Our clients are not hiring us as their primary financial planner and advisor because of our astute political or religious views. The orthopedic surgeon that performed the discectomy on my wife Lee-Ann last month had our complete confidence. I don't know what political or religious persuasion he has and I really don't care. His qualifications, experience, and quite frankly his bed side manner was excellent. The fact that a dural tear occurred during the procedure (a 1% to 2% probability) was forgivable. All surgeries have risk. The point is, how he voted in November or what his religious beliefs are, was not what I was thinking about while I was in the waiting room during Lee-Ann's surgery. In the case of hiring a financial advisor, I see affluent investors looking for someone who is open-minded, has a depth and breadth of industry knowledge, understands their family goals and is someone that has their family's best interests at heart.
Please don't get me wrong. I don't put my belief system on a shelf before I come into work every morning. I just do not perceive my role with my clients is to persuade them politically or religiously. Rather, I want to be the best, most objective, well-trained financial planner that I can be for my clients. They pay me. They have put their trust in me including their life's savings. This is the least I can do in return. Guiding individuals financially is part of my life's mission. Arguments about politics and religion never have a "right" answer but they definitely get people all riled up over things they cannot control.
I was inspired after reading Jennifer Gunter MD's article along the same lines on her role as a physician with her patients. (http://drjengunter.wordpress.com/2012/09/28/contraception-medical-care-and-the-cult-of-the-individual/)
Gunter points out the dilemma is that a physician's personal belief system could put the doctor at odds with the standard of care required for that patient. As a financial advisor I have clients from all walks of life, religions, and political affiliations. I have atheists and agnostic clients as well as devout, sincere believers. The one common thread they all have is that for whatever reason they rely on me as their trusted financial advisor. I relish the role and hope that I can live up to trust placed in me. The issues of smart financial planning, careful risk-adjusted investing, thoughtful estate planning and knowledgeable tax planning are not beholden to any one religion or political system. Of course the concepts of the "wise steward" and the evils of borrowing can be found in the Bible. Other biblical concepts include steady labored efforts bringing prosperity and only a fool does not plan for life's uncertainties. But properr financial planning concepts including the setting of goals, making plans and designing strategies to assure the accomplishment of objectives are also Islamic concepts under the principles of "Sunnah". Buddha taught the concept of Samajivikata, or maintaining a balanced livelihood, in which an individual has a good idea of his or her income and expenditures and lives within one's means. Money is a very personal thing. How, why, for what reason, and other goals and objectives a client will have regarding their money is their personal choice. How to best execute that goal in the most tax efficient, risk-adjusted manner while protecting the client against unforeseen risks and other calamities of the financial system is my job as the client's primary financial advisor. I am a fiduciary. The only remuneration I receive is from my clients in the form of very transparent fees. I never charge a commission or sales load, receive outside referral fees or payments by any other individual or organization and am not paid to sell any specific investment product. I always have the client's objectives as my first and only concern.
I want to understand how the client's belief system relates to their financial goals and dreams and act in the best manner possible to achieve those ends. I'm happy to converse with my clients about solving the world's problems by dissecting the day's religious and political issues. But I would rather defer that discussion to the "experts" and spend my time with clients talking financial planning and how we can solve the client's problems and accomplish the client's financial goals and dreams. That is what I enjoy doing most.