The Problem With Financial Advisors (Or Why I Love My Job So Much)
December of last year, I shared the pilot episode of The Engineer of Finance podcast. I was eager (and a little nervous) to see how listeners and clients would respond to an engineer enthusiastically talking about finances with an unconventional perspective. It was (and still is!) an absolute joy to create, and I was hoping it would be useful for listeners too.
Fortunately, it’s not just fun and games for me. The podcast has been a huge success, and I am humbled by how this free content has helped so many people from coast to coast in this country. I am so grateful for all my listeners and clients.
In the pilot episode, I discussed how I transitioned from a full-time professional engineer to “The Engineer of Finance.”
I first broke into this industry in December 2008, and for a long time, I would hesitate when people asked what I did for a living. I would usually mumble that I’m a financial advisor as if it were an embarrassing confession. Then I would reinforce my answer by adding I’m also a Professional Engineer.
Why was I doing this?
It’s because 99% of the financial advisors make the other 1% look bad!
In other words, the majority of financial advisors in the industry are great salespeople, not great financial designers and mentors. It sounds like a very strong statement but it’s true. Look around you. Look at all the big beautiful skyscrapers in the big cities with financial firms’ and banks’ names on the buildings. Watch how they advise their clients to do one thing with their savings and investments, yet they do the exact opposite.
I didn’t want to be associated with this industry that has failed so many people. Thankfully I invested in a marketing company (I was horrible at succinctly sharing my message) and was provided an ingenious solution to my “What do you do?” problem. I have the mind of an engineer and a career in finance advisement, I do not just advise — I troubleshoot, I design, and I look at finance from an engineering perspective. So my marketing company suggested I called myself the “Engineer of Finance.” Boom, done. Makes sense. Best marketing dollars I ever spent.
Moving Right Along …
99% of the US population that enters retirement doesn’t have enough money for retirement. Look at how much money these great money managers take and brokerages and banks fees and assets under management fees. They tell their clients how buy-and-hold is such a wonderful strategy in a 401(k), IRA or some other qualified plan. You give them all your money today, you own it, but the government and the financial industry essentially control it, forever.
When I show prospective clients the financial calculations, they are always shocked at how good it is for the IRS and the financial industry, but not so good for them. For example, the financial industry talks about how great compound interest is for your retirement plan. Unfortunately, as the money compounds so does all the tax liabilities waiting for you at retirement. The transference of wealth from your hard-earned income over all that time to the government and the financial industry is unbelievable.
I believe most of these typical advisors genuinely believe they’re doing the right thing for their clients. But if it’s so good, why is 99% of US in this nation going to outlive their money in retirement? Look at these fun (not so fun) facts below. The irony in these articles is their solution: qualified plans!
- 50% of Americans have less than $5,000 in savings
- The top 10% have only $274,000 in savings
- The top 1% have a $1 million or more (32 – 61 years of age)
- Americans in their 60s only have a median of $172,000 in savings
$1 million might sound like a lot of money at 65 — it’s way better than $172,000 — but when the financial industry is advising a paydown of 3-4% so you don’t outlive your money, $30,000-$40,000 per year is not so great.
I Love This Industry, I Swear!
I could go on forever picking apart the financial industry, and many of my key arguments have already been said on my podcast. You also get a whole bunch of me making fun of the typical advisors, and myself a little bit too — no one is safe!
My point is that as much as I have struggled with this industry, I am so grateful for being a part of it. When I was an engineer full-time, I was shy and reserved (I’m an introvert, after all) and I liked to work in the corner and avoid dealing with too many personalities. Working with clients in the financial industry has forced me to grow so much as a person. It’s improved my communication skills and confidence in reaching out to help others. Most importantly it has forced me to listen, listen, and listen some more. My job is a blessing and I will be forever grateful.
Being an engineer working in the financial world has made me a great troubleshooter. I have found that my engineering background is very good for this industry and in turn very good for my clients. It has allowed me to help clients head towards becoming the top 1% with their finances over time.
Fun fact: the financial industry hates dealing with me, hates engineers and other analytical thinkers because we ask way too many questions. I represent a lot of engineers and I love all the questions because predominantly they are all the same questions I asked all the financial institutions that drove them nuts when I entered this industry ten years ago. They didn’t like me wanting all the details, in fact, most financial advisors could not answer many of my questions so I sought out the top of advisors to learn from. They have taught me, in my humble opinion, the right way to play the financial game for my family, friends, and clients (which most have become friends over time).
The Right Way To Play The Game Is NOT The Standard Way.
In almost every meeting a potential future client has asked:
Why hasn’t anyone shown this to me before?
Why aren’t we taught this?
Why don’t the majority of the advisors in this industry teach this?
Looking at financial concepts with an engineering mindset has enabled me and my clients to play the financial game an entirely different way. I have studied why the financial industry (banks and brokerages) are so successful and teach my clients how to do what they do, not what they teach.
If you’re looking for a new way to approach personal finance using a custom-designed personal finance plan for you and your family, schedule an introductory call with me and we’ll see if I’m the right mentor for the job.