By Michael D. Bird, CFP®, MBA
As a nation, we celebrate Independence Day on July 4th amidst fireworks, and whatever else we decide. Maybe it’s outdoor activities, including parades or something more strenuous. It’s more than just a day from work—we’re celebrating the founding of our country. But the idea of independence can mean different things to different people. For some it is freedom from a job. They’ve retired and no longer have to go in on Monday morning. For others, it is the freedom from tyranny, or a bad relationship, or an addiction. What does it mean for you? For me, it is the freedom to take care of clients in the way that best suits their needs. Let me give you some examples.
Let’s say that you have a retirement plan at work and you’ve left that job and you want to roll that money into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). You decide to walk into the side of the bank where an investment advisor is seated and ask how to roll that money over. As a representative agent, he or she may steer you to a certain mutual fund, or funds, or an annuity. In other words, they have a limited number of options and you have been put into one of those options. That may or may not be your best choice. Wouldn’t you like to know that the advisor has considered who you are, what you want to do, how this money affects the rest of your financial life, and more importantly, how it could affect your retirement lifestyle? Wouldn’t you like to know that it is the right thing for you, not just what you are willing to take?
The advisor willing to get to know you, your needs, and your long-term goals is typical of the independent advisor.
Here’s another example. This time you’re thinking about leaving your job and spending your days traveling, fishing, or whatever you want to do and when you want to do it. You want to retire. An independent advisor should be willing to have you show him or her everything you’ve accumulated (financially), answer questions about your lifestyle, your goals, your desires for income, and your desires for your legacy. The independent advisor would produce a roadmap for you into retirement and for the rest of your life. And then, you know that the advisor can go into the investment world and find those solutions that fit your situation. That’s an independent advisor.
That kind of advisor has no pre-set list of investments, or insurance, or financial products that you have to buy. He or she doesn’t have to meet a quota in certain types of products in order to keep the sign on the door. The independent advisor is free to look out in the world and truly match your needs with what’s available. Doesn’t everyone do that? No! The financial services world has many different ways of providing a service and many are not independent.
One way of providing a service is to work for a particular company. Usually it is an insurance company. And the products that are sold to you are offered by that company. They can be good but are they the best for you?
Another way of providing financial services is to work for a national firm. They have more diverse offerings but are still limited. Again, is what you are being offered the best for you?
The independent way is to be completely free to offer products that are researched to be good (i.e. they have been studied in depth) and could be from any number of companies. The goal is to have high-quality offerings that match the client’s needs.
For an advisor, that’s independence. When you marry that with a culture to do what’s best for a client, that’s true freedom.
On this July 4th, my celebration will be for the country, and also for a business that is truly special because it is independent and looks to do the very best for people. If you’ve never experienced that type of financial relationship, it’s your time now. While you may have missed out this year, you can make next year’s July 4th meaningful in more ways than one. Of course you have the freedom to make that choice. What a country! We can all celebrate that!
Michael Bird, a Financial Advisor with Secure Money Masters in Bristol, TN, is also an adjunct Professor of Finance and has taught at several universities and colleges, including ETSU, Belhaven College and the University of Memphis. He currently teaches a course on Social Security and how to integrate Social Security benefits with Retirement Income.
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Disclaimer: This commentary is provided for educational purposes only. The information, analysis and opinions expressed herein reflect my judgment as of the date of writing and are subject to change at any time without notice. They are not intended to constitute legal, tax, securities or investment advice or a recommended course of action in any given situation as it does not address or account for individual investor circumstances. Please keep in mind that no single strategy is the best choice for all investors/retirees. Before investing, investors are encouraged to speak with a financial professional who can help evaluate decisions based on an investor’s complete financial picture and an investor’s time horizon and risk tolerance. Past performance does not guarantee future results. An investment in stocks or mutual funds can result in a loss of principal.