Coming off a year where I flew 70 separate flights and over 115,000 miles for business and pleasure, I think it is safe to say that I am either a bit crazy, that I love to travel or perhaps both. Needless to say, flying this much gave me the opportunity to observe a lot about how people, mainly strangers, interact in a confined space and the many uncanny similarities that traveling and sleeping with strangers has to my profession of financial planning.
Flying and Financial Planning
As a Certified Financial Planner® it is my job to help people achieve their hopes, dreams and goals through the comprehensive planning work that I do, essentially to help them get from point A to point B. Most of these people, at firs,t are strangers, with many of them becoming friends as we work together. Chances are you probably have been on a plane, worked with a financial advisor or both. The following list is my attempt to show the similarities between flying and working with a financial advisor. (For more, see: The Virtues of Being Financially Organized.)
|Flight Attendant||Financial Advisor|
|Gate Agent||Advisor Support Staff|
|Service Center Employee||Back Office Employee|
|Airline Choice/Preference||Advisor/Company Choice/Preference|
|Brand Alliance||Brand Alliance|
|Pay to Fly||Pay for Advice|
|Helps you arrive at your destination||Helps you arrive at your financial destination|
|Delays can sidetrack your travel plan||Economic forces can sidetrack your financial plan|
In addition to these similarities, I noticed some particularly interesting points about flying that further demonstrate how it is more like financial planning than it may appear on the surface. It is funny how sitting next to a stranger on a flight, especially a longer flight, is disarming. For some reason we let our guard down a bit. Perhaps it is the smile while crunching into your seat or the simple “thank you” for helping someone store their luggage or that you both ordered the same drink. These little interactions seem to go a long way in building an oddly trusting relationship very quickly. It has been said people make up their mind about someone in the first minute of meeting them. I would have to agree.
Think about it. You sit next to a complete stranger on a plane headed across the country or maybe even the world. Rather quickly you have settled in, are making small chat and actually get quite relaxed in their presence. Next thing you know you are eating dinner together while enjoying an adult beverage and chatting about all sorts of things, some rather personal. For those long haul flights, most people try and sleep for a while—like the 17-hour flight I took to South Africa. Sleeping was a great way to pass the time. (For related reading, see: Which Investor Personality Best Describes You?)
So picture this. You have come to know a bit about your seat mates over dinner and drinks and now are settling in to sleep, all the while your personal belongings are under your seat or stored above. The things you carry on the plane with you are usually the things that are essential and private to you. Your wallet or purse, passport, medications, money, etc. all very important and very private. You fall asleep and just assume you can trust everyone around you not to go digging through your things. It is remarkable really, when you think about it. Maybe it is the fact that you are sharing the common experience of putting your life in the hands of the airline and its professionals, entrusted to help you get where you want to be.
The camaraderie that develops can be observed in a variety of ways. One of my favorites is when the plane touches down after 17 hours in the air and the whole plane breaks out in cheer, clapping hands and giving high fives. People sharing a common experience, whatever it is, form a bond. This, in my opinion, is the basis for building trust on the fly (pun intended). (For related reading, see: 5 Financial Planning Decisions You Won't Regret.)
Initial Advisor Meeting
The same can be said about an initial meeting with a financial advisor. For example:
- You are strangers meeting for the first time (usually)
- You are sharing an experience
- You are on a journey and have a destination in mind, you want help to get there
- You feel oddly comfortable in sharing personal, confidential and financial details so soon
- You are building trust
Are these not the same as sleeping next to a stranger on a plane?
Making the comparison between flights and finance may come as a stretch (speaking of which, don’t forget to do while flying). It is something I have contemplated many a time while getting to know people from all over the world from different walks of life. I believe that people want and need the same basic things regardless of who or where they are. Obviously we all need food, water and a place to sleep. But in addition to these, people want to help each other. We want to help others achieve their goals, to improve the lives of others through the work that we do. (For related reading, see: 5 Financial Strategies to Last a Lifetime.)
For as long as I can remember helping others has been a priority. Finding your calling is usually a long road with many twists and turns. This road has led me to working as a financial advisor to my clients. I love being able to be my own boss, although this has given me some gray hair, so I can focus on doing what I love. Furthermore, I have directed my passion to specifically working with entrepreneurs, founders and startups. People cut of this cloth are passionate, driven and motivated to do what they love, to solve a problem or fill a void, so that they can improve people’s lives. This resonates with me, as I am doing the same thing in my own way. (For related reading, see: Why the Need for Human Advisors Will Never Die.)
Maybe you haven’t flown on a plane. Maybe you haven’t worked with a financial advisor. I encourage you to do both. Getting out of one’s comfort zone can lead to great things like walking on a volcano in Iceland and, although less exotic, defining your financial goals and working toward achieving them. Both are rewarding in many ways.