My guest on today's podcast is Adam Holt. Adam is a principal with RubinGoldman and Associates, and the Founder and CEO of Asset-Map, a financial planning tool that helps financial advisors create a visual representation of their clients’ financial situation, reaching over 1.25 million users.
What's unique about Adam, though, is how he combined his early career training in geographic information systems to make land use decisions using maps, with his work as a financial advisor sitting across from ultra-high-net-worth clients, and began to create “mind maps” to visually capture for himself all the details of their very complex financial situations… which became so popular with his clients, and then other financial advisors in his firm, that he eventually turned it into an advisor software company – Asset-Map –that helps financial advisors create their own visual representations of their clients’ financial situation.
In this episode, we talk in-depth about how, while working with ultra-high-net-worth clients, Adam began to draw his own financial maps to help him better visualize his clients’ complex financial situations on one page (and then realized that by showing his financial planning maps to his clients, they became better engaged in the financial planning process, why Adam structures his Asset Maps to concentrate on 5 components – important people in the household, income sources, assets, liabilities, and insurance policies – to illustrate a holistic picture of the clients’ financial journey, and how Adam designed his Asset-Maps to be used as tear sheets (instead of serving as a “one-page financial plan”) because the goal is not to conduct a complex analysis, but instead simply to provide clients with a quick and easy-to-understand visualization of the topic to facilitate a complex conversation, instead.
We also talk about how Adam almost didn’t land his first job with Equitable because he didn’t do well on his insurance exams and only lucked into the job because a newly-hired manager happened to need one more insurance producer to meet his own numbers, how, in the early stages of his career, Adam wanted to work with business owners and found that by asking people he knew for help to connect him with business owners (instead of asking for a referral), he ended up gaining referrals more genuinely and consistently, and how, after getting his initial version of Asset-Map approved by the compliance department of his firm, Adam tripled his production each year for 3 years… which caught the attention of other advisors in the firm, eventually leading to Asset-Map being incorporated into the financial planning process for 1,600 of the firm’s clients and eventually become the standalone software company it is today.
And be certain to listen to the end, where Adam shares how he didn’t initially think Asset-Map would grow beyond his practice but found that having mentors and hiring the right people for the right roles helped support his journey and get him where he is today, why Adam encourages advisors looking to launch their own fintech companies to pursue their ideas as long as it is innovative and they feel can solve a real problem, but still have a realistic understanding of the amount of sacrifices, lifestyle changes, and support that is needed to really build a software business, and why Adam believes the key to success for younger, newer advisors is being committed to continually learning from the industry and to acquire their CFP marks… not for the credentials themselves, but so they can gain knowledge to become credible educators to attract and serve their future clients.
So, whether you’re interested in learning about how Adam leveraged his education in geographic information systems to create his Asset Map, why Adam believes that surrounding oneself with the right people can help increase accomplishments, or why Adam feels, in financial planning, direction is better than precision on a 30-year journey, then we hope you enjoy this episode of the Financial Advisor Success podcast, with H. Adam Holt.
Resources Featured In This Episode:
- H. Adam Holt
- RubinGoldman and Associates
- Sample Asset Map Comprehensive Report (download) – PDF
- Kitces Report: The Technology That Independent Financial Advisors Actually Use (And Like)
- Financial Advisor Technology Map
- Karr Barth Associates
- Daniel Crosby
Looking for sample client service calendars, marketing plans, and more? Check out our FAS resource page!
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Michael: Welcome, Adam Holt, to the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Adam: Thank you, Michael. Great to be here.
Michael: I'm really excited about today's episode and getting the nerd out on sort of the emerging topic, the emerging, I guess, well, tech category of this thing that we're starting to all call advice engagement. And I feel like I owe you a particular shout out for this. We put advice engagement onto the AdvisorTech Map last year for just this emerging category of tech solutions that help advisors with the ongoing part. We got financial planning software that does the upfront plan, but then there's this, "Well, what do we do with clients for the next 29 years or the 30-year engagement after the first year?" Because rerunning an entire financial plan is kind of challenging. And so, what else do you do?
And there are all these tech solutions that were starting to crop up that help engage clients in ongoing conversations about advice, sometimes in that initial meeting, often, it's in the ongoing meetings. We needed a label for it and I was really struggling with labels and coming up with, frankly, what I think were probably not the most ideal labels trying to describe it. And you had actually sent me an email that said, "Have you ever thought about just calling it advice engagement?" I was like, "That's a really good label for it." So, we put it on the map. It's now held very well, but I feel like I owe you a shout out here to recognize we didn't... I think we've done a lot to help get that advice engagement label out there, but I had some lousy label like advice support that nobody really knew what that meant.
Adam: I was cringing.
Michael: I have to give you full credit that you were like, "Dude, just call it advice engagement." I was like, "He's right." So, we put it on the map, sort of literally, and off, it's taken on a life of its own over the past year. But I know you have a cool history to this of not only building, as we now call, an advice engagement tool. You're founder of Asset-Map that I'm sure many of our listeners use already, but I know that you also have a cool journey because you started out on the advisor side of the business. You lived advisory for a long time before...
Michael: ...going out to build a technology company, which I find true for a lot of our industry tech companies. There's a lot of tech that's actually like advisor has problem, can't find solution, throws hands up in the air and makes solution, friends hear about solution, starts selling solution to friends, and now has a software company on the side, that, if it goes well, becomes the main thing.
Michael: So, I guess, I'm looking for both talking about evolution of advice engagement in the rise of this sort of software category and tools that are getting created. But also, yes, your journey of how you start out as a financial advisor and end out 20 odd years later, raising millions of dollars to build a tech company for advisors. That's quite a personal evolution and journey.
Adam: No question. Well, first of all, yes. Thank you, first of all. And I think from all of us that have now put ourselves in the advice engagement category, I want to thank you because you've been really great about keeping the lines open with the community and being open to ideas so that we very much feel like it's a greater community movement to try to better understand our industry, fintech, everything. And so, I applaud you and your team in doing that. I think you're doing a fantastic job and service. Regarding the, gosh, evolution into a fintech CEO, what was I thinking? So many...
Michael: What were you thinking?
Adam: I don't think I was.
Michael: So, I know you have an MBA. I've always joked, it's always funny to me when people get MBAs, if you were really studying in school, you would know that entrepreneurship is a terrible idea with a horrible expected economic outcome. Why would you do that to yourself?
Adam: I don't know. Twenty years ago, you're definitely right. Everybody is an entrepreneur today. Everybody's a CEO. So, it's interesting. Gosh, I don't know. How much time do you have for this podcast? Just kidding, just kidding.
Michael: I guess, I am really curious to hear this journey of how did it start that you landed in financial services? And I guess, ultimately, how did you get to the point that you're building this technology company and it starts taking over your world? But I guess just take us back to the start. How did you get started in the industry in the first place?
How Adam Started His Career In Financial Services [08:18]
Adam: Oh, my gosh. Okay. So, I think most of us who are now in their 40s, 50s, I'm just pushing 50, just so you know, to give an idea. I've been 25 and years in the business now. So, earliest, I started in 1998, I was 2 years out of college. I literally went to a job fair because I was working for the Global Change Research Program and I was working with computers. I had studied environmental sciences plus economics because I couldn't figure out what I wanted to do. And I say this because it does come back. I did this remote sensing satellite imagery certificate when I went to college, and I was really intrigued by how we're making land use decisions with maps. Okay. Now, how does that have anything to do with finances? Well, it didn't back then, but it was what was called geographic information systems, the precursor to what now everybody calls Google Maps. Basically, looking at the world spatially and data spatially. You can imagine how this kind of parlays into Asset-Map.
I wound up basically realizing I actually did not want to work behind a computer. And so, I went to a job fair looking for a job that would get me in front of people. And lo and behold, I wound up interviewing with several financial services companies. I wound up working for Equitable in Philadelphia. I had no background in finance. I think I was a... We joked that I was the sacrifice hire. I did not really do well on my insurance exams to show that I was going to be a good insurance producer. And yet, that was the kind of hallmark of the firm that was hiring into a developing field force. And I loved the people, and it resonated with me, and I decided to go for it. So, I think, like many of us who find ourselves in the business, and I was just listening, actually, to a recent podcast you did, and the gentleman said he came in via the same way, found a job, and it kind of stuck with me. I've been there 25 years. So...
Michael: Yeah, I almost landed there, but I couldn't even get as far as you did. I failed the screening test for the local AXA office here in the DC area. They had assessment that basically determined I was not very... Something in effect, I was not very trainable and just a little bit too free thinking, which I guess, in retrospect, I actually have to give them credit. That was probably a good assessment.
Adam: Oh, my god. That's hilarious. We have that in common. Yeah.
Michael: Yeah. So, they screened me out.
Adam: It was funny because...
Michael: I don't take that personally. They were right.
Adam: No. Yeah, look, there's lots of jokes about me coming into the first interview, coming from working for the federal government, and I came in my 3-piece wool suit in the middle of the summer of June. And I had 1 suit that I had bought at T.J. Maxx. We were relatively, we'll call it modest, family and I wore my grandfather's watch. I thought that's what people wanted from finance, and I went to the job. And after 4 interviews, like you kind of alluded to, they were going to pass on me, except the guy who had started as a manager the day before I interviewed, he needed a guy because he was brand new. They gave me to him. They said, "Okay, you figure it out." And they passed me over to putting me with an established group. And it's a joke that I have now with the president of the organization because he always jokes that he passed me over. And I wound up, obviously, making a pretty big contribution to the organization eventually.
But it's really an interesting point, Michael, because some of the best advisors and most innovative thinkers really got into the business as kind of default or by accident. And I think it's really interesting because it showed a trend. Most of the advisors I know are really entrepreneurial, trying to change what's going on, "How can I evolve? How can I contribute, leave my mark?" And I know most of the advisors that have been really successful, at least in my circles, have really reinvented and created something, I think, in their own space they could be really proud of. And that takes a mindset of entrepreneurship not necessarily following status quo.
