or How a health scare crystallized for me the role I want to play in my clients’ lives.
When I launched my financial planning firm in 2016, I started with no clients and a virtual practice. Which meant that in order to attract clients, I had to market myself online. To me, that boiled down to: I need a blog. So I started a blog in April 2016 and have been publishing steadily ever since.
It was through this blog, other social media content, and multiple podcast and webinar appearances that I became known for my expertise in equity compensation.
I continue to hone that expertise, both through formal education and informally through working with my clients’ equity comp situations. I also continue to learn all sorts of other technical material. For example, I am currently enrolled in a professional designation program (RICP®).
I, of course, can’t be a good financial planner without a meaningful level of technical expertise. I think that I have a lot of it, in fact.
Let’s set that aside for the moment. I promise we’ll come back to it in a bit. For now, let’s take a conversational left turn.
Over the last couple months—and for at least the next couple months—I have been dealing with a very stressful, if not exactly life-threatening, medical situation. To be blunt, I was diagnosed with breast cancer stage zero. It is not invasive. It is not life-threatening. But it is The Big C cancer. Cue the freak out.
I have had really quite wonderful medical care from nurses, technicians, doctors, and surgeons. By contrast, the impositions of the healthcare industrial complex (mostly health insurance, but also scheduling appointments, filling out paperwork, office routines, etc.) has been unavoidable, pervasive, and so frustratingly stressful.
I recently had my annual wellness checkup with my general practitioner. (Side note: I feel so tremendously lucky that I have a GP/family doctor. I live in a town where there is a medical practice that specializes in general practice, and all the doctors there choose to make less money in order to have a more humane relationship with their patients. It is unfortunately an increasingly rare “luxury” to have a GP.)
I was frustrated going into my appointment. I had had to navigate a new patient portal in advance of the appointment, and then when I arrived at the office I had to fill out even more intake paperwork, some of which duplicated some of the information I had already put into the patient portal. Earlier in the day I had had an appointment with the breast surgeon, who was an hour late to our appointment. My very first appointment with him ever, he was 90 minutes late for an appointment that I had to attend lest I couldn’t have my first surgery. Let’s just say I was not in a mood to appreciate the healthcare industry as I entered my wellness checkup.
Then my family doctor proceeded to use the first 45 minutes to simply ask me what was on my mind, talk with me about those issues, even cry with me a bit, and reassure me based on his medical expertise. He spent the remaining 15 minutes of the appointment doing technical doctor stuff. (If you are interested, my lungs and heart sound great, thank you very much.)
While chattering away about this and that, I mentioned my understanding that the family doctor is a vanishing breed, and that many people don’t have one. He said that he could easily make more money either being a specialist or being a GP at the local hospital complex. But if he did that, he couldn’t do what he really likes to do: spending time with his patients. He can endure the technology he has to use and the notes he has to take after an appointment and the insurance BS. But he wouldn’t do this job any more if he couldn’t spend real time with patients. (And yes, I am indeed lucky to have found such a doctor. And no, you mayn’t have him. He’s mine.)
He then lamented that his role will be replaced by AI in the future. I was surprised. “Really?”
“All the teenagers and 20-somethings who come here are always on their phone. They’ll use their phones to get medical advice.”
“But they can’t get this,” I countered.
“What is that?” he asked.
“They can’t feel cared for.”
He adamantly agreed. (I mean, my doctor and I had a real moment right then, the two of us.)
I then observed to him the similarity between his job and mine: there is a lot of technical expertise necessary to do the job well. (See? I told you I’d bring it back around to the issue of technical expertise!) But the most important thing to both of us is that his patients (and my clients) feel cared for.
Another similarity (which my GP and I didn’t discuss, but I thought a lot about this afterwards) is that he doesn’t do tremendously deep dives into any technical medical topic. There are many specialists he can refer his client patients to for matters that are not his specialty. He’s the one who referred me to my breast surgeon. In that wellness checkup, he gave me a referral to a physical therapist.
That surgeon, I’m sure, is very good at doing surgery on breasts (God willing!). And he’s a nice man. But I have never felt cared for by him in a way that my general practitioner made me feel. And I am so thankful to have a doctor in my life who can make me feel that way, one whom I can also trust to point me in the right direction when my needs exceed his expertise or his role. He’s great at looking at the whole Meg and asking about things that no other specialist would.
Likewise, I can and often do refer my clients to CPAs, insurance brokers, attorneys of various stripes (family law, real estate, estate planning), and career coaches, and also use a TAMP (turnkey asset management program) to help implement my clients’ investment strategies.
That is the kind of financial planner I want to be. One, yes, who knows a lot about technical financial planning topics. One who also knows experts to refer my clients to when their needs exceed my expertise.
Above all, one who makes my clients know that they are cared for.
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