In contrast to my more contemplative blogs, which hopefully demystify some of the elements of managing your financial future, here’s a short story that made me think…
We recently replaced our kitchen – a long overdue task. After research and selection, a neighbour who is a builder, agreed to fit it. He would only need me to source a plasterer, he explained. He even gave me a number for a plasterer – Mike – who he knew…
Perhaps predictably, I got an answer machine message, presumably recorded by his wife, not mentioning the plastering business and simply asking me to leave a message. So, I did. I think I was quite clear, I probably said something like “I’m John – calling for Mike, I need some plastering done fairly urgently, please. My builder recommended you. Could he please call me on…”
Well, he didn’t. I waited a few days then I called back and spoke to his wife. She was very helpful and told me that Mike was busy on a contract so wasn’t taking any work. Or phone calls, I presume. But he might work a weekend, she said, sensing an opportunity. We discussed the job and she agreed it could be done in a day or two and agreed to have Mike come over on Saturday morning. Well, he didn’t.
And so began the quest for plasterer number two. My builder asked his trade buddies for a reputable plasterer. Before long we had a name – Paul. I called Paul. He answered! Brilliant. This is going great guns, I thought. Cutting to the chase, it turned out that Paul’s plastering skills in no way matched up to his ability to answer the phone quickly. My builder – who he was working with – escorted him off site (well, out of my house) after the first morning, declaring that Paul was about the worst plasterer he’d ever come across.
I was then armed with the target profile of the individual I need. A sort of cross between a Mike and a Paul. Someone who a) could answer the phone b) turned up c) was a skilled plasterer.
Feeling somewhat jaded, I made a final call to a man called Terry. A mate in the pub had given me his name and number. “What’s his surname?” I’d asked. “Just Terry” my mate had replied, elevating Terry to the echelons of Madonna and Prince, neither of whom seem to need a surname when referred to. I don’t know why I’d wanted his surname, after all I had his mobile number. I can’t imagine Terry would have prompted me for his full name on answering, as if this were a mobile shared by a number of Terrys.
Happily ever after
Terry turned out to be a gem. His phone was diverted to an answering service. A girl quickly took my message and requirements. She told me that Terry would call me back that evening. And he did. He discussed the job with me in detail, was realistic about his availability and offered to pop around the following evening to quote the job. Amazingly he showed up on time, quoted a fair price and subsequently did an excellent job, even managing to impress my battle-weary builder.
The moral of the story
The moral of the story is that not all people in any trade or profession are the same. I can see similarities with what I do. After all, how do you know what a good financial planner looks like? How do you choose? It took me three goes to get a plasterer, mainly because I didn’t know what to look out for. So how do you choose your financial advisor?
Reliability is a basic requirement. You don’t want someone like Mike who makes promise he doesn’t keep, doesn’t return your calls or just doesn’t turn up.
Of course, you don’t want a Paul either. An unskilled or under-skilled financial planner. The trouble is that it may be hard to spot good from bad for some time, unlike a plasterer where the visible results will be quickly obvious. If you are entrusting your financial future with someone you owe it to yourself to do your homework on them first!
So how do you find a good one? How do you spot a Terry? Ask around by all means. Make sure you read reviews – there should be plenty online, or on their website. Check charges – in my experience they vary considerably! Meet someone before engaging them and take a long hard think about the criteria you are looking for. My suggestions for qualities to look for would be reliable, proven, diligent, knowledgeable. But you may have others. Finally, ask If you can speak to an existing client if you are in doubt or want further reassurance.
It’s your financial future. Take the time to put it in good hands.
Thanks for reading.
This is based on a true story and the names of the characters have been changed to ensure anonymity.