By Derek Elrod, Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP), MBA, MS
Derek Elrod has been the President of RB Capital Management, LLC and now Partner at Bridgewealth Advisory Group, LLC.
It seems like the longer someone has been an advisor and the busier their days become, the more likely they will get into a routine of jumping straight into recommendations while only scratching the surface on client goals. I said scratching the surface on purpose. Having been in the business for 14 years, I can say that most of us are not diving deep to find out what truly motivates that client. The Master’s in Financial Planning and Taxation program at Golden Gate University has given me the skills to gain a greater knowledge of my clients. It is surprising what you can learn when you step back and listen more. Financial planning is not just about giving broad investment and financial planning recommendations, but also about finding out what really interests your clients, what their deep-rooted goals are in life, and what gives them motivation and happiness.
My fellow students and I, who ranged in experience from one year to over twenty-five, learned a number of techniques in the Coaching Skills for Financial Planners class taught by Saundra Davis. It was a very big class for me, but I can give one simple example. If you say to a client “tell me more” instead of “why,” the tone is much more positive and you are more likely to get a revealing answer from the client versus a defensive response.
Once you find out your clients’ life motivations, they will have a much higher probability of meeting their savings goals, spending goals, and stick to their long-term plans.
Putting Behavioral Finance Knowledge to the Test
Cases in Financial Planning taught by Dr. Dave Yeske, CFP™ and Professor Elissa Buie, CFP™ was one course in the MS in Financial Planning degree I completed in 2018. Whether or not you are a CFP™ practitioner, this is an absolutely fantastic course and project. We watched planners interviewing fake clients – a couple – about all facets of their lives including estate planning, retirement planning, insurance planning, college planning, and investment management. I liked that the “fake clients” were not an easy case.
“If you want to set yourself apart from the crowd, look into the CFP® program, graduate degree programs in Financial Planning such as the one offered by GGU, and try to learn from knowledgeable and ethical employers like Dr. Dave Yeske, CFP™, the Chair of GGU’s Financial Planning programs.”
Quite a few Behavioral Finance issues came up! The professors purposely made the clients difficult in terms of agreeing on their goals, dreams, planned retirement dates, and spending habits. It made for a great case and forced us to come up with creative solutions for both the husband and wife to be happy while meeting their main priorities. It made us really think before giving recommendations that would try to meet the goals of both individuals.
The education was hands-on which was part of why I chose GGU. We developed and presented a comprehensive financial plan in Professors Buie and Yeske’s and it was a great experience. I recently started my own RIA (Registered Investment Advisor) firm and really look forward at implementing what I learned into my own practice.
I wish I could send a new employee just to take this one course! They even taught us how to properly take notes in a client data gathering meeting.
I cannot say enough about Dr. Yeske. He is a pioneer in our industry and continues to shape the direction it is going. We need more like him! His knowledge, experience, and philosophies are a fantastic resource to his clients, to GGU, and to the financial planning industry.
Financial Planning Education & Building a Career
I got into financial planning as a complete coincidence. I was working on our family farm after graduating with a business degree and got a call from a firm that wanted to tap into my agriculture network. I accepted the position with no intention of staying in the industry, but I soon realized how great the profession was and how much I was enjoying it.
Most undergraduate business majors don’t even have financial planning careers on their radar. That is unfortunate. I would tell them that financial planning is a fantastic career choice that allows one to utilize all of their business and personal talents on a daily basis. A lot of people, including myself, do an MBA after completion of their undergraduate degrees. I would highly recommend someone interested in financial planning look at graduate degrees specializing in the field to prepare them for the industry and the CFP™ designation.
“I cannot say enough about Dr. Yeske. He is a pioneer in our industry and continues to shape the direction it is going. We need more like him!”
Unfortunately, clients are not knocking down our doors to give us their money to invest and ask for financial planning advice, so starting out building clients on your own is very difficult. Often the best option is to work for an existing firm and mentor that will help you learn, hone your skills, and not force you to start your book of business from scratch. If you are looking at building your own client base, then you have to network. My niche market is in the agricultural industry where not only does my family have deep roots, but also where I continue to network, market, and belong to organizations in those communities and circles.
One complaint I have about our industry is that it is way too easy to call yourself a financial advisor. An individual may just have an insurance license or a securities license such as the 6, 7, 65, 66, etc. I passed the Series 7 at 21 years old with about a week of studying and the Series 66 a few weeks later without studying. Making it that easy to become an “advisor” does not help give our industry the prestige and respect it deserves. That is why I am a huge supporter of the Certified Financial Planner (CFP™) program, the CFP® exam, and what the CFP® marks stand for. I wish that it was required to be a CFP™ certificant to call yourself a financial advisor or a financial planner. Maybe one day!
If you want to set yourself apart from the crowd, look into the CFP® program, graduate degree programs in Financial Planning such as the ones offered by GGU, and try to learn from knowledgeable and ethical employers like Dave Yeske, the Chair of the Financial Planning programs at GGU.
We asked Derek why he chose GGU
…In 2016, eight years after an MBA, and ten years after the CFP™ designation I came back to study at GGU as a working professional. Most CFP™ professionals like me do not have in-depth knowledge about taxation, and this program helped fill in some of those gaps. I had no local universities that offered anything similar to this program, but because of GGU I was able to do the degree online living in Fresno even though the campus is in downtown San Francisco. The online courses forced us to have weekly discussions with both the professors and our peers. The program could be accomplished in a shorter period, but it took me 2 ½ years due to my personal and current workloads outside of school.
[Pictured above, header: Derek Elrod and Analise, his wife, on the family almond farm in central California.]
About Derek Elrod
Derek Elrod is a Certified Financial PlannerTM (CFP) who has been President of RB Capital Management, LLC and now Partner at Bridgewealth Advisory Group, LLC. He is President of the Financial Planning Association of Central California and appears on KMPH Fox 26 as host of the “Dollars & Sense” segment. Elrod holds a BS from Santa Clara University, MBA from California State University Fresno, and a Master’s in Financial Planning and Taxation from Golden Gate University.