When you're passionate about something, you tend to see it everywhere you look. Football fans have been lucky for the past few weeks — their passion really has been everywhere as Super Bowl fever reached its peak a week ago when the Patriots took on the Seahawks in Phoenix. As a more casual fan, I believe football partially owes its wide popularity to the parallels we can draw between the struggles we watch on the field and the challenges we face off of it. My passion is helping people reach their financial goals, so as I watched the game I was struck by the lessons football can teach financial advisors.
Life is A Field
Those one-hundred yards of turf are a lot like the world outside the stadium. Circumstances constantly change, strategies are adjusted, and players each perform their role to the best of their ability. When players aren't on the same page or working to their highest potential, the team can quickly fall behind.
Everyone roots for the quarterback, who plays a high profile role. As tempting as it is to say a great financial advisor is like a quarterback, always looking for an opening far down the field, this is only one piece of an advisor's job. Protective instincts are equally important, which is why I'm not surprised that a talented offensive lineman is among the most highly sought after and particularly valued talents in football today.
To quote Sandra Bullock, channeling the adoptive mother of the Baltimore Ravens' offensive tackle Michael Oher in 2009's hit film The Blind Side, “The first check you write is for the mortgage, but the second is for the insurance.” The offensive lineman is the quarterback's insurance, allowing him to see down the field by watching his back and eliminating any threats.
A good offensive lineman embodies everything we should expect of a financial advisor. First, he’s playing for the team. Second, he considers the team to be his family. Finally, he uses his protective instincts to fulfill his role on the team.
Playing for the Team
A great financial advisor is playing for your team. In the stadium of finance, this translates most particularly to fee structure and commissions. Does your advisor's financial incentive come from helping you meet your goals, or are they rewarded commissions for steering you toward a particular line of investment products? Think about it. If an offensive lineman received a payment from an outside sponsor every time he made a certain kind of play, he and the quarterback would have a serious conflict of interest.
As this article from Financial Mentor notes, “You can’t determine the validity of the financial advice you receive until you know how your advisor is compensated for providing it.” Any allegiances or influences coming from outside the team compromise its integrity and threaten its potential for success. Playing for the same team evens the playing field and assures your best interest is upheld.
Another thing to consider — every team is different. The Seahawks play differently than the Patriots. A good offensive lineman listens to his quarterback and tailors his performance to his team's unique strategy and history as a working unit. I believe that only an independent financial advisor can truly do the same for you, taking your specific goals and needs into account and developing a plan that protects and advances your unique interests.
We Are Family
In the movie The Blind Side, you may recall that Michael Oher (the central character) was unable to truly discover his talent as an offensive tackle until he felt a sense of belonging with his team. His adoptive mother, Leigh Anne Tuohy, tells him “This team is your family, Michael, you have to protect them.” It was family, not coaching, that ultimately broke the barriers and allowed him to discover his true value as a player. He credits this breakthrough for his professional success.
Does your advisor treat you like family? I don't mean sharing a meal on holidays, but rather treating your interests as equal with their own, protecting you from unseen obstacles, and taking the time to help you understand every decision that is made. As I've written in a previous blog post, this is why it's essential to find an advisor who truly enjoys what they do and genuinely cares about helping you achieve your goals.
In order for the quarterback to see down the field and throw the game-winning pass, he must be kept safe from all the obstacles rushing his way. The offensive line is charged with buying him the time he needs to look forward and spot the opening that will lead to success. The left tackle in particular must look out for the quarterbacks “blind side,” the space behind him that he can't see.
Your financial advisor has specialized knowledge that perhaps you don't, and may have years of experience forecasting and responding to different marketing conditions. If anyone is qualified to watch out for your “blind side,” they are. Much like the offensive tackle, an advisor who has your back uses his knowledge and protective instincts to keep you safe and prosperous, allowing you to see your your goals in the end zone and helping you get there.
Watching the Patriots take home the Vince Lombardi Trophy last Sunday reminded me of my passion for helping my clients achieve their goals. I hope you enjoyed the game!