Michael: So, what was the job that you landed in? Because I know a lot of insurance hiring at that time, it was all individual solo producer, "Go hunt, eat what you kill" kind of environment. But it sounds like yours was a... Was it a little bit different that you're actually coming in onto a team to support another advisor?
Adam: No, I started like everybody else, a solo advisor, go to your natural market, right? Print your 100 list or whatever it was called. I had 20 people on my list because we were transplants to Philadelphia from New York City, and I have a single mom. She basically brought us here. We didn't have a network. Philadelphia is a very, we'll call it...how do I say it? Community-based city. Everyone knows each other or you don't know anybody because you grew up here, you live here, you stay here. And we didn't have that. And I didn't have a natural market. My mom didn't... I didn't have dad's country club situation. So, all the peers that I had were really just...they were light years ahead of me in terms of access. I had to find a way, Michael, to really resonate. I was 24, 25. The only way I could basically compete, I thought, was education. So, I went and I sat for my CFP as soon as I could. I did my ChFC. I don't even remember there was a certified senior advisor that had popped up there for a couple of years. I was really working with elder issues and long-term care. I did that one. I got my MBA back in 2002.
So, I was just convinced I had to be the smartest guy in the room because I just didn't have any natural ability to make it rain. So, and there were definitely... I think the joke in the company was I made 11,000 bucks my first year. That was what I made. And I was living at home. My mom was making me pay rent and I had to figure it out, and I actually discovered financial planning. And even in my second year. And so, I started doing full financial planning for people for free. And as a result, you can imagine what happened. It was the most amazing credibility building and process-driven sales enablement. And guess what happened? I earned the business because I earned the trust. And by my second year, I think I was number two in developing because people did what? They took action with me and that's how we were remunerated back then. So...
Michael: It reminds, I feel a lot of the parallels in the journey. I was similar of I felt like I was so young in the room because I started straight out of college as well, that I had a similar, "Well, if I'm going to be the youngest in the room, I'm not going to have any credibility on that. So, I need something else." So, similar, I decide my credibility is going to be getting some letters after my name. And frankly, if I'm going to compete on that, I have to get more letters on my name because that's my competitive edge. I can't just have the letters. I have to have more of the letters than others to do that. And I still remember as I started down that road, we started around the same time. So, this was the heyday of variable universal life insurance and I started an insurance agency where everybody sold variable universal life insurance. The question was who got the most premium flow in the variable universal life insurance?
Michael: And then I got introduced to financial planning from the one guy in the firm who had CFP marks and was doing that kind of financial planning. It was still ultimately financial planning for free because he got paid on the implementation, but it had a process, it established a relationship, it established trust. And the biggest thing that I remember from it was it didn't always lead to a VUL sale. Sometimes, they actually just needed term insurance. Sometimes, we opened a retirement account for them. Sometimes, there was an investment rollover. And just sort of this realization of you know what? Doing a plan and finding out what they need, and then just selling them what they need instead of always pitching VUL to everyone, that just seems easier to find out what they need and sell them that. This financial planning thing is kind of neat. My challenge, I still couldn't find people to get in front of because I didn't have a natural market either. So, where were you finding people to get in front of to get this going?
Adam: So, that's always a fun story and to kind of just tack onto what you're saying, nobody ever wanted to be sold, right? They want to be engaged and then they want to buy from you if they're engaged. That's the whole point of advice engagement, right? Advice in many ways is... Instead of saying financial planning anymore, I tend to say advice. I tend to say guidance because unfortunately... We can talk about this. I think financial planning is just getting put in a box and I think the definition of which has basically being designed actually by the tech companies, not by the actual process. And I think you're doing a fantastic job championing financial planning. But I think the vernacular has changed. So, when I tend to think of using advice as an engagement tool to ultimately get people to take better action, that was a very, I will call it, aspirational view back then, right? Because at the end of the day, we were still compensated from the placement and there was no doubt, we had quotas and we had expectations to move the manufactured product.
Although I would say back then, even the organization that I'm still affiliated with today, called Karr Barth in Philadelphia, was one of the top agencies, if not the top at Equitable and AXA for many years, in fact, still today, they always had a very, I would say, evolved view that you gave a good advice because we want to be here for the next 50, 100 years as a company. Advice first, and the products will actually come, and that's actually what they proved. For me, though, I remember, actually it was in... I was at my year marker. I was head down on financial planning. I was at the point where I was basically going to fail out, Michael. I couldn't keep up with my expected rents to my mom. I was thinking, "I got to get a real job. This is not going to work." And I had spent a lot of time with Tony Robbins and going to his events in my teenage years. And she, my mom...
Michael: You were going to Tony Robbins' events in your teenage years?
Adam: Yeah, that's a whole nother story. My mom dragged me there actually, when I was 16 and 17, and I totally got hooked on self-development and pushing myself, and it totally changed my view. But the reason I mentioned it is because there was a principle of asking for help. And so, when my natural market was basically a drought, I said, "Gosh, you know what I really need to do? I need to ask for help." Because as you know, most of us are good people, and when someone who you care about or know asks you for help, you tend to listen, as opposed to going and ask them for referrals, right? And so, I asked someone I knew who knew a lot of people in Philadelphia. I said, "Would you have lunch with me?" I couldn't barely afford it, Michael. And then she wound up picking a sushi place. And it was good.
Michael: Oh, come on. Pick something cheaper.
Why Adam Asked For Help To Gain Client Trust And Referrals [19:44]
Adam: Yeah, she did. Well, she took advantage of me, but anyway, I got it. She paid it back in spades because she said, "What's up?" And I said, "Listen, I really need your help." "Well, then, how can I help you?" she said. I said, "Well, I came up with this idea. I want to work with business owners. I'm starting this new project." I really approached it from an entrepreneurial standpoint, but I really need to speak to other business owners so that I can explore and show this problem set that I have. And I was really going after benefits and trying to go after corporate. And I don't know. I'd gotten convinced early in the day that could be an interesting marketplace because business owners, as we know, have every single problem there is, personal and business-oriented, that we can solve. So, that seemed like a great market. And she said, "I'll tell you what. I don't have any money myself." But she took out a napkin. She wrote down 4 names. She said, "Call these people."
I called all 4 as you can imagine. Two already were like, "No." Two said they would meet with me. One blew me off and the other one actually would agree to have lunch with me. So, I had to buy lunch again. And at the end of this conversation, you'll see where this goes because it's very relatable, I said, "Listen, I'm in this space of doing... This is what I'm doing." She says, "Listen, my sister and my best friend are my 2 financial advisors." I said, "Okay. So, I'm not going to get anywhere here." And I asked her, as we were walking out, and she said, "Very nice to meet you. You're really kind. Thanks for lunch. Blah, blah, blah." I was 25, 26. I asked her, I said, "Has anybody actually done a financial plan for you? You said you want to retire by 55. Have you modeled this out?" And she says to me surprisingly what? "No."
Michael: My advisor has never done that for me before.
Adam: "My advisor, my sister, and my best friend have never modeled my retirement. I clearly have no view as to what's going on." "And I'll tell you what. You know what I'll do?" And I'm like... I say it like a young Jewish kid from New York, "I'm happy to do it. I'll do this financial plan for you." And she said, "That'd be great." And I did it for her. And guess what I uncovered? Major gaps. Her best friend and her sister were leaving her in serious tax problems, basically on the structure because they weren't talking to each other. And play it forward, what happened? She wound up referring me to 1 person. I thought that she would open up the whole world, but that 1 person referred me to 1 person. And I literally did this chain of financial planning and then earning the business. And I wound up having this unbelievable year.
So, I know it was a long story, but the key to that and the remembrance is all of us can get to a moment where we can ask for help. And sometimes don't be surprised, as you keep giving that that comes back to you. And so, I learned that and then I just kept on that path, Michael. I probably only worked with 5 to 10 new households a year, but because I was doing planning, I was gathering a significant amount of problem solving, especially in those early ages.
Michael: So, I'm struck by that as well. I guess, I'm wondering how literal this language was for you that... To me, ultimately what you're describing is I found someone who gave me a referral and then my referral gave me my referral, and a referral gave me a referral. And you start going down the referral train which is how a lot of us just try to build that network. But I'm struck, I guess just from a language end because you said you didn't go asking for referrals, you went asking for help. Is that literally the language that you didn't reach out and say, "I'd like to ask for referrals?" You just reach out and say, "I'd like to ask for help. Here's what I'm trying to do. What should I do to make this work?" And her solution was, "Oh, well, let me give you some names."
Adam: No. Well, because here's the thing. The story around the referral script that we were all taught was, "I get paid by referrals." Okay, that sounds really freaky.
Michael: Well, I get paid 2 ways. The first, the company is using my product.
Adam: You get paid... That's right. You're right.
Michael: Second, it's the introduction you give me to your friends and family.
Adam: Thanks for bringing back this horror story. I think it is actually explicit. The request for help is psychologically sound and works in a community of trust, right? So, I think when you're specific about who you can help with your services and so forth, and you're asking for that, there's no question. There was a modicum of desperation for me at that time. If I didn't get help, I'm out of the business.
So, there was a bit of urgency. I don't know if every advisor or advicer, as you would say, is in that position to maybe say this is critical, but I think there is a way to communicate to people who care about your success that can be satisfied because you can be very specific, Michael. If I asked you right now and said, "Listen, Michael, I have decided to really focus my business on delivering significant value to this niche market and this is how I've done it. I've invested an extraordinary amount of money in people and technology to deliver this. I'm really excited about it. And as a result, I'm actually letting go a third of my client base that doesn't really match with me. But that's where I really need your help. And I thought I would share that with you because I'm really excited about it. And you might know people that would appreciate that." And so, you see what I just did? I converted it into the referral conversation, but I led with that. And I think that's why advisors, if they're sincere, it comes across.
