repost­ed from Mint.com
April 29, 2014

mm photo 1When it comes to finan­cial plan­ning, the client — not the plan­ner — should be in the dri­ver’s seat, says Mack­ey McNeill, pres­i­dent and CEO of Mack­ey Advi­sors and Ignite Pros­per­i­ty Inc.

“Finan­cial plan­ning should be a con­tact sport,” she says. “Peo­ple will only fol­low a finan­cial plan if they have some skin in the game.”

To help get her clients off the bench, Mack­ey and her team cre­at­ed The Pros­per­i­ty Expe­ri­ence, an inter­ac­tive and ongo­ing process to help indi­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies cre­ate the best life possible. 

We recent­ly checked in with Mack­ey to get her advice on hir­ing a finan­cial advi­sor and com­ing up with a plan you’ll actu­al­ly fol­low through on. Here’s what she had to say:

 

 

Can you tell us a little about the background of Mackey Advisors? When and why was your company started?

Hon­est­ly, I start­ed Mack­ey Advi­sors as a way to raise my child and bring in some mon­ey. In the ear­ly ’80s, that com­bi­na­tion was real­ly hard to come by. I was a CPA, Cer­ti­fied Pub­lic Accoun­tant, and doing out­sourced Con­troller and CFO work for small companies. 

A few years lat­er, I bought a tax prepa­ra­tion firm. As the busi­ness grew, we took on more indi­vid­ual clients by doing tax plan­ning and tax prep. Soon these indi­vid­u­als were ask­ing us for finan­cial plan­ning advice and invest­ment advice. They trust­ed us, and I could­n’t find a finan­cial plan­ner I trust­ed enough to refer my clients to, so I decid­ed to get a PFS des­ig­na­tion. A PFS, or Per­son­al Finan­cial Spe­cial­ist, is spe­cial­ty cre­den­tial award­ed by the Amer­i­can Insti­tute of Cer­ti­fied Pub­lic Accoun­tants (AICPA) to CPAs who spe­cial­ize in help­ing indi­vid­u­als plan all aspects of their wealth. 

It was a lot of work, but we final­ly came up with The Pros­per­i­ty Expe­ri­ence™, our award-win­ning finan­cial plan­ning process, and we haven’t looked back!

 

 

What services do you offer, and who should be using them?

Well, we have ser­vices for small busi­ness­es and indi­vid­u­als. We still do out­sourced book­keep­ing, con­troller and CFO ser­vices, as well as tax plan­ning and prep. For indi­vid­u­als, we offer The Pros­per­i­ty Expe­ri­ence™, our inter­ac­tive finan­cial plan­ning process, and fee-only invest­ment management. 

Every­one should have a finan­cial plan! Peo­ple tend to think, When I get some mon­ey, make more mon­ey or get to some “high­er lev­el,” I’ll get a finan­cial plan­ner. This is not the case! A good finan­cial plan­ner helps their clients get to that “high­er lev­el.” Our clients vary great­ly. We have boomers, gen Y and gen X. Our “sweet spot” are 35- to 45-year-olds in a life tran­si­tion, which could be a big pro­mo­tion, a mar­riage, a child, etc., and 55- to 65-year-olds get­ting ready to retire and look­ing for a part­ner in cre­at­ing the finan­cial­ly inde­pen­dent life they have always envisioned. 

 

What sets you apart from other financial advising firms?

We are dif­fer­ent in a few ways. First and fore­most, we look at the whole pic­ture. We put an indi­vid­u­al’s or cou­ple’s goals, val­ues and inten­tions at the heart of our finan­cial plans. Every­thing we do comes from this, kind of like a good strate­gic plan flows from the busi­ness’s vision and mission. 

Sec­ond, our finan­cial plan­ning process is just that, a process. Many finan­cial plan­ners ask some basic finan­cial ques­tions and cre­ate a plan for their client. We go through two to four goal-set­ting meet­ings before we even get to finan­cial info. It takes between three and nine months to cre­ate a per­son­’s unique plan. 

Third, we do not judge or tell our clients what to do. We see our­selves as facil­i­ta­tors. We help our clients cre­ate their finan­cial plan, not the oth­er way around. Every­one is unique, and there­fore, their finan­cial plan should be, too. 

 

 

Why is Mackey so passionate about helping customers experience a financially happy and prosperous life? 

When a client goes from doubt, con­fu­sion and unknow­ing to con­fi­dence and clar­i­ty, it is a big high for me (and Andy, our direc­tor of per­son­al ser­vices, too)! Like, open the cham­pagne and cel­e­brate, kind of high. You can see it on their faces and in their body pos­ture. They look dif­fer­ent from when they came in to see us the first time. They feel bet­ter about their finances, so they act with more con­fi­dence. They live more ful­filled lives, have more fun with their fam­i­lies and friends, give more gen­er­ous­ly to their com­mu­ni­ties — basi­cal­ly, they spread the pros­per­i­ty. It’s contagious!

 

 

What sorts of questions should individuals and families ask when looking for a financial advisor?

