Wednesday, May 14, 2008


Answers to some of life's more pertinent questions continue to elude most of us. Thankfully, twelve step plans have come charging over the hill in abundance, rushing to rescue us from our confusion, waning confidence and misplaced common sense. Baby boomers have led on the way to adopting expedient solutions, and becoming suppliant to trend influences. Busily keeping up with our mortgage payments, taxes and gas increases, relief comes and we're gratified when someone comes up with a "twelve step plan" to deal with life's challenges, … and oh, so grateful.

Twelve step plans abound to guide us through any and all defiant mazes on our paths. From dieting and exercise, to beating the odds in Vegas, we'll venture onto any terrain so long as there's a twelve step path to follow. Twelve easily palatable morsels of brilliance, conveyed as secret wisdom from an oracle.

A current and popular twelve step plan viewed in various forms all over our continent addresses itself to those of us anxiously seeking help in the management of our untold wealth. Now that we've saved or inherited a few dollars, we take notice of an abundance of twelve-step plans for properly, safely and deferentially choosing a financial advisor.

Such plans are of course furnished in diverse forms by all our media, which in itself should be re-assurance enough. If the newspaper published it, or it’s in a book, it must be legitimate. We can therefore feel some level of comfort in it's decrees and instructions. Knowing deep in our hearts that all manners financial are better left to higher powers, it is imperative that we follow such a plan with diligence. We cannot feign to comprehend the vast complexities encompassing money. Someone else has all the answers, and is willing to share.

In a quest to identify the financial advisor most suitable to our preciously unique needs, we respectfully submit to a plan which will typically lead us to uncover the perfect person.

In such light, I walk into the first unsuspecting target armed with the actual twelve steps to finding a financial advisor, convinced that this ammunition will smoke out any weaknesses, and enable me to find the most capable administrator of my safety net for retirement. I am led to the aspirant’s office, and since first impressions are so important, I take notice that he has a firm grip, is confident, and speaks calmly and almost softly. What a relief that is. I sit down in the plush leather chair and rapidly get down to business.

1. What are your qualifications?
This query will definitely get me the goods on this person. Even if he lies a little, we all tend to exaggerate things at some point or other in our lives, don't we? So I'll discount the answer a few points, but surely someone in such nicely appointed surroundings is doing something right. That picture of the kids on the desk speaks volumes about this financial advisor's family values. That's important. Understanding the need to be financially prudent for the greater good of the family is a rare bit of empathy. No need to discuss it. I know this person is inherently in tune with me. A picture speaks a thousand words. Even that other family picture in front of the Café de Paris in Monaco is, … well, it’s very nice. Business must be good. This one must be really successful.

2. What experience do you have?
This question required a deep thinking mind and I'm so pleased someone else paid its creator to publish it. It required experience secured knee-deep in wisdom to find it placed so high on the list. I'm also grateful for this question because now I'm really peering deeply into the background of someone to whom I will give free rein to run amuck with my money. I know this advisor thinks I'm going to check up on these assertions, so there's a high probability that I'm going to get a reasonably truthful answer. Let’s see, … formerly an analyst at a three partner financial firm with three names, each with three initials of some kind. Good, good. Even better if one of the names is Scottish. Names ringing of stature, and seeped in certitude and conviction, are what we like to hear. These are names we like to hire.

3. How do you get paid?
This is really going to get me some very hard truth. Inquisitive, incisive and tough. This question lets them know that I'm not a push-over. You're not dealing with just any "beat-around-the-bush" hick here. I get right to the meat of the matter, … and quickly. Hmm, I wonder if this one will tell me if they take personal positions in a stock before buying it for my account?

4. What services do you offer?
Now I can get excited. Here, I'm going to find-out all the ways magicians can put their hands in my pocket so that I won’t feel a thing. He shows me a really well designed and colorful one page handout with all the possibilities. I notice, scanning the page, that he will even manage my personal bank account, pay my bills, etc. What great services.

5. What is your approach to financial planning?
The secrets will be unfolded. Getting nuggets of brilliance will enable me to sound more knowledgeable with my friends.

6. What if I have a question you do not know about; how will I get an answer?
As if I had any idea what the questions should be. That must be another twelve step brochure I have to get.

7. Can you give me references?
References. The stuff truth is made of. Wow, his brochure quotes somebody who says he doubled their money. Even if this is half right, I’m set. This guy knows what he’s doing.

8. Can I see a typical financial plan?
I must be dumber than rocks. I just don't know how to budget or how to plan out expected income, expenses, etc. Having someone provide this for me will give me peace of mind.

9. How often will I hear from you? Do you meet with your clients regularly? Do you use e-mail?
A little rapid-fire-like-a-machine-gun questioning. That keeps him on guard and I’ll see if he can think quickly. Obviously he'll call me regularly once he has my money to let me known how well I'm doing. Can't wait for that phone to ring. I can picture it now. "Hi! Just touching base to keep you posted. Your hundred dollars has already grown tenfold. We should consider diversification."

10. Will you explain the benefits and the risks of your recommendations?
Really? Excellent. Oh, no, I didn’t mean right now. I’ll need a pen and paper to take notes, so I’ll call you from the house. Whew. I can’t let him see my eyes glazing over, plus I’ll have my dictionary with me.

11. Who will ensure implementation? Will you be implementing the plan yourself or do you deal with other advisors? Will you refer me to someone or must I find the other advisors myself?
I don’t fully understand what this means, but it must be a good question. Surely it must refer to other experts he depends on who are specialists, and who will guarantee that all possibilities are explored to deliver the most secure and beneficial maintenance of my money.

12. Any conflicts of interest I should know about?
What a great, straightforward approach this is. I look him right in the eyes and ask the question. I’m looking for any signs of physical or vocal evasion in the answer. What a relief, he stares right back and tells me emphatically that he wouldn’t have stayed in business and been so successful if he had overstepped the boundaries of fiscal probity in dealing with client affairs. He also says he would fire anyone on the spot who works for him who was found to have usurped such responsibility. I’m so pleased to hear that, since I’m not sure what conflict of interest really entails. No matter. This is great.

I don’t need to go anywhere else. I’ve found my financial advisor, thanks to the twelve step plan. My family will be proud.


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