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Confessions of a Comprehensive Financial Planner

I am not the expert.

For the last few (maybe even 10) years, I have let my ego convince me I was. I have worked hard—through a graduate degree, self-study, conferences, and study groups—to develop expertise in all things that will help women in their early to mid careers in tech.

I am not a modest woman. I’m smart. I’m loud. I’m confident.

And in a professional training I attended just two weeks ago, I learned that none of that really matters.

What does matter? Basically, just listening. To you. Turns out, you are the expert.

Talk about an identity crisis.

That Sinking Feeling

In mid-January, I attended the 5-day EVOKE training at the Kinder Institute of Life Planning. For 12-13 hours each day, we learned how to listen. To our own feelings, though mindfulness practices. To other people. And listening with an intent only to empathize and better understand the person, be that person ourselves or someone else.

Not gonna lie, it was hard for me. “What do you mean I’m being assessed on my ability to follow a person’s emotions, and that my knowledge of private secondary markets is irrelevant? What do you mean, my deliciously clever wit isn’t helpful?”

Fourteen of us planners (well, 13 planners and 1 brave wife-of-planner) attended this training. We paired up to practice, which means I life planned my partner, and I in turn was life planned by my partner, so I experienced both the Planner role and the Client role. (As an aside: If Ian Bloom is a household name in 5 years, you can all thank me and my excellent initial attempts at life planning.)

We practiced in front of people. Which was artificial and discomfiting. But despite that, we got emotional. We teared up. We cried. All of us. In front of the group. Being truly listened to is that powerful.

What perhaps most shook my foundation as the Smart, Competent, Helpful Financial Planner that I Am, was the observation that the client, and really, all us humans already know pretty much everything we need to. We know the essential elements of our ideal life. We know almost everything we need to do to live that life. And we know what the obstacles are and how to overcome them.

We just haven’t been given the space, time, and empathy to figure it out before. Most importantly? We have the motivation to do all those things because we can tap into that emotion around that ideal life…and that motivation is something I could never ever give someone else as a financial planner.

Embracing You as the Expert

Where, then, do I fit in? Where do financial planners in general fit in? I mean, this is Totally Different than how we’re all trained and educated.

It helped me to really look at the technique we were trained in—the EVOKE technique—and who’s the expert in each stage:

Who's the expert at each stage of the life planning process?

This is why I am not the expert. Sure, you might not know the nitty gritty about IPOs or RSUs or know how to invest your stockpile of cash. I’m there for that in the Knowledge phase. But you know why you should be making the decisions…whatever best supports that ideal life of yours.

If I’m no longer giving lots of advice, why the hell would you want to work with me? Because that journey to understanding and working towards your ideal life is so much easier and more effective if you have someone facilitating that conversation, that journey. And you’ll still have access to all the technical knowledge and institutional knowledge in our brains here at Flow. We can and will help you understand how things work, what the possible outcomes are for each choice.

So here’s to a new era at Flow, where I recognize my role not as Expert, but as Knowledgeable Guide. And you embrace your role as the Expert in your own life, the Hero of your own journey.

Feeling exquisitely uncomfortable? Me, too! As my 6-year-old might say, let’s do this thing.

If you want a sense of purpose in your finances, then please reach out to me at  or schedule a free consultation.

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Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Meg Bartelt, and all rights are reserved. Read the full Disclaimer.

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