Michael: It almost reminds me, I live a portion of my days in supporting some of the nonprofit world in the DC theater community and there's a saying in the nonprofit world when you're trying to build and expand boards, and your base, if you want their money, ask for help. And if you want their help, ask for money. Because if you ask for money and they don't have dollars to give, they'll say, "Well, let me at least give you some help, some non-financial help."
Michael: And if you know they've got dollars, you don't ask for the dollars. You ask for their help because they won't have time for help. And then to assuage their guilt, they'll be like, "I'm sorry, I really can't help you. I don't have the time." You're like, "Let me write you a check."
Adam: How about...
Michael: So, if you want their money, you ask for help and if you want their help, you ask for money.
Adam: That's a great takeaway. I'm going to use that.
Michael: And so, because I'm hearing a version of that here which is like, "If I want your referrals, I ask for your help because you'll give me that instead. I can't do any business with you because I don't fit your situation but let me give you some names of someone that I know." I have to assuage my guilt on like, "Oh, you're asking me for help in an area that isn't actually my thing and I don't really know how to help you. Let me give you some names of people who could."
Adam: Yeah, but I mean...
Michael: So, this is exactly where you ended out at the end of the sushi dinner.
Adam: I agree, I agree. And the tit for tat is not necessarily an expectation. I tend to approach all of these on a give first. So, I hope that I espouse this idea that I'm always giving. I call people and say, "How can I help you?" These are people that get to know. So, I want anybody hearing this to say, "This is... Go ask some people for help." The realities is that that sincerity falls through. You've got to have a persona that I think is a giving one so that when you ask for help, it's not weird.
Michael: They have to actually believe you mean it.
Adam: Yeah. "I'll think of some people." I'm like, "No." But being specific is really critical. And that is one thing we have learned from that kind of sales cycle of being specific, of asking for people who meet this specific criteria, not just being generic because then you know how it is. I know 1,000 people. I can't think of anybody.
Michael: Yeah, right. Like, "Do you know anybody who might want financial advice?" "Oh, I don't know. Because it's really, I don't know who wants what. I don't know if you're good at it. I don't know if you're the right fit. I don't want to embarrass myself." I say I can't think of anyone with all the people I know. But when you say, "Hey, I'm building out with business owners and I really want to help them with their employee benefits and all these other things. I'm trying to figure out how to serve business owners better and what I can do for them that's most useful, and I just need your help. Do you know...? What do you think about this and what should I be doing?" And maybe you can even ask, "Who should I be talking to?" When you get that specific, people are like, "Well, I start thinking of actual business owners that I know." And all of a sudden, some names come to mind because you're asking for help.
Adam: That's right.
Michael: I'm not sending the names to you to sell them something because then that can blow back to me. I'm giving their name to help you which means all that's going to come back to them is apparently I think so much of them that they're my go-to when someone needs help. So, they got flattered. They should be happy I gave the name.
Michael: Because it just interchanged the context when you're asking for help instead of asking for referrals.
Adam: Well, look, here's the thing that I did become, I think, reasonably good at in the sales process. I'm not supposed to be a good salesperson. I learned very clearly to sell the problem, not the solution. In many ways, this is what financial planning is in the sales enablement community. Okay? Those that are still leading with product predominantly, they're using planning as an enablement or some version of planning, needs analysis as a sales enablement tool. But the reality is that you're constantly selling the problem. Look, if I asked you right now, Michael, if you think about it, right now, how organized will your survivor be to knowing where all your financial stuff is? Can you imagine what that process...? Have you ever gone through that with a family member? Have you ever lost a family member where you just don't know where your stuff is? Gosh, I have so many stories personally, I mean, intimately, of having to go through estates in the family, as well as just horror stories of lost assets, of just emotional mess associated with what if we could just get you a map? Here's where everything's buried, a treasure map for the household. Can you see how that would be valuable?
Adam: Who do you think needs that? Now, I don't know if you heard what I just did, but selling the challenge that we all have, just living in this day-to-day life is really the core of getting people to take action and recognize that the service that you deliver is actually a benefit. This is not about me trying to sell you, getting you to sell my friend and connect you because they need financial advice. Everybody needs some level of financial guidance. But can you sell the problem and recognize that other people have this, and you know what? I would love for you to help them solve that. I think that's the difference.
How Adam Worked His Way Up The Ranks At His Firm [30:25]
Michael: So, you start down this asking for help route as you're discovering financial planning. It creates these windows where if I can just get in front of someone, nobody is perfect with their finances. So, if I can do a comprehensive financial plan for someone, it's pretty certain I'm going to find something that they need. As you got more specific in who you're going after, the referral chain starts to link, and people get you to the next person, and business starts flowing. So, what happens next on the journey? That just keeps amplifying for a while? What's the next page?
Adam: You're right. I had a moment. So, in 2000, I had created some credibility as the young kid that is surprising people, and I had a very empathetic approach. I was not very aggressive. Obviously, that was kind of evident in my early testing, like you. I was a nerd. I wanted to brainiac everything. I literally spent all my time, I don't know if you remember back then, but attorneys, accountants, real estate investors would have lunches to try to entice people to come do business with them. And, of course, I didn't have much money. So, I signed up for every one of these things and I was just picking up knowledge on 1031 exchange and trust for special needs. And I was going to everything, right? And I would sit in the back of the room, and if I would start up a conversation with somebody in the back, I'm like, "Why are you here?" And that's how I built my network, literally going and getting lunches from these other professionals, and learn.
Michael: So, you're their plate licker.
Adam: Yes, totally. I was totally doing that. Right? Remember, like you, I wanted to get knowledge like crazy. I didn't know where to go. So, I was creating this kind of theme of being this, I don't want to say a know it all, but the young kid who was just, we'll call it, excited. And I got hooked up with the top 2 advisors in the local branch. They were superstars nationally. They became my mentors. Andy and Andy are their names, both of them Andy. They started a firm. It's called RubinGoldman and Associates. They had just merged their 2 practices, very high-end estate planning and private equity stuff, really exotic and high-end to the clients, stuff I would never see, right? I would never see this level of complexity. They said they were going to start an investment arm because they're just running into so much business. They think they can get to $100 million in the first 2 years. They said, "We need a young guy to run it. Will you do it?" And I said, "Okay." And that was how I started that relationship in 2000. That was not the time to start an investment practice. Do you remember Y2K and then the tech bubble 3 months later?
Michael: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Adam: I think after 2 years of doing that, we had accumulated about $11 million of assets because we were trying to come at it from an SMA account or outsourced TAMP. The fees were 2.5% all in, even at high-end values like $3 to $10 million values of AUM. We weren't beating the incumbents and after 2 years of that, I was just burning out, and I wanted to get back into planning. And I was literally about to leave. I'd got an offer to go to Credit Suisse and join someone who I'd actually met and sat next to at the first Tony Robbins event I went to at age 16. He had become a super successful advisor at Credit Suisse. He asked me to come and be his junior. I said, "Okay, I'm going to come do this and I'm going to do my MBA at night, and I'm going to go..." Because I had to get my MBA to go to Credit Suisse. And then literally, my mentor came in and said, "Listen, I want to talk to you about something. We think you should get out of the investment business." And I'm thinking, "Okay, because I'm about to tell you I'm leaving." And he says, "We think you could long-term be our successor. We think you should hire somebody to run the investment team here at RubinGoldman, offload that." One of my buddies had just started a year before and he started to show real interest in investments. And he literally, he's like, "He'll take it over and you're going to learn the practice of high-end estate planning and long-term, you could be our successor." So, I called up Credit Suisse and said I'm not coming, right?
Adam: Because it was an unbelievable accelerator, 10 years probably, in my business.
Michael: And I guess from their perspective, right? They're doing high-end complex work for very high-net-worth clients in an agency that was just as many, I'm presuming back then, much more focused on sales transaction volume, right? If you go back for a lot of firms that day...
Michael: ...they would have told you you're wasting your time. Getting your CFP early in your career just takes away from your time to go network and get business. That's business suicide. You don't go get your CFP.
Adam: Oh, yeah. What do you think an MBA was?
Michael: Yeah, get calls. But then you've got the one group of advisors who are like, "No, we actually have complex clients and have to find someone who knows what the heck they're talking about because affluent clients sniff that out really quickly." So, the irony, I guess, to me is you actually end up being highly differentiated in that office for the one set of advisors that needed someone that could handle complexity. You're the only one to call.
Adam: Yeah, I think that is the key. And I showed that I could actually do production as a side effect of leading with advice. And that kind of became my mantra, leading with advice all the time and without expectation of any closing or anything. I literally walked into every meeting without rose colored glasses about, "This person's going to buy a million-dollar annuity." I got retrained to always think about, "Does this person need help? And then let's go figure out, let's shop." And I think they were much more mindful because they were working with such a high-end space where typically they're working with the family office, or an attorney, or an accountant who's going to vet everything we're doing. And so, they shopped everything. Literally, I think for 2 years, all I did, I put together $100, $200-million proposal for life insurance portfolios for really, really public figures and I learned a lot about the insurance world that I had no idea about. It gave me actually kind of a renewed view of respect for the complexity that you could do instead of just like you said, typically saying, "Okay, VUL whole life term." And now I was like, "Wow, I'm carrying myself a lot differently."
So, I had the investment side experience of what it was like to start building an AUM. I wound up actually starting to push all the AUM I was getting to my buddy, Greg, and then Greg started expanding. He grew that practice over the next 20-some years to well over $1 billion of AUM if you included all of our insurance. And I'm glad I kind of stuck in it, but it wound up being actually kind of a side business. The asset gathering business was…We were just building so much trust because we had an approach and you can relate to this. I think that people resonated with. We showed the shopping. We had custom analysis out the wazoo, but it was the precursor to Asset-Map because the challenge that I kept finding as the paraplanner extraordinaire at the time was there's so much complexity here. I don't think these clients even know what they've got. And so, maybe I need to go back to my mapping route, and just start trying to create a scalable framework. And I did it. Literally, it was for me.
