As I write this blog, I sit in front of the Federal Building in Washington DC. I’m about to start writing about technological change and personal financial planning. But as I sit here, I suddenly notice how food has also been changed by technology (or maybe not?) With a jackhammer in the foreground pleasantly overshadowing the sounds of traffic, I sniff the intricate smells of 50 or so food trucks that have lined up and down the street. I suddenly feel like one of the cool kids; everyone is munching on something delicious from their Styrofoam containers, sitting on park benches, and lounging in the green grass while they stare at laptops and iPads. Maybe they’re working. Maybe they’re looking at bank accounts. Maybe they are trading their 401K. Maybe they’re doing some online financial planning!
Technology has changed financial planning
Last month, we talked about how technology has changed the face of investing. While stock market volatility and investor attitudes may have a direct correlation to technology and the markets, I realized that the process of financial planning itself has also been impacted by technology. If you take just a moment to search for online financial planning, you’ll run across countless services that offer everything from the basics to more intricate offerings.
But when I look back on the history of my career in financial planning, I think about the kids of parents who came to me to start their 529 plans. Now, those kids are graduating from high school or college and it makes me proud.
Your online financial planning program is not beaming with pride and does not feel anything. It will not be celebrating when your child graduates from high school or college, your daughter is marrying the man of her dreams, or when you spend that savings account on her destination wedding.
The human element is key for personal financial planning
For the record, that statement kind of made me laugh out loud. In normal circumstances I might even feel embarrassed. (But there’s a lot of people that look like they’re talking to themselves in my general vicinity right now. Oh well, when in Rome…) What I’m trying to say is that you will miss the human element: that part of personal financial planning where another human being truly cares about your disabled child or your elderly parent.
I once heard the statement that “financial planners solve problems you didn’t know you had in ways that you didn’t know exist” and I believe that to be true. There is a special value in walking into a financial planner’s office and finding someone who not only cares about you but is able to think creatively in ways that a computer cannot. Plus, nothing makes me prouder than attending a retirement party for someone I’ve worked with for the past 20 years!
Don’t assume you can’t afford personal financial planning!
You may be surprised to learn that, yes, you can afford a financial planner. In fact, from my research, I realized that it usually doesn’t cost more to work with a human financial planner, and it’s a lot more joyful!
We live in a great place. A place where we have a choice in everything we do. Right now, I’m watching the gigantic American flag wave in the wind over the federal building. I realize how important it is to work with someone who values all the things that you do — including the freedom to do financial planning the way you choose. It’s your choice, of course! But this advisor will always recommend the human factor in the planning of your financial life.