Retirement Planning at the Winter Olympics

Subjectively-judged events at the Olympics can always be problematic. It’s true of gymnastics, diving, and synchronized swimming at the summer games, and it’s true of figure skating and snowboarding in the wintertime.

Think about the difference between speed skating and figure skating. They both involve a sheet of ice and blades that you wear on your feet, but they’re wildly different activities.

In speed skating, finely-tuned athletes with monstrous quadriceps step away from their rigorous training routine to don a sleek, aerodynamic outfit and race round a track. The winner is determined by a clock.

In figure skating, a dude with poofy hair steps away from his rigorous routine of getting his feelings hurt about the political beliefs of Mike Pence and dons a fabulous glitter outfit while he dances to the musical stylings of Liza Minnelli. The winner is determined by a collection of judges from Belgium, Slovenia, and Finland.

In speed skating, there’s no debating the winner. Unless he commits an infraction of some kind, the guy who goes the fastest gets the gold medal.

In figure skating, one competitor might be more technically sound while another might perform with superior grace and fluidity. So it’s completely possible for two people to watch the same competition and have a different feeling about who won.

Choosing a financial advisor is a lot more similar to figure skating than speed skating. It’s very difficult to use strictly objective measures to decide who should help you with your retirement planning. Instead you normally have to use more subjective feelings to make your choice.

But if your only choice is subjective judgments, it’s important to at least be sure that you’re basing your choice on the right criteria.

Appropriate things on which to base your judgments would include…

Does this advisor listen well? Does he ask a lot of questions or just talk a lot?

Does he seem trustworthy? Does my gut feel ok with him?

Am I able to understand what he’s talking about or does he talk over my head?

Does it seem like he’s giving advice or just selling products?

Am I comfortable asking him questions without feeling like I’ll look dumb?

Inappropriate things to base your judgments on would include…

Does he have really nice clothes?

Does he have a really nice office?

Did he give me a lot of very professional-looking sales materials to go along with the product he recommended?

Does he have commercials on TV that I’ve seen before?

Did he mention his church/temple/synagogue/mosque/yoga studio during our visit?

Did his kids go to school with my kids?

On one hand, it seems absurd that you’d make a decision based on the answers to some of those questions. On the other hand, you’d be surprised how many people get sucked in by slick sales brochures, fancy offices, expensive suits, or the fact that they’ve seen someone at a PTA meeting before.

You’re the judge, so you get to pick which criteria is important to you. Just make sure you’re putting more emphasis on substance than style.