Lesson Learned from a Sea Captain

by Jeff C. Johnson


“Bob” retired as the captain of an ocean-going ship and ended up returning to the Midwest, managing the family ranch in the Sandhills region of north-central Nebraska. He had little interest in financial matters, leaving those details to his wife, a retired advertising executive. Once, as she and I were reviewing their financial plan, Bob walked into the kitchen and, in his Sea Captain growl, said, “Jeff, what the hell is it you actually do for us?”

Cautiously, I explained the role of a wealth adviser, to develop a custom plan and portfolio, to review financial results, and to compare them to future goals and objectives. Also, to recommend alterations in the portfolio or actions to take to help people get back on track toward those goals. I continued to talk about the need for regular reviews to make sure investors never get too far off the path to their intended future goal.

After contemplating what I said for a moment, he said, “What you do is a helluva lot like a ship captain’s job, right?”

I didn’t know quite what to say, so he continued, “When we left port, I’d set a course from ’Frisco to Hawaii, and then go about other duties for the day. Then later I would check our position and see how the currents and the winds had pushed us off course, then I’d make corrections to get us back on a straight line to Honolulu. That’s what you do for us.”

Many of my real-life clients have been hearing this story for the last couple of decades because it is true: My work for clients is much like the role of a ship’s captain.

Do you have a financial guide that helps you stay on course? Compare the cost of good financial advice and direction versus the cost of a poorly executed “DIY” financial plan.

In my book The Eight Points of Financial Confidence I share a thinking person’s way of identifying and selecting the right wealth adviser.

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