Financial Advisors Are Not Veterinarians

Unlike veterinarians, tax and Investment professionals depend upon you to be forthcoming about your financial situation.

My personal opinion is veterinarians are at the top of the medical hierarchy. I believe this because these medical professionals service not only a diversity of species but all of these clients cannot converse with the veterinarians, unlike other medical professionals, whose clients are people. A feline cannot offer details on her medical history and a horse cannot expand on the recent pains in his legs.

Financial advisors are more fortunate. All of their clients can talk. But there are unique challenges that exist for this community. Let’s think of how this may be true.

Financial planning is not just about the client

Veterinarians have the animal and the caregiver for focus, but financial advisors should be thinking of those not present who have a relationship with the client. Financial advisors should always be thinking of those others who will be affected by the advice and recommendations. Spouses, children, extended family members, and perhaps entities such as charities can and will be affected by the consequences of decisions the advisor offers. 

It is the duty, however, of the client to volunteer the existence of those relationships in order for the financial advisors to offer not only the most suitable advice for the client but the most appropriate endorsements for those not in the room.

Financial planning is not just about the present

Financial advisors, unlike veterinarians, must appreciate a vastly different scope of time when dealing with their clients. Financial advisors should be accounting for both the short-term and long-term repercussions of their suggestions. Financial advice given today may also affect estate planning not only for current family members but also for those yet to be born and perhaps future generations. 

Financial planning is not just about today’s tax landscape but tomorrow’s as well

There is a popular saying that the tax code is written in pencil lead not in the ink from a pen. None of us are prescient enough to be able to forecast with certainty the future of taxes in the numerous and various ways it will undergo modifications to ongoing new realities as they emerge.

This is where financial advisors must not only be experts in today’s tax law but have an ear to the ground for anticipating the very real possibilities of changes to the regulations and be scanning the horizon for new emergent regulations. Also, is the client thinking of moving to another locale either within the United States or even overseas? A canine is at loss to share his future roaming adventures with a veterinarian.

Financial planning should address fiducial care

A fiduciary is a common term for a financial advisor who serves under a fiduciary duty. Fiduciaries have pledged to make recommendations with your best interest in mind, rather than what is merely suitable for you but bends toward their own financial benefit. The American Veterinary Medical Association does not explicitly state its members must be fiduciaries, but it does address a very detailed code of ethics. 

We can then assume an expectation that membership within the American Veterinary Medical Association offers peace of mind that the veterinarian is beholding to a heightened level of ethical care for animals and their owners. Unfortunately, there is not an all-encompassing equivalent of ethical commitment universal to all financial planners. 

Anyone may call themselves a financial advisor. No education or training is therefore mandated. Yes, you could be a financial advisor and all your neighbors and relatives could be one. When you’re searching for your future advisor, however, it is critical to find qualified candidates who are considered fiduciaries and hold the proper certifications and designations important to your situation.

My search to find an easy-to-understand short article on the role of a fiduciary to share with others has ended. I feel confident that the Forbes Advisor article, “Fiduciary Vs. Financial Advisor: What’s The Difference?” by Jordan Tarver is the equivalent of the Holy Grail of this quest.

For those of you on your journey to finding a financial advisor, the piece provides additional hotlinks to various groups of financial planners who are fiduciaries. More importantly, the article includes several other helpful hotlinks and lists these questions below to ask when interviewing financial advisors:

  • Are you a fiduciary?
  • Are you always acting as a fiduciary? (Some fee-based advisors may not always act as fiduciaries when selling commission-based products.)
  • How do you make your money?
  • What is your approach to financial planning?
  • What financial planning services do you offer?
  • What kind of clients do you normally work with?
  • Do you have any account minimums?
  • Do you have any conflicts of interest in managing my money?
  • What information do I need to bring for you to look at when developing my financial plan?
  • How many times and how often will we meet?
  • Will you collaborate with my other advisors, like CPAs or attorneys?

So now you know how much I respect veterinarians within the medical field. Unfortunately, you need a financial advisor who requires you to volunteer information. Fortunately, now you know how to connect with financial planners who are fiduciaries. You understand how financial planners can help you begin estate planning for your family and anticipate current and future taxes. Consider interviewing several. I am sure you will find one best suited to you and your family’s needs. And remember, all financial advisors need you to start the conversation. You have a nice list of questions to ask these professionals.

About the Author

Francis Xavier (FX) Bergmeister, CLU®, ChFC®, CASL®, ChSNC® has been Certified Financial Planner® for 30 years. He is a graduate of the Wharton School and earned a Doctor of Arts from George Mason University. He provides retirement seminars thru Federal Career Experts.