Seth Godin wrote an interesting blog today – “What do you do when they don’t understand?”; taking his point to heart I won’t reiterate the post here – it’s just a click away! I think he makes three main points:
- Provide more information than needed/requested
- Provide information in a variety of formats (for example video)
- Let the reader decide how much information they need
I agree with this blog in the main, and it reflects the philosophy we have in giving advice, and in writing financial plans. The “trust me, I’m a doctor” approach doesn’t work with financially savvy individuals, and when making recommendations, which we always do in writing, we follow the following format:
- A summary usually no more than two pages, detailing major gaps, and the principal proposals we’ve put forward
- A more detailed confirmation of the main points of discussion, and the most relevant (in our professional opinion) advantages and disadvantages on our recommended course of action (typically no more than a dozen pages)
- A detailed analysis of investments, pensions and other financial arrangements (two to fifty pages depending on the complexity of the client’s circumstances)
- Generic appendices covering topics that we know are often misunderstood, or harder to grasp (e.g. understanding investment risk, or pension fund drawdown)
This document, with relevant attachments, may run to over one hundred pages; and it is on his main point – give the information and allow the reader to choose what to digest – that I agree with Seth. Any client of Wingate Financial Planning, has the choice, to read a 2, 12 or 100 page summary, appropriately cross-referenced and segmented.
But we don’t stop there, we explain the report face-to-face, and ask the client, in their own words, to summarise; what they are doing, why they are doing it, and any significant pitfalls. For those opting for ongoing advice, we will issue ‘education pieces’ that, in different language, seek to identify other areas of Financial Planning. Clients also receive a ‘road map’ which highlights a future action plan, covering their concerns and objectives – it’s not always wise to try to tackle every financial priority at once, lest it become overwhelming.
Like Seth, we spend a great deal of time making it “easier to read the part of the thing that someone really cares about”, catering for a variety of different levels of sophistication, experience and different personality types makes this challenging but we believe, in the main, we succeed at this – we help our clients make informed decisions, therein lies the value of our advice.