And so, I think you fast forward to several years of basically doing what I just said, kind of supporting the growth of this organization from the technical side. The cool thing about it, and I have hats off to my mentors, is that they gave me a lot of trust as the young guy in the room to start building processes that they had really no interests in, right? So, when you think about technology process, CRM, workflow, all that stuff, I don't know, I was curious about that stuff. So, they gave me a little bit of free rein. They said, "Look, long-term this is going to be your problem to deal with, so start building the infrastructure that you need." And so, they allowed me effectively. The reason I got catapulted in the career is because I was now talking to a different caliber of client. So, I got access when I didn't have a natural market. I was running in circles. I was learning things at an unbelievable pace. I could talk the game with people twice my age. And I think the exposure and the opportunity to build a firm with their money was a huge advantage. I can't really stress on how thankful and blessed I was to have that experience.
How Visualizing Clients’ Assets Inspired Adam To Create His Asset-Map [39:26]
Michael: And so, relative to ultimately where you ended up with Asset-Map, then it sounds like the germ of this in the context of the financial planning world was, "I'm working with these hyper complex clients who have all this dollars and stuff all over the place. I can't even keep track of what all it is and where it is, I need some way to capture and visualize this in one place."
Adam: I needed to sell the problem, Michael. The problem for very wealthy families was, and they're not as motivated by if they have enough money to cover the bills, right? The retirement distribution analysis was not really of interest to them. Okay? Because they recognize every year, they're making distribution decisions or they've got enough cash flow that they're not dipping into their investments the way that most, we'll call them everybody else is thinking. So, their problem was what? It was aggravation around inefficiencies usually related to tax. Okay? Their biggest aggravation was their tax bill they're paying because they see that and they're writing that check. Okay?
Adam: So, they're really mindful of that, and structure, which is what structure? It's asset protection, it's privacy, and it's where is this structure going when I'm not here? And so, the estate component of it was really more how do I make a difference? How do I contribute? How do I live a fulfilling life? I've got enough capital and then how do I protect it for the next generation? So, it was interesting how the story really changed how their version of financial planning was. I don't know. I've built so much complexity and I've got 10 different advisors, they're going to go, "I got all this crap." I don't know what's going on. And by the way, I know I have this awesome vault that my last advisor gave me with eMoney. When Edmond first started the plan, he's also in Philadelphia. So, I remember when he came to my physical office and pitched on eMoney, it's got to be 17 years ago, and I was enamored. I loved it. I was like, "This is brilliant. I love this." And so forth. And we wound up becoming one of the earlier subscribers as a firm and trying to do fee-based financial planning.
It didn't take for us as well 16, 15 years ago because we felt like we were doing the planning anyway because we needed to with that level of complexity. And so, I said, "Gosh, you know what? I need to get this crap together for myself." And that's where the roots of Asset-Map was. It wasn't until, Michael, I think, 2005, it was 2005 when I was at a meeting actually in your area, in D.C. or Maryland. And I came to the meeting, I had my eMoney output and my Morningstar, and all this stuff, and I'd driven 2 hours to go do the classic. This guy is like, "You're going to come down to my house because I haven't seen you and we're going to do it old school." And he saw me writing on my Asset-Map, which I had standardized. It was all made by hand, but it was essential for me.
And I'm writing all my notes on it. And I'm like, "Okay, I got to move money from here to here. I got to do this, this." And he's like, "What are you doing?" And I'm like, "This is how I keep myself organized." He takes it away from me and he's looking at it, and he sees himself, and he sees his wife on there, and he sees his family members, and his trust, and his kids, and then the boxes. And he's like, "Okay. Oh, it's like..." So, literally, he's walking me through it. And he's like, "You know what you're missing? You're missing this. Did I not tell you I have this million over here?" "No, you didn't tell me that." "Okay. So, I'm uncovering new stuff." By the end of the meeting...
Michael: People see this stuff, and goes like, "Well, if you're going to have a map of me, it's going to be right. Darn it. You can't have a wrong map of me. I have to fill in the blanks now."
Adam: I have to tell you this. I have done this thousands of times. There is an obsession with, "Make sure your map is accurate." It's one of the secret sauces of why Asset-Map was so effective because when you look at a balance sheet, you kind of miss stuff. You can accept it's not here. But when it's visual and spatial, we learned this from the mapping side, it's like, "You're missing this house or this property that I have." "What is that?" "Oh, it's a warehouse. It's part of my business." "What's it worth?" "$10 million." "$10 million? You forgot to tell me about it."
Michael: $10 million.
Adam: "Okay, well, it's actually owned in trust." "Okay, explain." "Now, it's in a trust. My nana left it for me." "What's the trust?" "Oh, the trust got $100 million." "The trust got $100 million? Okay, wait. All right, first of all, after this, I need to meet with your accountant. Okay? Because your structure is all wrong."
Michael: Because again, it's one of those effects of moving in very high-net-worth circles. In particular, just their needs are covered. Their needs are often covered by just one of the various pots or pools of money that they're accessing. So just this whole... This focus of, "Well, did I get all the assets to do your retirement projection?" "Yeah, sure, you got enough of my assets to show me that I have enough for retirement. Not my concern. The fact that I didn't tell you about the other 100-million-dollar trust wasn't going to impact our relationship anyways because you showed me I have enough for retirement with the money you already knew about."
Michael: "So, telling you about more doesn't actually matter anyway."
Adam: No, no.
Michael: It's different compared to the average clients, I think, that a lot of advisors work with who are like, "No, I have to get every single asset on here because we're just trying to get you up to your retirement goal." But it just... It strikes me, right? Particularly relative to where planning was, to some extent today, but particularly 20 years ago, as you're talking about this, right? It was all problem identification and gap analysis. Planning software was built to show you your life insurance gap, to show you your retirement gap, to show you your education savings gap. It was all about showing shortfalls because we sold the solution like 529 plan, insurance, retirement account, etc.
Adam: You solve the problem.
Michael: Right. Because when you work with really affluent people who have out-earned all those problems, the whole financial planning software tool, I guess, just really starts to fall by the wayside because as you were articulating, all the problems that you're illustrating for them like tax inefficiencies, structure inefficiencies, asset protection, privacy, flow of very large complex dollar amounts, and where they go, planning software didn't solve that then. Frankly, it's not great at solving that now.
Adam: No, it didn't. Look, we got used to, I think, also looking at typical reports, right? They were a pie chart, a balance sheet, and some policy summary, and then a bunch of cash flow burn. But I think here's the important part and everybody, you need to hear this. The funny part about that meeting experience was... And ironically, this family is still a client of our firm today. And we're talking, I guess now, 20 years ago. So, he says to me, "Do me a favor. When next time you come down here, don't you dare bring that pile of paperwork. I want you to just bring this map because I'm going to take this from you. Okay? I got a photocopier in the other room. I'm going to make a copy of this because you finally gave me a way for me to communicate with my wife who just asks me, 'Are we okay? And where's our crap?' Okay? And she just wants to know that I've been thoughtful about her needs too because I'm the one handling the finances in the household. And every time I try to show her my Excel spreadsheet or I go onto the platform for the eMoney, she's like, 'Take that out of here. I don't want to see it.'"
So, what we realized is that we tend to communicate at this technical, professional, preeminence level. The client really wants to know how the food is made and we're talking usually to the engaged party in the household, and they're go ego to ego on whether they know a lot or they don't. And there's a whole bunch of people that are just disengaged. And so, the question is how do you deliver advice and engage them in the process where they're not intimidated? Literally, the light went off and I'm like, "Holy mackerel." And so, I spent the next year trying to get Asset-Map approved from the compliance team at my firm. And in 2006, I got it approved. In 2007, 2008, and 2009, I tripled my personal production each year.
And all of a sudden, by the time I was in 2009, I was a very young top producer. And, of course, now everybody is like, "What are you doing?" And that's when we started to really say, "This is a process." And in 2009, I spent a bunch of my single person money, and I started seeding Asset-Map. And that was the idea, was to build a process internally that we could use. It was our special sauce because we were gathering all these assets, we're cross-selling like crazy, people are excited. We've shortened the sales cycle down to literally 2 meetings and our fee-based financial planning, we're like, "Gosh, it's easy enough to do this, so we're going to do it for everybody." And all 1,600 clients in the firm eventually got Asset-Map. About 10 of them, 10 to 20 of them got eMoney because they really loved it and that was the jaw. And we really were able to just scale. I got down to the point, Michael, where I was probably working literally 2 days a week doing that level of production and it was a real eye-opener, and it gave me all this time back to now invest into practice.
Michael: Because the reality, as you just said, you can put the Asset-Map together more simply. Not to belittle, but you're just...
Adam: Yeah. No, true.
Michael: You're pulling numbers in to show as you put what all their stuff is and where it is. But you don't have to do the projection part which is what MoneyGuide and eMoney and RightCapital, and the rest do. And that's the time-consuming part, especially if you got really affluent clients. That's really complex and time-consuming to do the projections. All of which we often do to basically show people who already have more than enough money to meet all their goals that your projection shows that they have more than enough money to meet their goals, which is a lot of time, and not actually helpful versus we just put the Asset-Map in front of them and they see where all their money and stuff is, and they're even happier with far less time.
Adam: I'll make it even simpler for you. The irony behind most financial advice engagement, the pain point of all conservatives, I've learned... This is not just high net worth. Okay? Because we've tested this now, what? There's over a million and a quarter people in Asset-Map. We've tested this a little bit, let's call it that, over 15 years now, and the interesting problem that people usually come to the table with that's never expressed is, "I actually don't know if I'm making the right financial decisions. I have had advisors throughout my life." I'm speaking as if I'm the consumer. This is the unspoken truth underlying their request for help, usually in the early stages. "Several advisors have sold me some stuff. Worked out, didn't work out, never heard from them, did have varying experiences. I don't know if the stuff that's in my financial inventory actually serves me who I am today. It may have made sense 10 years ago, but I don't know why because I've inherited half this crap. And ultimately, the employer gave me some stuff. I've got that. Maybe I got some stock options. My nana left me something."
