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Should You 'Free Solo' Your Financial Plan?

Photo of author, John Binz, JD.
John Binz, JD
Financial Strategist and Chief Compliance Officer

Last year’s Oscar-winning documentary, Free Solo, was a breathtaking portrait of an athlete at the top of his game. For those who haven’t seen it, the film follows climber Alex Honnold as he attempts to climb one of the most challenging rock walls on the planet, El Capitan in Yosemite National Park (see pic below), without any ropes or safety equipment.

El CapitanI won’t spoil the ending, but one line from the film has stood out to me ever since I heard it. Honnold is speaking to a crowd at a book signing and says, “I like to differentiate between risk and consequence… I like to think that the risk, the chance of me falling off, is quite low even though the consequence is extremely high.” Essentially, anyone can see the consequence of falling 3,000 feet from the rock’s summit, but no one can see and appreciate all the steps Honnold took to reduce the risk of that ever happening.

This stuck with me as a financial advisor because it’s exactly what I try to explain to clients — It is impossible to put together any kind of financial plan without first understanding the potential consequences involved. It is quite common to see people so anxious about their financial situation that they either ignore it altogether (“I can’t deal with it right now”) or they completely succumb to their anxiety to the point where it keeps them up at night.

So what’s the solution? While it is true that technology has made investing more accessible to everyone, you should ask yourself if you have the necessary tools to successfully “free solo” your financial plan. You may be better served working with a professional who has all the tools that may reduce your risk: time, desire, and resources.

TIME: Putting together a financial plan is quite literally a full-time job…my full-time job. Keeping up with market trends, putting together an investment strategy, and consistently monitoring to make sure you are on track is a daily task for a financial advisor. In all probability, you already have a job that takes up a lot of your time. For many, limited free time is better spent in pursuit of education, their career, hobbies, or simply spending time with family. If it doesn’t feel like you can work financial planning into your daily routine, it may be time to speak with an advisor.

DESIRE: Bears, bulls, dead cats, and doves; the terminology alone is enough to make your head spin. If it all sounds like a foreign language, you are not alone. Regularly, our clients simply do not have the desire to research and monitor their financial plan. A passionate advisor can demystify the process and direct your attention where it should be, all while taking care of the details.

RESOURCES: The ability to utilize the appropriate resources is probably the biggest hurdle for the free soloing investor. Professional financial advisors use state-of-the-art planning software, coordinate with other experts, and take advantage of technical insights from reputable analysts. It would cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars for an individual investor to use the tools I use almost every day, and this doesn’t even account for the thousands of hours and dollars spent on education learning how to interpret the information those tools provide.

If you look at any wealth management firm’s website, you will see an entire alphabet worth of professional designations after their advisors’ names. This signals a deep bench of expertise among a firm’s staff that ultimately leads to a wide range of available solutions for its clients -- and most likely a better outcome than any individual could find alone.

Remember, you don’t need billions of dollars or an ultra-complex financial situation to benefit from hiring a financial advisor. Most often we meet clients when they have relatively simple questions like, “Am I on track to retire when I want?” or “What do I do now that I have sold my business?” The most important quality I look for in a client is a desire to achieve financial autonomy. It is that simple. If your goal is to create a healthy financial plan for you and your family, but you lack the necessary tools to accomplish it yourself, reach out to the McKinley Carter advisory team, or any professional financial advisor.

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