A few things I’ve learned from working with my advisor

Woman and her advisor sitting opposite each other discussing documents

A client’s candid thoughts on what you need to consider when finding the right advisor for you.

The editorial team had the opportunity to interview a client who participated in our 2021 Wells Fargo Affluent Women’s survey on how affluent women manage through periods of change and uncertainty. Her candid insights demonstrate how she effectively leveraged her relationship with her advisor to manage through uncertain times.  She kindly gave her permission to share her story with you, our readers, to provide food for thought on how to maximize the relationship with your advisors and how her experience can help you manage your wealth during uncertain times.

The world can be a complicated place when you’ve got a bit of money and you’re trying to do your best to take care of your family, give back to the community, and build some wealth for the next couple of generations.  I can’t stress enough the impact a financial advisor can have on all of that, but it can’t, and shouldn’t, be just anyone. There’s a lot more to it than just dollars and cents.

You just never know what challenges and opportunities life will present

I don’t have a business background and didn’t set out to be a business person, but where you end up often has little to do with where you started. And so, ironically, this non-business person became the CEO of an $80 million company.

I’m a behavioral psychologist, and began my career working in research; a bit more than a stone’s throw from the corner office. But through a series of unexpected circumstances, I found myself with the alien responsibility of growing a business. My personality being of the hammer-looking-for-a-nail variety, I took to it immediately.

And while over the years I became increasingly confident in my abilities to run the company, I wasn’t experiencing a similar progression with regard to my own finances. Eventually the company was sold and, thanks to my share of the proceeds, I came face to face with the reality of how far behind I really was when it came to my financial education. Like most people, I’m not very comfortable when I don’t know what I’m doing.

Starting virtually from the ground up, I had a lot to learn and I had to learn it quickly. I needed help. As it turns out, the person who ultimately became my advisor was already in my Rolodex (we used to have those, you know). I reached out, and we’ve been together ever since. And I’ll tell you why.

The best financial advice comes from someone who communicates often and appropriately

We all know the old real estate adage, location, location, location. Well, the same holds true when it comes to the relationship with my advisor; just substitute location with communication.

My marriage was very traditional in the sense that my husband had been the steward of our finances, which was fine because I was occupied with pursuing my career and taking care of my family. I feel this experience is not all that unusual as it relates to those of other women—particularly of my generation—in that we start a fair bit behind the curve when it comes to financial matters.

Unfortunately, when finally seeking out financial help, it can come in the form—not necessarily with intent, but there nevertheless—of condescension and a patronizing manner. Avoid this at all costs. Fortunately, that was never the case with my advisor.

Teach, don’t tell

I’m a bit of a blunt instrument if we’re being honest, and I have a certain way that I like to communicate, which is clearly and honestly. My advisor and I don’t parse words and we don’t mince them. He tells me exactly what he thinks, tactfully of course, but he gives it to me straight, and I value that.

What I most appreciate is his capacity to teach, and his ability to allow me the space to learn. Too often in this industry women are talked down to. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t know anything when I started, but what I didn’t want was to be treated as though I couldn’t learn. And I love to learn. Knowing this, my advisor presents educational opportunities to me in different areas via seminars and the like, and I can self-select according to my interests.

But by no means am I suggesting that women be treated differently—I simply expect my advisor to apply the same level of professionalism to women clients as they would to a male client. My advisor and I have been able to strike that balance, and that’s been critical to the success of our relationship.

Decision time

Given the ways in which I like to learn, process, and take action, it’s not surprising that I want the ultimate financial decision to be my own. This is another area where we’ve been able to carve out a nice comfort zone. I get advice, I get input, I get guidance, and then I decide. He may suggest. He may steer (he’s very good at steering), but ultimately, it’s my decision. But I won’t proceed with a course of action unless we’re both comfortable with it.

Between friends

One last thing, and for me it’s an important one, my advisor is also my friend (not initially, but over time), and I don’t think this relationship could succeed if that weren’t the case. If we had remained rigid professionals and simply stuck to the numbers, there are parts of my life we never would have discussed; parts that I eventually realized I would need help to plan. Had that not been the case, important opportunities would have been missed—and lost.

Parting words

When it comes to financial matters, staying out in front is easier than playing catch up. It’s critical for young women to be sensitized to their financial situations. Keep learning, keep working, keep progressing. If you don’t know, and you choose to not understand, then you won’t be successful, and you will forever remain dependent on somebody, or something.