The clutter is hard to organize. Just like the cluttered basement, right? It's all the stuff that's down there. It's the baby stuff, the stuff I'm going to use. "I might actually wear that one day or that tool, oh, I love that tool." It's not really effective. And I think what the underlying challenge is when they come to a financial advisor, they want them to holistically, in their best interest, tell them some feedback of, are they okay? Do they have the right stuff? Do they have glaring problems? Do they have to fix stuff? Should we fill in some gaps? And the real benefit, I think, of starting with this fact-finding process is, "Before we get into any analysis, let's just do a financial x-ray and figure out what you got. And now let me educate you based upon what you've got, and what we can do better, and where there's probably areas we need attention. Let's start there."
The idea of coming in and saying this is all about retirement distribution planning is a, I would say is an artifact of a historical approach to financial planning that I think has taken over the conversation, mostly because the boomers are in distribution phase, but it's not actually the pain point. And I think we need to kind of zoom out to a degree, and start saying, "Let's just figure out what's going on in your life and whether we have done the right diagnosis first because there's a lot of disparate stuff." As you know well, it's not just about investments. It's not just about insurance. It's about tax, legal, banking, family structure, generational issues, emotional components, meaning of life we're about to get into, and I think that leading with, we'll call it a distribution analysis, has been a... I think it's immature today, frankly.
Michael: Interesting. And so, well, I'm struck as well that an anchor piece for all of that is just you said, the clutter is hard to organize and I mean, for anyone. Yes, some very high-net-worth clients have some really sort of interesting clutter. "Oh, I forgot to mention the $100 million trust from Nana because I hardly get any distributions from it."
Adam: Good point.
Michael: But almost anybody up and down the line, the financial system doesn't exactly sell simplicity. It sells complexity and more, and more and more, and add in a few, trying things over time, you end up with a lot of stuff all over the place.
Adam: That's true.
Michael: And I've always been struck because I remember this from early in my career of like, "Oh, my gosh, if you could just give me all of the data, I could get you organized and do an awesome financial plan for you. Because I was going to nerd out in some awesome financial planning." And it took me a long time to actually realize that this whole framework of, "If you would just give me the data, I could get you financially organized and do this plan for you" has this fundamental flaw to it which is if they're really not that organized, it's actually really, really hard for them to give you the data.
Adam: That is true.
Michael: And if they're so organized to give you the data that quickly, and readily, and easily, they actually are probably pretty clear of where this stuff is and what's going on. And ironically, that's actually harder to show some problems and prove their value because they tend to actually be in a better place. The clients that need the help the most, the first problem they have out of the gate is they literally aren't organized enough to fulfill your data-gathering request.
Adam: Yeah. No, that's true.
Michael: And then you have to solve for that. And that just very quickly starts with, "Let's just try to diagram out what you have and where the heck it is. Just at that level. What accounts are there, and where are they, and where does money move?"
Adam: Yeah, but isn't that...? Okay. So, let's be honest with ourselves. So, even if they're organized, it doesn't mean they've got the right stuff, right?
Michael: It's true.
What Is Asset-Map And How It Helps Clients Financially Declutter [54:46]
Adam: Hopefully you're right. We got to get to that place where we are able to, what I call, apply our advice intelligence, right? That's the real AI that matters. Can we apply our advice intelligence in real time to their current situation? And whatever it is, whether it's just starting or we're highly developed, whether we have a lot of complexity, but it's all wrong because I can't tell you how many times... There's a great story actually. This was kind of the eye opener for me. I share this actually in our boot camps for those advisors who really want to learn the language, and it was a pivotal moment for me. And the conclusion was, Michael, that everyone needs help. Okay? There was this precursor idea I had in my mind that wealthy people were all set. There was nothing I could do for them. I'm too young. I'm not smart enough. I don't know enough. They're already working with the top advisors with 30 years' experience.
And I had access to a family friend who was the CEO, chairman, president of a major financial services company that you would know, and I never thought it was possible I could really work with them. And I figured we'll just keep the conversation. We'll call it high level, more relationship, not ever about finances. Okay? It turns out that he was working with the number one advisor in his organization because that was kind of the rite of passage. The CEO got to work with the number one advisor. I went to their golfing. I went golfing with them once. I'm not a big golfer, but I got the opportunity to go golf. It's a top 10 golf place, I was told. The locker next to him was CEO of J.P. Morgan and on the right side was Citibank. The network was insane. Okay? So here, I'm totally intimidated here.
I said, "You know what?" I'm going to use my help strategy, Michael. So, I said, "I've got this Asset-Map. I created an asset map for a typical, very complex household with real estate and trusts, and all kinds of stuff." And I asked him for help. Can you imagine what help I asked him for? I said, "Listen, I'm working on this new project." This is 2008, "And I really think it's helpful to people to help organize their lives. I'm getting this great feedback. Would you give me feedback on it?" So, it took him 6 months. I got a meeting with him. It was a breakfast meeting at his house. I had to drive 3 hours to get there, 7:00 in the morning before his limousine picked him up to take him into the city. I get up there, he comes down. He's already been up since 5:00. He's already read the full Wall Street Journal, cover to cover. He sits down at the kitchen table, and I sit. He's like, "Okay, how can I help you?" I said, "Listen, would you give me feedback on this?" And I put the map in front of him. Okay? He's looking at it. He's looking and he's like, "Okay." He's underwhelmed. He's like, "What is this? What is this?"
Guess what happens? His wife comes down and says, "Oh, hey. I didn't know you're here." "Yes, I'm here." They were in their 70s, by the way, at this point. She looks at the map. She rips it out of his hands. She's looking at it. She's like, "What is this?" And I said, "Well, this is this map visualization I create for my households. I'm getting your husband's feedback on it. What do you think?" She looks at him. She says, "Do we have this?" And he says, "No, I got my Excel and I've got this, and I've got all those documents. I've got this whole packet for you." And she looks at me and she says, "Adam, can you make this for me?" I'm looking at him. His face is kind of awry because he knows now he has to actually get organized, right? And I'm like, "Sure, I'd be happy to do it for you." It took me two months to get it out of him. When I came back and showed them the map, it was an absolute travesty, absolute. If I told you that he had an annuity that he had been holding for 20 years, at 3% for 20 years. He had a one-star mutual fund with over a million bucks in it. All of his stock was still in cert form from 2000, Y2K if you remember that, still sitting in the bank vault. Nobody had actually managed it.
Michael: Yeah, with all stock certs. Yeah.
Adam: He had all his real estate owned personally, a mega estate tax problem. All his life insurance was owned personally. I was like, "Can I fix this?" And it wound up becoming one of the biggest cases I had ever worked on. It took me a year to fix it, but that opened my eyes. Once I was like, "Okay, wait a minute." Now everybody has inefficiency and I can uncover it by just having an open conversation of, "Why did you choose to do this? Does it serve you? Is it haphazard? Is it intentional?" I was able to release myself of ever having to really lead with the analysis. I never had to sell, "This is why it doesn't work in the distribution. This is why you have an estate tax problem." I could see structurally, there's efficiencies we can gather here. And so, that's when I called myself a recovering financial planner. I went from being a math... I loved it. I think like you, I'm an Excel junkie. Okay? But I was like, "Oh, my gosh, that's not what people really want." They want to know where the broken bone is and can I fix it? And that's when I literally had a transition. And that enabled me to... I was like, I had no fear. I would go to every household that I ever entered, I'm like, "Has anybody mapped your stuff? Have you looked at this?" "No. Would you do it?" "Yeah. I'm happy to do it for you for free. I'll do it for free. I don't even care because I love you and I'm going to give you help." And guess what I would uncover? Gold.
Michael: A whole... Yeah.
Adam: And that's how we grew our asset base so fast on the AUM side.
Michael: So, obviously, for folks that use Asset-Map, they need to hear the creation story, but they're familiar with it. But I know a lot of advisors, they've just... They've only lived in financial planning software. They've never done or seen Asset-Map. So, I know the whole point is it's literally a visualization and we're on an audio podcast here. But can you try to paint a picture a little?
Michael: Just for someone who has never seen this, never seen what the company offers, what is an Asset-Map?
Adam: What is an Asset-Map? A picture is worth a thousand words.
Michael: So, we're going to have to do the thousand-word version.
Adam: Okay. I'm going to give you a thousand words. Do you have enough time for this? Okay. And by the way, it didn't start out this way. We learned over the years that what mattered to me as an advisor didn't matter to the client. So, we had to negotiate and cut, and cut, and cut, and cut until it was whittled down to something that made me feel, at least in the early days, it was about me, but not anymore, that I felt still allowed me to have technical preeminence and didn't go across the line of simplistic, right? Because that's a really important aspect. For most of us that are technical, we don't want to look like Fisher Price advisors. Okay? So, we value and appreciate the fact that we have technical preeminence. And I know that you would appreciate that too because you've spent a lot of time building that.
It's interesting because you know there have been several companies that have just tried to knock off versions of Asset-Maps and I'm chuckling to myself because I'm like, "We tested that. We know that that's going to have a problem." But I'm not telling you what it is. Just so you know. I'm not going to tell you. But there is a component, what I call simple rich. Simple enough for me to have a high-level conversation, rich enough for me to go just deep enough to uncover whether we should explore something.
Here's what I mean. There's 5 components of the Asset-Map that are critical. Number one, who is most important in your family and your financial household? We think household because you make decisions as a household. That's typically... What is it? That's her and him, typically. But we've enabled the system to be full agnostic to all gender and all relationships, modern relationships today. Typically, it's a generation below you, sometimes it's a generation above you, if you're taking care of mom and dad or mom-in-law. Typically, that includes people you have financial dependencies on like business partners if you own companies together or if you own assets together. And then it's the legal entities, charitable, or corporate, or LLC, or whatever that you control or have an interest within. That's your financial household. That lives at the top.
