Our financial planner is our son's age, but the questions he asked during our first meeting made it clear he's the right choice for us

Our financial planner is our son's age, but the questions he asked during our first meeting made it clear he's the right choice for us

couple meeting with CFP

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It was like waking from a dream when our children began to manage their own lives with little input from us. Gone were the Sundays at the soccer field, the trips to music/dance/gymnastics lessons, the birthday parties and sleepovers.

We were in our early-50s. According to actuarial charts, we could likely live another 25 to 35 years. What were we going to do and would we have enough money to do it?

My husband and I both earned MBAs from top-five programs. We save "off the top" via automatic withdrawals from our paychecks. We take advantage of our company's retirement plans and matching programs to the maximum amount allowed. And we use an accountant to do our taxes.

However, we decided that we needed a licensed professional who would provide a holistic view of our finances and give us an unbiased opinion and what steps to take to maximize our returns.


Despite what the commercials show, 77% of CFPs are male, and nearly half are over 50 years old, according to the Certified Financial Planning Board, the nonprofit organization that governs the CFP licensing process.

The organization doesn't provide data regarding the race or ethnicity of its members, but one of the requirements of certification is a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. Given these demographics, it is highly likely that the number of CFPs who are women and persons of color are few. Most CFPs are old, white, and male.

Finding the right CFP for our needs

We asked our network of friends and family for referrals and we met with their recommended providers for an hour. The majority talked about themselves and their experience. Then, they asked us how much money we had to invest, proposed some mutual funds that would be ideal for our situation, and left us with some brochures, which gathered dust on the mail table until eventually going into the recycling bin.

Our insurance agent referred us to Dan. When we opened the door I thought Dan was a high school senior looking for donations for the lacrosse team. What could this kid know about retirement plans when he clearly had only recently joined the workforce?

After replying yes to an offer of a glass of water and joining us at the dining room table, his first question was, "What do you see yourself doing when you're 70?"


He was the first of our financial planner candidates to ask this question.

Dan's approach was different

Perhaps his approach was different because he's a millennial with so much of his life to look forward to. His question made us voice and articulate our dreams.

We told him how we wanted to travel internationally again and be involved with our community by coaching kids and volunteering at the library. I wanted to have a vegetable garden; my husband wanted to be able to play more golf. Ideally, we'd live in a mid-sized city with access to at least one major league sports team, nice restaurants, museums, and a highly ranked teaching hospital. Sharing these desires made them more concrete ... and achievable.

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A CFP designation also signifies that the advisor is both competent and ethical. They are fiduciaries, committed to act in the client's best interests over their own. The key to any successful relationship is trust, but trust goes beyond a framed piece of paper on an office wall. Building trust takes time.


Our conversation continued for three hours with Dan listening and jotting down notes. I didn't realize that was what was missing from the other candidates.

It didn't matter whether they looked the part. There's no guarantee that if a person looked like us or shared our experiences they would understand us. By listening, intently, Dan demonstrated that he was willing to learn who we were and what we wanted.

How our CFP helped us grow our money

A week later, Dan's proposal arrived electronically via a secure online portal and in the post. We met with him again to review it.

He confirmed that we were following a prudent plan, and yet his statistical models indicated that there were some opportunities we'd missed.

One, he noticed that I'm more of a risk taker; my husband is more cautious. Dan offered suggestions to better balance our portfolio and get better long-term returns.


I still have student loan debt; we both had credit card debt. Dan suggested that we take some equity out of our home and eliminate a large portion of the credit card debt, as well as refinance my student loan debt.

He also researched the housing market projections in mid-sized cities with the amenities we wanted. His efforts added other options to our list.

We did not take all of Dan's advice. He didn't complain or push; his income is not dependent on our choices.

Over the past three years we have learned a little more about Dan's life. He practiced tax law before becoming a financial planner. He's getting married soon and looks forward to having a couple of kids one day.

But all we really needed to know about Dan we learned during that first meeting. He listens, and because he listens, Dan knows a lot about our lives. And that's how it should be.


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