What Mattress Shopping and Finding Financial Advice Have in Common

Finding Financial Advice

I don’t really enjoy shopping.

And it’s not because I’m a guy. I’ve met dudes that enjoy shopping. And I’ve met ladies that don’t.

Cars. Clothes. Furniture. Paint colors. Doesn’t really matter what it is. I find no joy in the “hunt.”

Most recently, it was mattress shopping. And let me tell you, Friend, that was no fun. No fun at all.

Elizabeth and I have been sleeping on a mattress that, according to everything we’ve read and been told, is waaaaay past its useful life.

So we walk into Macy’s, Mattress Firm, and who knows how many other mattress retailers, trying to avoid eye contact so we’re not immediately cornered by the salesperson asking us “what we’re looking for today.”

After laying on dozens of mattresses – all of which started to feel the exact same to me – we settled on a new mattress.

And trust me, I’m making this process sound much quicker and easier than it actually was.

But here’s the thing . . .

If you’re getting the “doctor ordered” 8 hours of sleep each night, that’s one-third of your 24 hour day.

You’re spending approximately one-third of your entire life in bed.

How can you be expected to make the right choice for a mattress where, for the next several years, you’ll be spending one-third of your life?

How can you make the right choice after laying on the floor model in a showroom for 5 minutes? After dozens, hundreds – maybe thousands – of other people have already laid on the same mattress?

Bear with me here as I make this leap . . . but isn’t choosing a financial advisor much the same?

How can you be expected to select a trustworthy, honest, ethical financial advisor who is also qualified and experienced after a 30-minute introductory meeting?

Even if you were to spend a couple of hours with a potential advisor over the course of a couple of meetings, will you know enough to truly make an informed decision? Enough to choose the advisor who will have a big impact on the rest of your life?

Referrals from trusted friends and family help. But the perfect advisor for your friend or family member doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the perfect advisor for you.

I’ve written before about choosing a financial advisor:

And I often see articles with lists of the “top 5 things” you should look for in a financial advisor, but it’s not that simple.

Is it?

When I began my career as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch way back in 1993, I was trained that virtually everyone was a potential client.

If I approached you with a tax-free bond or a “hot” stock tip and you weren’t interested, I merely had to overcome your objections and find something that would be of interest to you.

It’s almost as if I had this enormous bag of financial products, and it was my job to keep showing you stuff from my bag until you found something you liked.

Today, I take a much more selective approach with potential clients. Not only do you want to learn more about me, but I want to learn about you to make sure we’re a great fit for each other.

If we’re not able to communicate with each other, that’s a red flag.

If I can’t add a tremendous amount of value to your life through my advice and guidance, that’s a red flag.

If you’re not willing to take the necessary action to better your life and reach financial success, that’s a red flag.

Those are some of my red flags, and they may indicate we won’t make the best team together.

What about you? What red flags should you be aware of as you interview an advisor you may want to work with?

I don’t think there’s a simple “do this” and “don’t do this” set of instructions in this area. It’s a very important – and very personal – decision.

Don’t be afraid to listen to your gut. Don’t discount your sense of intuition.

If something – anything – feels wrong about an advisor, move along. There are plenty of others out there.

That being said, if you feel lost and unsure of what to ask or begin looking for, this recent article by South Dakota financial advisor Rick Kahler may help. I think Rick does a nice job of getting past the typical “choose an advisor” fluff and really keys in on an important fact:

Personal finance is more personal than finance. (I stole that line from Tim Maurer, another financial advisor colleague.) That means how you feel about your advisor matters.

Will your advisor listen to you, even when you want to discuss something that isn’t purely financial in nature?

Will your advisor tell you what you need to hear, even if you don’t necessarily want to hear it?

While I wish I could give you a simple formula for finding a trusted advisor that is absolutely perfect for you, I can’t.

In fact, I’m not the right advisor for most of you reading this right now. That’s because I specifically work with women facing change because it’s my mission to help people through difficult and challenging transitions.

Whether you’re working with an advisor for the first time or making a switch from your current advisor, please make sure you’re taking your time and being thorough (and skeptical) as you meet and interview different advisors.

I’m not sure choosing a mattress or a financial advisor will ever be easy. But like shopping for a mattress, I think it’s smart to take your time and “test” several different choices before making such an important decision.

Thanks for reading. While you’re here, be sure to sign up for my weekly email newsletter where I share tips, advice, and stories about the intersection of money and our lives. Just click here to join the community.

Russ Thornton
Russ Thornton
Hi there! I'm Russ, and I help women in their 50s and 60s achieve and maintain their desired lifestyle leading up to and throughout their retirement years. Imagine being able to look forward to a comfortable and confident financial future...
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