They need to be top of mind because they are the why you're doing pretty much all this complexity. I need to make sure that we always talk about them and keep them top of mind. It is a customer-centric view. So, the people are in the center or the household, depending upon what view you're looking at. Income sources by what is it, where is it, who is it flowing to that I control both today and in the future. So, that means not just my current compensation, but I want a physical representation of assets or sorry, income sources you're going to get in the future. Things that are obvious like social security, pension, maybe even deferred comp, maybe even earnouts, maybe a distribution from the business sale, maybe it's also an annuity. I don't know, or a guaranteed minimum income benefit. Yes, that can live on an Asset-Map. It never lives anywhere because it's not real today. Then followed by assets that follow the branch of ownership organized by tax structure, color-coded so that you know what's qualified, what's not. We can handle all kinds of different kind of assets from your traditional stuff to your non-marketable alts, crypto, multi-currencies, multiple languages, assets, and liabilities in the center. And lastly, insurance policies.
So, what I just told you, if you kind of didn't follow that is imagine a family tree smashed into an income statement on top of a balance sheet mapped with a policy summary on top. Okay? So, all of the financial junk that we have accumulated, but structured by ownership and colored by tax regime. Okay? That makes sense so far?
Michael: Yeah, yeah. So, I'm...
Adam: Sort of?
Michael: Yeah. So, the who, the income sources, the assets and liabilities, and a summary of insurance policies.
Adam: Yeah. Life disability, long-term care, property, casualty, and we can't handle PNC. So, you can... Here's the funny thing. So, households today, the average number of boxes representing financial instruments is 25 per household. That's how much we're all literally organizing. If you're in a, we'll call it a run of the mill mass, I would say, mass affluent, with a net worth of, let's say, $1.2 million, that's our average of households that are in Asset-Map. So, a lot of people think that we're for rank and file, or... It's interesting to see how diverse the households are. There are some, obviously, some mega wealthy families in there, but 25 instruments, that's a lot of decisions. Most of them are haphazard, we inherited them or someone sold them to us. No one's inspected it.
Michael: And so, the essence from the Asset-Map then is you're trying to put all this on one page, on one visualization. Because what you described, I'm sure there are a lot of advisors like, "Yeah, I have a section of my financial plan where we list the people and then I've got a thing that talks about their income sources. And then, of course, I talk about their net worth and have a summary of their net worth. And we've got an insurance section, our financial plan, that talks about their insurance coverage." The essence here is, but you're literally trying to do this in a one-page visualization.
Adam: Yeah. And it rotates to optimize for a page or a screen. So, it works with... We used to work in prints forever. So, the funny thing is we would go to most meetings, we would have our deep planning tools. And that's an important question, Michael, you didn't ask, which is what's the relationship here to my typical financial planning tools? Joel Bruckenstein did a survey, I guess 2 years ago, and he said, "How many Asset-Map users are using a financial planning tool in addition," which was the typical big 3, and it was 70%. So, they're not using it... We don't find that most Asset-Map users are using Asset-Map in absentia of financial planning. They're using it as a collaborative tool. The most recent enterprise shared with us that they offer a traditional planning tool and Asset-Map. The difference is they're getting adoption of Asset-Map three to one. Why is that? Because they're finding that most advisors will stay high level early now and just gather the information and then decide whether they need to go to full financial planning or whether they can just do triage and solve the problem right from Asset-Map. Because we do have rudimentary financial planning embedded now in Asset-Map. In 30 seconds, I could do a retirement analysis. I think that's pretty much table stakes these days.
Michael: So, just a quick and dirty, "Are you anywhere in the reasonable neighborhood of being on track or not? If it's yes, we're done. If it's no, sure, I can do a really detailed analysis of exactly how much you need to save to get on track," but the more practical conversation is, "Do you have anything more you could save than what you do today? Yes or no? If it's no, we have to solve that. If it's yes, it's going to be what it is. Maybe we can work on changes to help you save more in the future." I don't actually really need to know exactly how much more I need to save here if I'm off track. All we really have to figure out is can I save more? And if not, what am I going to start doing to save more? And then later we can come back to, "Okay, now that you're saving more, exactly how much do we need and is it enough?"
Adam: If I'm making a 30-year retirement plan projection and the bottom line, the client wants to know effectively how much they need to save every month because they need to get into an actionable goal. And we tell them your financial planning tool that's incredibly robust tells them that they need to save $3,422 a month, right now, based upon our assumptions of all those assumptions that go into it, which we all know are based upon a lot of assumptions on assumptions. Okay. But okay, fine. Precision is what it is. But I can basically tell them in 30 seconds that they need to save $3,500 a month. Is there really a difference in the quality of the advice for action to take now if with speed, I can get them to say, "Yes, okay, let's go find $3,500 a month," versus going through a full process that's going to take me probably longer than 30 seconds to get to an analysis. I think fundamentally and I really want your opinion on this, we may be overcalculating and losing people along the journey. And I think that's been what we've taken a stand on it at Asset-Map, which is I think direction is better than precision on a 30-year journey.
What Adam Feels Can Be Improved In Financial Planning Today [1:09:47]
Michael: Yeah. Yes, I agree with... A little bit of an asterisk, I do agree principally. Direction is the most crucial piece here. And if I can deeply calculate $3,422 a month or I can quickly calculate $3,500 a month, are we there enough with $3,500 a month? I would say yes, absolutely. Goodness, my 30-year projections are not remotely fine-tuned enough to be within a 2% of savings goal, right? $3,422 versus $3,500, we're a percent or 2 of your savings number. I can literally adjust that on your retirement goal by what happened to the market on Tuesday. The caveat to me beyond just directionality, I do need to have confidence I've gotten to the right neighborhood and there's some level of specificity around that that's relative to client's dollars in net worth in the first place. I do need to get to the right neighborhood, and both have confidence as the advisor, and be able to give confidence to my client that we're in the right neighborhood. And that we're not so wildly off that I'm going to come back in a while and just say, "Yeah, we were sort of directionally right because I was pointing us west, but it turns out we were trying to get to Seattle, and we just hit Saskatchewan."
Adam: Ha ha. Well, it’s actually pretty this time of year in Saskatchewan.
Michael: True. Right. So, there's not just a direction thing. There's some calibration effect that goes into that as well. The missing output to me is a sensitivity analysis.
Adam: Yes, that's right.
Michael: That says, "Here's the parts of your plan that matters." Some planning software tools do some pieces of this or there's some sliders I can play with that gets me a little bit close, but I don't feel like I've seen anybody give me the good sensitivity analysis that just shows some common size thing for a client like, "Here's how much your outcomes change if you dial your spending up and down by 10%. Here's how much your outcomes change if you dial your equity exposure up and down by 10%. Here's how much your outcomes change if you dial your social security start date up and down by one year."
Adam: Here's the thing. I've been around long enough, God willing, to know that all of the plans that I have made, there's themes or gists that have worked out, some I kind of prepped and some life gave me some interesting changes as we have all can relate. Okay. There's this phrase that people make plans and God laughs, right? So, I think what's important about that in planning is the following. Every single financial plan that I have done, you can go back to, it, I spent hours like you did. From the time that I started as a financial planner in 2000 till I would say, even today, none of them played out the way that I projected them. I reprojected them every single year, none of them played out. The amount of money that I assumed was going to come from a certain account based upon the Monte Carlo bull**** has not actually happened.
I can tell you with relative confidence that 100% of my financial plans did not play out the way that I sold it. What I did get from them and what you said is I got confidence. And that confidence parlayed into the helping the client make a decision. And it's that behavioral action that Dan Crosby talks about that actually is the real crux of helping people. People don't lose weight, get fit just by going crazy and doing this fantastic diet analysis. They get fit from taking a step, by doing a push up. And I found pretty consistently that the way to help people actually is for me to have confidence that they should take action and that the action they're taking serves them. Is it not based...? I think that we've gotten into a habit of creating a false sense of security based upon the depth of our analysis that we then parlay onto our client saying, "This is why you should do this is because the analysis is robust and I stand behind it." Even though we know well full that the entire analysis based upon assumptions that we have no way to control. And here's my best example to you. If you're a business owner, as you and I are, you and I are entrepreneurs, I'd like you to give me a pro forma. You can go 2, 3, 4 years out. You push 10 years on a pro forma and as an investor, I'm laughing at you.
Michael: It's comical.
Adam: Okay? I'm laughing. Okay?
Michael: I'll barely do a 3-year. I'll do a 3-year.
Adam: I don't even look at the five-year. I'm like, "That's funny. A hockey stick. What?" I'm like, "Oh, you're still at the puck." Okay? I don't think that that's reasonable as an investor in businesses for us to say pro formas. And if businesses with the tools, and techniques, and knowledge, and MBAs can't even figure that out, how in God's name are we actually doing this on a 30, 40, God forbid, 50-year projection of what's actually going to happen in the future? And I think we have done a great job of communicating to the advisor space and advicer space, as you call it, that the analysis is critical to build the confidence that you're approaching this from a thoughtful, logical, and really defensible part of the business, right? Best interest, defensible. I did this analysis. See, that's why you need this annuity. That's why this investment makes sense. That's why this insurance is here. But I don't know at the end of the day whether that is really serving the end consumer. I think that we need to do a better job doing financial triage.
It's one of the reasons why we started this podcast talking about advice engagement and not financial planning. And don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to throw junk on financial planning. I'm trying to challenge the status quo of what we've always thought we needed to do to get the outcome. I'm challenging everybody and say, listen, we need to start at the basics. What matters to you? What are you doing? Does it serve you? And how do we now make the next action, which is do we go deep on analysis, or do we just get some Band-Aids, or do we just do some physical therapy, or this is full out surgery? And I think that's the key where as a result, it's a reason why financial planning is not getting to enough people. We need to figure out a way to engage around advice.
