It’s not all about the money

When meeting with a financial advisor, the purpose for the appointment will somehow revolve around money; you need help with a 401(k) rollover or advice on how to start a retirement plan for your business, you want to set up a program to save for your kid’s college educations, you have received an inheritance or maybe you just want to get in on the latest IPO stock coming out of the Silicon Valley. That said, whatever prompted the appointment, it’s not all about the money.
A good advisor will ask a lot of questions that may seem irrelevant to your initial goal, let’s take a recent inheritance as one example. Here are a few initial questions that will come up:
No. 1: How did you come to inherit this money?
No. 2: Was it expected?
No. 3: How do you feel about it?
No. 4: What do you want to accomplish with it?
No. 5: Can you tell me, in detail, what your pre-inheritance financial picture looked like?
What is happening here is that your advisor, much like a medical doctor, is aiming to get the Big Picture. Let’s look a little deeper into the inheritance example.
John and Mary are brother and sister. Their dad passed away four years ago, their mother passed away a few months ago. They did not know the total of the estate was close to $2 million – this included the family home, two modest IRA’s and a sizable investment portfolio. As things unfolded, it was determined that the investment portfolio was from an inheritance their mother had received from her parents about 20 years earlier, and because mother and dad were already financially independent they had left the portfolio to grow. Now John and Mary are about to inherit  $1 million each.
So now we have uncovered the answers to the first two questions, which lead us into the third; how do you feel about this?
In my experience, John and Mary will not feel the same – typically emotions are mixed.
If guilt, humility and gratitude are present, then it is likely that one goal will be to pay it forward; to make sure that this gift is at least partially preserved for another generation and/or favorite charity. If relief is present, then it is likely that some form of debt management will come into the picture. If fear is present, then it will be time for some significant financial education.  
On to question five … In our example, John is a small business owner and considers himself a simple man. He is happy, reasonably successful and has provided well for his family. However, he has consistently plowed money back into the business and has not been good at savings. Mary worked her way up the corporate ladder with a large company, has great benefits, no debt and a sizable retirement plan, but …  she is burned out and would like to travel while she is still fairly young.
In John’s case, initial takes might indicate a need for some debt management, a savings plan and retirement planning.
In Mary’s case, initial takes might indicate setting up funds for income replacement, setting aside cash for travel and help with managing her retirement plan going forward.  
While $1 million will sound like a lot to some and not much too others, it could potentially go a long way when properly managed.
So, if your financial advisor asks you a random question like, “What keeps you up at night?” or “What gets you up in the morning?”, realize this is part of his or her job. Getting to know you is an essential part of providing advice and making meaningful recommendations, because it’s not all about the money.
Kristi Ellington is a registered representative with and Securities and advisory services offered through LPL Financial, a registered investment advisor. Member FINRA/SIPC. She can be reached in her Gilroy office at 408-848-0874, her Hollister office at 831-634-1144, or at

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