As is often said, "financial planning is a process, not an event" and therefore is predicated on an ongoing relationship between the planner and the client. Yet the in-depth nature of a financial planning relationship presents challenges as well; it takes more time, it costs more money, and it becomes less accessible to many who either can’t afford or don’t want such a ‘deep’ relationship. But does it have to be this way? Could financial planning still deliver value even if it’s NOT an ongoing relationship with an individual financial planner?
The inspiration for today’s blog post comes from a recent discussion I had about the in-depth nature of financial planning, and a realization I had that we all seem to implicitly assume that for financial planning to deliver value, it MUST be built on a deep personal relationship.
Yet when I look to other professions, that’s not always the case. Most Americans do not exactly have a deep, personal relationship with their doctor in the brief time they even see him/her as the doctor goes from one patient to the next; many do not even see the same physician from year to year for their annual check-up (if they even GET an annual check-up). Yet clearly doctors serve a need, provide value, and the practice of medicine is standardized enough that you actually CAN see a different doctor every year for an annual check-up and still receive value. Granted, people who have more complex and difficult ongoing health problems may wish to maintain an ongoing relationship with a primary doctor to oversee that particular condition; but for the overwhelming majority of Americans who are reasonably healthy (or at least, whose health problems are primarily solved solely by the wisdom of "eat less and exercise more"), a deep personal relationship isn’t really necessary. There’s a check-up, basic medical conditions and concerns are screened for, basic recommendations are provided, and the consumer receives value.
So can this model exist in financial planning? Arguably, many planners under the Garrett Planning Network are trying to implement an "annual check-up for a modest fee" kind of model, but is there opportunity to expand this further? Some planners trying to implement this model find growth challenges for their business, but is that because you can’t provide value in a one-time check-up kind of transaction, or is it simply because we as a planner profession haven’t done an effective job at conveying the importance of a regular financial planning check-up? I know I’m supposed to see my doctor once a year, my dentist twice a year, and change my smoke alarm batteries when I change my clocks in the fall and spring for daylight savings time; but the public has no widespread perception of the need – and value provided – for an annual financial planning check-up.
So what do you think? Can financial planning provide value in an annual-check-up format? Does there HAVE to be a deep and ongoing relationship with a financial planner to create value for the client? Is the growth and expansion of financial planning inhibited because of our reliance and insistence on having a deep personal relationship with clients, even if perhaps not all of them WANT such a relationship?