Michael: I think it's an interesting framing to sort of characterize Asset-Map and the experience of clients go through that advisors take them through as a financial triage exercise. I think that's actually a really good framing around it to say like, "Okay, is this a client that really needs the full-bore analysis because of the complexity?" Right? There are some clients, there is so much tax and business, and other stuff going on. Okay, I really do need to pull out the heavy-duty analytical tools. There are too many moving parts to handle with the simplified analysis and there's too much risk that I'm really not even going to be in the right neighborhood.
Michael: But for some clients, the reality is it's not actually that complex. We can get to the neighborhood pretty quickly and just the recommendations aren't that hard to figure out in the first place. And then we have to balance that with... I've joked for this for a long time. Almost anybody that's been doing all this a long time has realized, yeah, something like 80 or 90% of my client conversations, the deep dirty truth is I can give you almost all of the client recommendations about 15 to 20 minutes into the conversation. I could write them on an index card and we'd be done.
Michael: Then the 10% or 20% is what I think the cool, awesome, super nerdy stuff where we can come up with super fancy strategies and create a lot of value, a lot of unique value. But so much, there is kind of a bread and butter of planning, BUT I know that if I sat across the client and heard them for 20 minutes and wrote on index card what they need to do, it would probably be right, they're not going to do it. They don't feel heard and understood enough yet if they just say it and I write out some things on an index card.
Adam: That's true.
Michael: There has to be more engagement, or more depth, or more way to demonstrate that you've done enough analysis, that it's credible and that they have confidence to take action because they feel like you've done the work to prove the point.
Adam: So, I have a question for you. I love that you said this. So, what builds confidence and trust? Is it the robust analysis that the doctor takes 2 months to come back to me and said, "Here's what your MRI says," or the doctor who puts up an x-ray and says, "Let me educate you as to how your body works"? The process of that trust, that interactiveness, what I call participation over presentation, it's a thing I've been stuck with and I'm talking to a lot of people. We've taken it too far, I believe. And of course, I'm being extreme here, but I would say we've pushed the pendulum more towards, "Let me present this," and you said theater, so I'm going to use it, "this theatrical performance of my preeminence and build confidence around wow." Because I did that. You should have seen me. It was insane.
Next, it's all about education and helping lift people's literacy today, I think, and proving that I have a valuable human aspect of this relationship that I really know what's going on in your life. And I proved it because I put it up on the screen in front of you and you can participate in it. And now it's yours. It's not mine to dole out every annual meeting. It's yours to participate and bring our minds to apply that. And that's when you reiterated the triage concept, I very much think that the next evolution of the human delivered advice, not just financial planning, across profession, tax, legal, insurance, investment banking, is going to be really about how you bring your human insight and experience to their life in real time episodically.
Some people will pay for you to be there all the time, a lot of people will say, "I've got some issues, I want to see someone. I'm going to go see a specialist." And they're going to want to bring you into this conversation. And I don't know that they're going to have the gumption or the interest in going through full financial planning the way we've typically delivered it. We need to be able to boom, bring our insight to their life in 15 minutes and say, "Okay, yes, you know what? You do need the MRI. You do need this surgery. I need to bring in my core team," or "You know what? You need some insurance, and you need to start saving. Okay, here's a great mutual fund. Let's go." Right? That's the difference, I think. And we could help a lot more people, I think collectively, if we just get them engaged and start helping them become more literate.
Michael: So, with a lot of the industry buzz these days around one-page financial plans, which I feel like is another version of “How do I boil more of this financial planning information and focus down to either a single page of delivery?”, I find more advisors in practice our one-page financial plans seem to be more of an ongoing review tool. The upfront plan usually is still a little larger, where I have a one-page financial plan and a 52-page technical appendix. So, we've shifted the presentation. The plan software output is still there. But I am just wondering, how do you... Because ultimately, the whole nature of just what you framed around the Asset-Map is we're getting all this stuff onto one page so they can finally see this holistic view and where it's going. And then that facilitates great conversations because they want to fill in the map. And then you just start asking the obvious questions like, "Why do you have 6 different IRAs?" How do you think about what Asset-Map is doing relative to sort of this growth and movement towards one-page financial plan deliverables?
Adam: We're happy everybody finally showed up and figured it out. I don't know. Someone asked me this the other day and honestly...
Michael: Is Asset-Map an alternative to a one-page financial plan? Is Asset-Map a 1-page financial?
Adam: No, no. I don't know anyone who's putting out a true one-page financial plan because that is like... Okay. Do you remember when there was the... What was it? It was the six-minute ab workout or I think it was six-minute abs. Right? Everyone's like, "6-minute abs, you could do..." Yeah. And then there was a joke on television, but like, "I'm going to come out with the 4-minute abs." No, you can't do four-minute abs. Now you're pushing the limit. I've been saying this, so everything in Asset-Map, we designed to be a tear sheet. It has to live on one page. What I would say to you is that a 3-page plan is legit. A one-page plan is a dashboard that leaves me always wanting more. When you look at a one-page financial plan, what I'm seeing the guys do in financial planning is I think it's definitely the right path, but its utility in the field is very hampered because guess what happens? I show somebody their one-page summary of dashboard of stuff, and inevitably they're like, "Great, but where is that again," or "Where's the stuff?" And I'm like, "Here we go. Let me bring out the appendix." The PDF wasn't printed because I'm trying to save ink. And so...
Michael: But I wanted you to ask me about the appendix because I'm really proud of the 52-page plan.
Adam: Okay. That just showed your true colors, my friend. I agree with you. We do love showing the work that we have done because we value it. The difference is very often, we have to be honest with ourselves. The clients love the creme brûlée. They don't care about how you steam the milk. They're like, "Okay, I know you got the creme brûlée. It's awesome." So, the point is I think Asset-Map has a couple of different components. I don't want to go too much into it, but Asset-Map has the ability to create one-page retirement plan, one-page life analysis, one-page long-term care, etc., long-term disability, or any other thing you can think of, one page on the output. So, it has enough of the information, so that I can be really dangerous with just that one page. But then Asset-Map is one page. And signals is one page because the idea is tear sheet planning, not one-page planning. We need the capacity to put in front of our clients what they need when they need it, not basically try to now obfuscate it by saying, "Here's this dashboard full of charts and pie charts." And you're like, "But what does it mean?"
It's interesting. I think a couple of companies have done a really good job at this, at really pushing it. Obviously, what Carl is doing, I think is really... And of course, I think Elements is now in that advice engagement category. I think what they're doing is really interesting for kind of high-level feedback on financial wellness. I think that's what they're really doing.
Michael: I think it's a really interesting frame. Just as you said, a three-page plan can be legit, a 1-page plan is a dashboard. It's good, not to knock dashboards. Dashboards are actually very helpful in a number of contexts.
Adam: No, no, no.
Michael: That's why I feel like I see a lot of advice engagements getting picked up in an ongoing client service scenario, right? Because it's dashboards for client reviews, whereas... We've seen this in the tech studies that we do on the Kitces platform as well, Asset-Map tends to get used earlier in the process and often with new clients, whereas a lot of the other advice engagement tools are getting used later in the process with ongoing clients. It helps crystalize for me the distinction that a lot of the one-page plan tools are our dashboards, in a positive way, but are dashboards, whereas you're building something that looks more like tear sheet planning. Can we get these conversations down to a one-page deliverable...
Adam: Conversations. Yeah.
Michael: ...to facilitate this conversation? And so, if there's a lot of planning areas, I am going to have multiple pages because I need the insurance page, and the retirement page, and the overall balance sheet net worth page. So, I might have a couple of pages, but each page contains that conversation or facilitates that conversation well.
Adam: I need to know, in every single... There's one consistency I found, Michael. In every annual review meeting, I need to validate that my knowledge matches the truth and that's core fact-finding. We've had that forever, and it engenders trust, it shows that we're actually paying attention to what's going on in the changes in people's lives, and that's why we've put Asset-Map as the forefront of every annual review meeting. "Let's just make sure we're on the same page. I took this liberty of creating this visualization for you. Maybe you saw it, maybe you didn't. Here's your life as I understand it. Are these people still relevant? What's going on with Nana? How's this going? Do you still have these income sources? What about these IRAs? Are they still valid or the 401(k), did you rebalance it? Did you change the beneficiary? What's going on?" And all of a sudden now, I've got them engaged in a visual agenda.
And so, what you're going to actually see, and I'll give you a bit of a kind of taste or reveal, Asset-Map is actually we're finding it's becoming a single pane of glass for many advisors. They just have that on the screen the entire time, in a screen share. If they need to flip to Morningstar, they will. If they need to go to eMoney, they will. So, we're basically embedding a lot of these tools right within Asset-Map. The ability to click on any box and see performance from Orion right now or go to file storage with a bunch of the file storage companies, or go to CRM and start making changes right inside of Asset-Map. That's what you can do today. So, even though you're right, it is used very often as a, we'll call it financial screening triage tool, we've come up with some interesting names to figure out, what should I do with this household? Should I go deep on planning or should I just go triage, or just say this is not the right fit, or maybe give it to my junior, or bring in my A team? Those are decisions that we need to make early on and improving that. We know the client is a great way to start there. So yes, Asset-Map is fantastic in the front-end prospect kind of validation, but I think you're going to see it very heavily on the back-end engagement.
Michael: So, for folks that are listening, we'll have a link out for Asset-Map in show notes if people want to take a look. But Adam, are we able to get, I don't know, a sample Asset-Map one-pager just that we can post to show notes as well for people that are listening and want to see, want to check it out?
Adam: Yeah, sure. You mean like a PDF?
Adam: Yeah, of course. We'll get it to you.
Michael: Okay. So, for folks who are listening, this is episode 336. So, if you go to kitces.com/336, just we'll have a link in the show notes for a sample version of an Asset-Map if you want to see it, and then obviously links out to the website if you want to dig in further.
