Coach, Collaborator, and Confidant: Howland as Financial Educator
“Money is a great servant, but a bad master.” Francis Bacon
Howland’s Money Stories Program this month features two of the firm’s partners, Nick Crocker and Maureen Quigley, who teamed up to reflect on how they help clients navigate through financial milestones often experienced by families. From the young investor just starting out on a savings plan to discussions about how to pass on family values, Howland’s approach brings the firm’s collective experience and thinking to the dialogue.
During our recent podcast, Nick Crocker talked about his passion for teaching young people how money works. Since most of us don’t learn about personal finance in school, we often need an outside “coach” to show us the ropes. A coach, defined as an “expert who helps train people, to prepare them for something,” can be a valuable resource for all of us when it comes to building our “money muscles.”
Nick’s coaching mindset was evident from the outset of our conversation. The quote from English philosopher Francis Bacon, “Money is a great servant but a bad master” is an example of how he encourages young people to understand that learning how to acquire money is only one aspect of financial acumen, and that choosing a career based solely on what a particular job might pay can be a faulty strategy. Learning how to use money wisely, and how to manage money for the long term are equally important.
When we’re younger, we rely upon teachers and coaches to help us develop and improve our skills, whether in academics, athletics, or the arts. The same commitment to ongoing education is of great value when it comes to personal finance. For example, Nick talked about helping young people develop a system for savings and using tools for budgeting to reinforce sound financial habits. As savings build, investing becomes a priority in order to make the most of one’s financial resources. For any aspect of financial planning and as finances evolve over time, having a trusted coach by your side keeps you financially fit.
Establishing a Collaborative Dialogue
No matter what phase of life we’re in, money usually plays a role. During our recent Money Stories podcast, Howland’s Maureen Quigley acknowledged the increased financial complexities we all navigate, since most of us have the responsibility for saving for our own retirements now that most companies no longer provide pensions. Maureen understands the challenge of it all, and empathizes, “As we get older, money and finances do become more of an issue, and there are choices and trade-offs.”
Maureen is adamant about her commitment to understanding how women’s multiple roles can influence their financial perspectives. “When I work with women, I often hear them talk about finances in the context of their family relationships and the responsibilities they feel as primary caregivers. Sometimes, as caregivers we want to help too much. When it comes to the money part, I can run interference and help with the family dialogue about finances and help explain what’s prudent when it comes to the family’s intentions about the use of finances.”
This kind of partnership acknowledges where we arewhen it comes to our relationship with money, and what we should expect from our advisors is a trusted advocate who takes some of the burden off our plate. Maureen describes her proactive approach to collaboration, “My job is to take a hands-on role in solving a problem with you, guide you through it, and stick with you until it’s done.”
Maureen has made it her mission to ensure that women are fully engaged with their finances.
“It’s so important that women are a part of the financial decision-making, that they participate in the conversations, and understand the numbers. And for my part as a financial advisor, I’m passionate about demystifying the language around finance and making the information understandable.”
A Trusted Confidante
Sound money management is a hallmark of Howland’s work, but the approach is about more than the dollars and cents. The importance of looking at the whole picture, taking time to get to know the family, and establishing a relationship over time are all necessary ingredients to becoming a trusted advisor.
The importance of “educating our clients along the way” is a recurring theme. As Maureen and Nick talked about the topics they tackle with clients, a consistent goal is to understand the values and intentions of the family regarding their finances. As Maureen framed Howland’s philosophy, “In partnership with the family, this is about applying our practical lens to personal situations where a financial solution can help.”
Whether it’s insurance, eldercare resources, assisted living options, or how much money to give away vs providing for one’s own long- term care, it is helpful to have a someone who’s been through the process many times with other clients to offer solutions and frame alternatives. Someone who brings a depth of knowledge, and an objective view can make all the difference. These can be intensely personal topics that also have financial implications. Having an advisor in the room to cast a critical and caring eye on the options is a great advantage.
One of the most personal choices we all must make is to decide who will be responsible for managing our affairs when we pass on. This requires perhaps the ultimate trusted confidante, and it is important to take the time to consider the options carefully. While corporate trustees are the right option for some, an independent trustee can be appropriate for others. In characterizing who clients might consider, Maureen explained, “an independent trustee is not a beneficiary of the estate but is knowledgeable and known to the family.”
Talk about Money
In sharing their own personal money stories, both Nick and Maureen expressed gratitude to their own families for their openness in talking about money. From the importance of giving back to one’s community to sharing estate plans with the next generation, Maureen and Nick understand first-hand the benefits of financial education for the entire family.
Maureen and Nick summed up their advice with a spirit of optimism and care. “Ask us to help, never stop asking questions, and expect a lot from us. We think of ourselves as educators, and we want to be there along the way with your family’s journey.”