The Denver Post

Myths shouldn’t keep you from seeking advice

- By Julie Fletcher Julie Fletcher is a Certified Financial Planner with Sharkey, Howes & Javer in Denver. SHJ is a fee-only Registered Investment Adviser.

Since the 1980s, Hollywood has made millions of dollars creating a slew of movies depicting the greed and crime of the financial services industry. Which is your favorite? “Wall Street,” the “greed is good” movie from 1987? “Boiler Room,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” or “The Big Short”? Based on the media’s portrayal of financial profession­als, it is no wonder that Americans are scared to death to trust anyone with their hardearned money. Based on these movies, I would guess that a person who has never met with a financial advisor likely envisions it would go something like this. …

As a frightened receptioni­st walks me through their chaotic cubicle hell, red-faced frenzied suits scream “SELL, SELL NOW!!” into their phones. When we finally reach the conference room, the theme song of “Jaws” runs through my mind as a cigar-smoking man wearing a red bow tie slowly turns in his chair to face me. He puffs out smoke as his smile creeps into a wide Cheshire cat grin. “Welcome, please have a seat. Did you bring all your account statements?” As I cautiously hand my private and personal informatio­n to a complete stranger, his grin turns into a frown. “Did you not read our website? I hardly think $150,000 meets our $50 million minimums.”

Admittedly yes, this is certainly an exaggerati­on. However, financial advisors are commonly represente­d by Hollywood as greedy, judgmental and rude. I strongly suggest running far from a financial advisor who demonstrat­es any of those three qualities.

According to a survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of McAdam, 71 percent of Americans say some aspect of talking to a financial advisor scares them. Some even say they experience the same level of anxiety they feel when they go to the doctor. This fear stems from high costs, lack of trust, and receiving bad news (most likely because of what they see and read in the media). If Americans are fearful of seeking advice from financial advisors, this could leave them at the mercy of predatory salespeopl­e, friends with “investment opportunit­ies,” replicatin­g a damaging pattern of a parent, or waiting too long to seek out personal advice.

As a financial planner for the last 10 years, I’ve had the honor of working with a wide variety of clients. I recognize the money fears many Americans face as I’ve heard client after client say “I just don’t understand this stuff.” I’ve sat across the table from people so fraught with financial anxiety that I find myself subconscio­usly taking deep breaths for them. I’ve watched as the tears pool, especially during times of scary transition. I’ve watched clients slowly decline into cognitive impairment and assisted their families with the dilemma of what to do next. I’ve seen those who will always feel guilty spending their own money, no matter what the analysis shows.

I’ve watched how money can play a large part in family dynamics — positive or negative. I’ve seen the pride in clients’ eyes when their goals are achieved and their hard work has paid off. I’ve seen the relief that comes with finding an advisor they can trust and feeling confident in the decisions they make.

Unfortunat­ely, we live in a “money taboo” society and money continues to be a mystery centered on assumption­s — usually that everyone else has more and makes more. But in reality, there is simply no such thing as normal when it comes to personal finances. It’s all very relative to the way you grew up, the community you live in, and your personal networks of family, friends and colleagues.

It’s time to let go of the fear of visiting with a financial planner. A great way to find one you trust is to ask friends and family for a referral. Once you have collected a few names, check their websites for costs and services offered. This informatio­n also could easily be obtained with a quick phone call to the firm. Also, see what the Securities and Exchange Commission has to say about the firm by looking them up on adviserinf­

Most initial consultati­ons are compliment­ary and I suggest interviewi­ng a few potential advisors. Do not be shy about preparing a list of questions that are important to you or requesting to work with an advisor of a certain gender, background or level of experience. It’s also important to understand exactly how they are paid. And last, always trust your gut instinct. Don’t settle for anything less than a comfortabl­e, encouragin­g, nonthreate­ning and productive working relationsh­ip. Choose someone you can see yourself trusting for many years to come. Your future self will thank you.

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