumptions, opinions and estimates constitute the author’s judgment as of the date of this material and are subject to change without notice. We do not warrant the completeness or accuracy of this material, and it should not be relied upon as such. Before acting on any recommendation, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, if necessary, seek professional advice. Past performance is not indicative of future results.

Richardson GMP Limited, Member Canadian Investor Protection Fund. Richardson is a trade-mark of James Richardson & Sons, Limited. GMP is a registered trade-mark of GMP Securities L.P. Both used under license by Richardson GMP Limited.

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