Adam: Very cool.
The Surprises And Low Points Adam Encountered On His Journey [1:28:46]
Michael: So, Adam, I guess I'm wondering, as you've gone on this journey, I guess, overgeneralizing a little kind of the first 10 years of the career were on the advisory side, the past 10 years of the career tilted more towards the tech company side and building Asset-Map out into a tech business unto itself. So, I guess, the next thing I'm wondering, what surprised you the most about actually building and turning this into a tech business beyond just a thing that I do for my clients that's working well for me and my clients?
Adam: It's funny. I wasn't convinced it was going to be a business beyond my own best practice early on, but I'll shorten that by saying I knew when we had seen other advisors within our organization having similar results, that kind of gave me the validation. I was always scared, Michael. I didn't want to take money from anyone else. I only wanted to risk my own money. I was an investment advisor for many years. I didn't want the black mark if it didn't work out. So, I made sacrifices at the family level, and I think that was a big insight from doing really well as an advisor to saying, "Hey, let's take something great and walk away from it." It's an awesome business. I love what we do, and today, I actually think of myself as more a coach to other advisors, and that's been incredibly fulfilling. So, in a sense, it's really given me a lot of ways to make an impact on this community in some small way. So, it's been incredibly fulfilling.
I think every company or every advisor, once you figure out some kind of scalable process that's got utility, I think you can experiment more than any, as you know, you've created several businesses, some of which we have a relationship with now. And I would say the real key to it, ultimately, where I had failures and where I've had successes is all about the people. Did I put the right people in the right roles and give them authority or did I try to micromanage and then try to save money, and not put in experts? I learned a lot and I wouldn't say it was all positive. But I think those are really important aspects, looking back to that journey, is just basically make sure you're with the right people. And if I didn't have the mentors that I've had that were supportive of this journey, it wouldn't have happened. So, it's a huge testament to the people that you surround yourself with.
Michael: So, what was the low point along the way?
Adam: What was the low point in that 25-year journey?
Adam: Gosh, I don't think that way, man. I did tell you that I went to Tony Robbins, right?
Adam: I left that story out. What was a low point? That's a good question. I'm having a hard time, Michael, because if you know me, as you're probably getting to know me, I realize I can't control the past and I don't stay there at all. I'm really, really in the present and I tend to be gratitude first. I did learn that a long time ago. If you want to be happy, just be grateful. And so, I don't really see... It sounds kind of hawkey, but I really don't get stuck on the downs. They've all contributed to where we are today. And you choose to either...
Michael: Well, I get that we don't necessarily regret them. I find for folks with an entrepreneurial journey in particular, we tend not to regret even the challenges and failures that came. They're all growth opportunity. I am so much better at life now because I did this and it went horribly, and now I've learned not to do that again. I'm not necessarily wondering what would you change, but just where did it get hard and stressful? Where did you smack into some of those walls? Where did those wonderful, glorious growth opportunities actually kick in?
Adam: You know what? The first thing that just came to my mind, I'll just go with it. I remember bringing Asset-Map to the community of financial tech and really feeling out of the cool kid group. It was like high school all over again. And I did realize that in order for me to be deemed credible, I was going to have to really, really commit to being in the space, and helping, and delivering value, and so forth because I think a lot of people looked at Asset-Map as, "Oh, that'll never work." So, I did go through that. And, of course, I had enough evidence to say, "Okay, that's fine. That's your opinion, but I know it works. It's maybe not for you. That's okay." And I have people all over the world using Asset-Map now. It's crazy. And I didn't think that big originally.
So, I think the first thing was probably self-doubt. Those were the low times when I'm like, "Oh, crap, I just put my whole family's household net worth on the line and this might not work. And people don't like me and they're not returning my calls. And I'm the new kid on the block and whatever. I have no credibility. I wouldn't mow capital." And it was like... So, I think there was probably... Now you're making me go there. There were moments where I thought, "What am I doing? This is dumb. This is crazy." I'm literally risking my whole family's financial future when I had it so great. Yeah, so...
Michael: And all because you were even more concerned about taking money from others and then risking having that failure on you, on the record as it were. "I'm an advisor, but I started a company and lost a bunch of people's money." That doesn't fly.
Adam: You know what the irony is? As a financial planner in the blood, I needed a lot of validation to feel confidence. I needed do that analysis for years and feedback, and feedback, and consistent, and consistencies before I had the ability to, I think, jump. And you guys, you know we just raised a significant amount of capital of growth equity for Asset-Map to really expand. And yeah, it took a lot to get to that place. And I think if I didn't have the career and backing, and ability to spend a lot less than I think a lot of my peers, and live meagerly, I think I probably couldn't have afforded to do that. Hopefully there's some lessons in there that people will take is don't live beyond your means even when you can.
The Advice Adam Would Give To Other Advisors [1:35:11]
Michael: So, what advice would you give to other advisors that are thinking about this journey or, "I've made a thing for my practice, I'm wondering if other advisors would buy it as well or I think I might have a software thing here"?
Adam: You know how many calls I get on that now? It used to be fun and cute. Now it's a little bit annoying. I'll be honest. I'm saying that to you because so many people, everybody has got a great idea and I believe you. I believe that you've got a great idea. But if you see something and you know that it's got legs and you can put together capital, create an MVP, and then prove it. I think the better opportunity these days, Michael, is to go to... If you've got something really innovative for a problem that's real and has a lot of... I think that you could probably get companies like ours to license it and build it much faster in a way that's going to be secure in this era of kind of privacy and security that's going to get even more intense. I think it's a huge lift as much as people think it's easy to develop today, "Hey, I can make an app for 50 grand or for 5 grand, I can hire some kid down the street." I think you're going to see the scrutiny level go, I think, pretty intense. And that's not going to be a game for small players.
Michael: Because distribution is hard and just meeting cybersecurity requirements is not trivial if you're a startup e-tech firm, but you're touching financial services and data.
Adam: I think the cybersecurity is going to... The intensity and the requirements is going to double. And if you've gone through any kind of enterprise level stuff, we've gone through now 35 broker dealers, their full infosec, it could take 6 months to a year. You have to have the team and the staff to answer 500 questions, and pull off an infosec, and actually follow policies and procedures. It's way deeper than I thought. I was like, "I was making an app, right? I was just making an app." So, it's not. Okay? You're spending millions of dollars on this kind of stuff and if you want to be credible in the space, I think there are going to be table stakes going forward. And so, that's why I'm saying it's probably better... I think you're going to see a continued consolidation in our industry, even from us players that would be considered smaller because the innovation, I think there's a lot of innovation everywhere, but bringing it to market is a whole nother story.
But look, get mentorship, get people. A lot of financial advisors have access to capital, so, I think you could take a shot. But here's the thing I'm telling people, recognize that this is a lifestyle decision. If you're going to go this path and say, "I'm really going to make it work," make sure your family is on board, make sure your partners are on board, make sure your clients are on board because you're going to need them to support you both financially and emotionally when you go through this process. Because it's more than an investment in just a cool new app. It's a project. It's a lifestyle. And I think I went from working 20 hours a week to 80 for the past 10 years. Thank goodness I love work, but that's a choice. Make sure that you're paying attention to that.
Michael: So, any advice you would give just younger and newer advisors coming into the industry today and getting started?
Adam: You want more advice? That's a lot of advice, Michael. Okay, yes. Okay, gosh. Starting out advisors. I think it's all about team fit. I don't think in the early days, you're going to know what you don't know. And so, the key is to do what you and I think did, which is to commit to getting educated and to learning, and to not just taking everything for granted what you're told, be committed to being a student of this business, get educated. Someone told me really early on in my career, they said, "Don't do what most advisors do. They get the CFP for the credentials. Get the CFP, go to the courses, go to American College, go to wherever you're going to go and actually learn in a way that you could actually teach your clients." And that was a critical aspect of guidance I heard early on from an industry giant who had enough money to drive around a Maybach, but drove a Prius, and he did it because he understood the fundamentals of our business. And I think that was a great lesson. I'd be happy to pay that forward and share that with advisors.
What Success Means To Adam [1:39:23]
Michael: So, as we wrap up, this is a podcast about success and one of the things we've always observed is just that word success means very different things to different people. And so, you had a wonderful career rock on the advisor side. You've now had a successful career in building Asset-Map as well. I know both of those are actually still firing and growing for you. So, the businesses are all in a wonderful place. How do you define success for yourself at this point?
Adam: Gosh, for myself, I get up every morning. How do I define success? The innuendo there is that it is different for all of us. And I have evolved this as I've gotten older. There's no question about it. I really think if you can get to... Success for me is to make an impact on the planet. I've gotten bigger visions and bigger goals as I've kind of gone along and said, "Boy, that's possible, that's possible." And I've been forced to think, I think, more recently, given certain health and family awareness is not for me personally, but for just being exposed to it, that time matters. And so, success is having meaningful time.
So, for whatever we're all doing, I think if we can spend more time doing the stuff that matters, whether it's family, or fun, or growing, or contributing, that's how we get fulfilled. And that's my measure of success. And it's something that I've been really trying to endear to the employees of both firms is that we care about if family is your thing, then family is first, and we're second. And how do you build a culture around that? It's not been easy, but I think it's aspirationally something that we can all get behind. And that's the whole thing. I think if you could find your purpose for that meaningful time, that's the biggest blessing and that's success in my mind.
Michael: I love it, I love it. Well, thank you Adam, for joining us on the "Financial Advisor Success" podcast.
Adam: Thanks for having me. You're the man. Listen, thank you so much for having us and for everything you're doing for the community. So, we thank you for the help you offer to so many of us without asking for anything in response. So, just to kind of cap that off, I want to make sure that we give a shout out to you because you're really just an awesome leader in the industry and I want to thank you.
Michael: Oh, thank you. I appreciate it, Adam.