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Karen Schaeffer Boosts Practical Financial Advice

Karen Schaeffer's address at the financial adviser conference boosted the cause of practical financial advice. This is the answer to the question 'what do I do?' not 'which fund should I invest in?' or 'which insurance product should I buy?' That focus dovetailed nicely with the joint IFA and PAA focus on advice, rather than product. It reflected well on the stated intention of the judges for recognition awards. In discussing the talk afterwards with other delegates I was struck by several things. 

The first was that Schaeffer's business was considered highly niche. In one sense it was, being focused on government employees, many of whom are actually either from overseas, or US citizens destined to work overseas. But in another sense it wasn't: she gave pragmatic, common sense advice, to resolve financial choices that many people face. Her work was focused on those choices, not on product or fund selection. This is the type of financial advice we need more of, according to the kind of work done by, for example, the Commission for Financial Capability.

The second was that some members, typically investment planners, tended to comment on the fee-only nature of her business. Noting that it could only occur because the niche in which Schaeffer operates delivers people to her on a regular basis. Another way to look at that is as an admission of failure. If you are passionate about financial advice you will have to get good at selling the concept of financial advice. I make no apology for including the word 'selling'. My personal definition of good sales is 'helping someone make a choice beneficial to them'. 

The third was that some members, typically my insurance adviser friends, tended to comment admiringly on both the choice to deliver high-level advice fearlessly and without putting it in writing. This must be placed in context - for product selection or fund selection clients I believe clients were referred to others. Those probably document all that. For delegates that liked this approach I think they were thinking along these lines: saying to a client 'you really need to save more' or 'you must pay down more debt' are such good general encouragements that they do not need to document them all.

The address was well delivered, worthwhile, and clearly stimulated a lot of discussion. 


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