I was recently in the flagship Nordstrom store in downtown Seattle. I had gone in just to browse with nothing particular on my mind or anything I was seeking to purchase. As I was looking around, I noticed a rack with some beautiful, colorful casual shirts. I picked out a few that I liked and headed to the dressing room to try them on. I quickly came to the conclusion that I would purchase a few shirts. Through this experience: browsing, trying them on, and purchasing, I started to think how much designing, manufacturing, and selling clothing parallels the work I do as a financial planner to help my clients find the strategies that fit their needs.
The hidden effort that goes into creating the products and services you purchase may surprise you. The shirt doesn’t just magically show up on Nordstrom’s perfectly lit display. Many people from around the globe applied their expertise and followed multiple steps to craft the bright blend of fabrics that became the shirts I selected.
How much effort does it take to make a shirt?
With my limited merchandising knowledge, I won’t come close to capturing all of the decisions made along the way in creating a retail product. But I am awe of the number of players and choices that come into play even in this simplified example:
First, a person decided to create the shirts in this specific style. People chose what material to use and sourced a mill to produce that material. More individuals probably chose where to produce the shirts and made choices about color, labeling and packaging. Logistics of how that shirts would be shipped and where it would be received and who would unpack it came from someone. Of course, many people along the way had to do the actual labor behind each step. And, don’t forget the Sales Associate on the floor who was prepared to help me find my size, and was skilled to show me other things, like a new pair of jeans.
Financial plans aren’t one size fits all.
Just as shirts appear in Nordstrom’s displays only after progressing through a series of essential steps, financial plans also require many steps that may not be understood or recognized, too. Often times somebody could look at a portfolio and simply see which stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are held and come to some conclusion.
I start by getting to know each client, what’s important to them, and the goals they have for themselves. These can include retirement or college planning or planning for a large purchase like a boat. This discovery includes any past investment experiences, their risk tolerance, and any other concerns they may have when it comes to their finances. Only after having a clear understanding of what the client wants to do can I start to craft the financial plan. That financial plan has a number of subtopics --- cash flow and reserves, risk and insurance, asset management, retirement planning, taxation, and estate planning --- and each one of those has its corresponding number of steps. This is not a ‘one size fits most’ endeavor!
Just as shirts come in many sizes, with different styles to fit body types, gender, and climate, so do financial plans. Make sure you have one that’s tailored for you.