    • How are you paid? Nev­er do busi­ness with some­one who does­n’t disclose.
    • Do you fol­low the fidu­cia­ry standard?
    • What is your train­ing? Cre­den­tials? Background?
    • A ques­tion for your­self is, do you feel com­fort­able with this per­son? Can you ask them any­thing? If not, they aren’t your advi­sor, even if they are the advi­sor for your wealth­i­est friends. You must be able to feel com­fort­able ask­ing your advi­sor just about any­thing. Mon­ey is very personal!
    • What is your process? The best advi­sors have a clear­ly defined finan­cial plan­ning process that helps clients dis­cov­er and clar­i­fy their goals and dreams and map a clear plan to achieve them. If they can’t describe their process, walk away.

 

 

What are some red flags that an advisor doesn’t have your best interests at heart?

If it is all about insur­ance or annu­ities, you should just walk away. An advi­sor who is real­ly a sales­per­son in dis­guise is most­ly con­cerned with sell­ing you an insur­ance or annu­ity prod­uct, because that is where the big up-front mon­ey comes from. A good advi­sor should be more con­cerned, ini­tial­ly, with clar­i­fy­ing your goals and dreams and craft­ing your plan. Once your plan is clear, insur­ance may be need­ed, but if you are start­ing there, put on the brakes.

If they are pour­ing on the fear, this is anoth­er red flag. Many advi­sors use a lot of pres­sure, gen­er­al­ly focused on your worst fears, to get you to hur­ry up and make a deci­sion. Ask your­self, do you want to wake up every morn­ing for the rest of your life with that sick feel­ing in your stom­ach know­ing you made a pur­chase that was­n’t in your best inter­est? Or would you rather walk away and work with some­one who treats you with respect, speaks to you like a part­ner and clear­ly explains your options? Choos­ing an advi­sor is as inti­mate and impor­tant as choos­ing a sig­nif­i­cant other. 

 

 

What are the biggest concerns your clients come to you with? What are the most common mistakes you help them correct?

Biggest con­cern: how to pull it all togeth­er. How to bal­ance com­pet­ing demands. Most of us don’t have enough mon­ey to do every­thing we can think of, but we have enough to do most of what is real­ly impor­tant. Our job, as advi­sors, is to help clients dis­cov­er what is real­ly impor­tant to them. To take them out of their heads and into their hearts. 

The mis­take they make most often is choos­ing some­thing — an advi­sor, an invest­ment, an insur­ance prod­uct — because their friend did. What is best for you is like­ly not what is best for your friend. Mon­ey is an indi­vid­ual jour­ney; we have assets, lia­bil­i­ties, cash flow, goals, spe­cial cir­cum­stances, and I haven’t yet seen any two peo­ple or cou­ples just alike, so there are no two iden­ti­cal plans. Our fin­ger­prints aren’t the same, so why do we think our finan­cial plans should be?

 

Why is asking the question “what do I really want?” so critical to establishing financial goals? 

As human beings, we are not taught effec­tive goal set­ting. Peo­ple only work for things that cre­ate pos­i­tive emo­tions, basi­cal­ly make them feel good. Every goal-set­ting book out there starts with a piece of paper (or a com­put­er screen) and asks peo­ple to write down what they want, but that is all in their heads — they THINK of what they want. But they will only work, save and scrimp for some­thing they FEEL they want — so it isn’t just the ques­tion that is impor­tant. It is the ques­tion, with a PROCESS that gets peo­ple out of their heads and into their emo­tions. When they FEEL it, they KNOW it, and our process gets them there. That is why they are so excit­ed when the plan is done.

 

 

What’s the next step to take after answering that question? How do you help clients take the next steps to their goals? 

It isn’t just one ques­tion. It is a range of ques­tions. You have to explore all the pos­si­bil­i­ties. Basi­cal­ly shoot for the stars…then you can come back to earth. As for steps, a good plan­ner keeps them on track. Life is busy, and some­times we need nudg­ing. That is OK; that is what a plan­ner is for.

 

 

What is confident action when it comes to money management? Why do you want to empower confident action? 

Con­fi­dent action is the dif­fer­ence in a life of joy and one of wor­ry. If I know what my dreams and goals are, and how I am going to get there, then I can con­fi­dent­ly take my fam­i­ly on that Euro­pean vaca­tion — and enjoy every minute. I’m not going to wor­ry about what is going to hap­pen when I get home to a pile of cred­it card bills! Con­fi­dent action = free­dom from wor­ry, and when it comes to mon­ey, it does­n’t get much bet­ter than that.

 

 

How often should people revisit their financial goals and revise their plans?

At least once a year and when there is a major life change (mar­riage, divorce, new baby, etc.). In the begin­ning, I think more often is best. Plan­ning is a new process for most folks, and they gain con­fi­dence by updat­ing their plans more fre­quent­ly at first. Then once they are see­ing how every­thing is work­ing, they can go to once a year. 

Fol­low Mack­ey on Face­bookTwit­ter and Linkedin.

 

To read the full post on Mint.com please click here.