Define Your Objectives to Choose the Right Financial Advisor
In the late ‘90s, my wife and I began hunting for a new house. We loved our little home near the south end of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, but it was quickly becoming too cramped for our family of five. There was always a toy underfoot, and it constantly felt like we were tripping over each other.
At the time, the housing market was very tight. There wasn’t much on the market, and houses tended to be snapped up quickly. Because of housing market conditions, we kept our criteria minimal, only telling our realtor that we wanted a place near Lake Harriet. That’s it.
I’m sure I toured at least 30 houses over several weeks. Every time we stepped through the door of a new place, my wife and I felt hopeful, but our optimism was usually quashed immediately. Nothing was quite right—too small, too big, too run-down, insufficient space in the kitchen or living room, not enough bedrooms, a cramped yard, a busy street. We were striking out left and right.
Then, we decided to take a different approach. Instead of being loose with our criteria, I made a spreadsheet that detailed exactly what we wanted—our needs, wants, and “nice to haves.” My wife and I put a lot of thought into our chart, making sure to list all the factors that were important to us. We knew we needed five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a house in good repair, and someplace located close to Lake Harriet. In the “wants” column, we listed items such as a garage and a big yard because they were not absolute necessities for us. In the “nice to have” column, we listed features such as a swimming pool and a sauna.
After defining our list, we brought it to our realtor. I worried he might think we were seeking a unicorn, but instead, he surprised us by saying, “I think I have the perfect house for you. It’s not yet on the market, but I think I can convince the owner to let you take a look.”
Once we had permission to tour the house, my wife and I visited it. As soon as we stepped through the door, we knew it was the one. It ticked all the boxes on our “needs” list, fit most of the criteria on the “wants” list, and had a few of the “nice to haves.” It even had a sauna! We’ve lived in that house for 25 years. It’s where our three kids grew up, where we hosted friends and family, worked, relaxed, and made memories.
I learned through this experience that dialing in your needs, wants, and nice-to-haves when making a significant decision is incredibly valuable. This applies to buying a house or car, choosing a new doctor, or—and maybe you saw this coming—choosing a financial advisor.