It pays to have a coach in your corner

Coach whistle

If you’re a golf or tennis fan, you’ve probably watched through your fingers as your favourite player mysteriously melts on the biggest stage. Golf and tennis are two of the few professional sports in which athletes are denied direct access to their coach while the game’s on. When things go bad, they tend to go bad quickly – and the player has to rely on their own talent and experience to get back on track. 

“That’s how investors must feel when they manage the emotional aspects of money on their own,” says Michel Dugal, a Lawyers Financial Advisor who, for many years, was also a head coach in the top tier of Quebec football.

For Dugal, coaching successful lawyers on money matters isn’t that different from coaching elite athletes. “In elite sports, no one is there just to be a passenger,” says Dugal. “Every player wants to get better and looks to their coach to create a personalized plan that balances team goals with individual goals.”

In financial planning, the ‘team’ may be your family or your firm but it’s in the individual goals that coaching really comes into play, he says. “As a financial advisor, my job is to help create a game plan and motivate my clients to stick with it.”

Dugal says it comes down to three things: 

1.  LEARNING THE FUNDAMENTALS

The fundamentals of financial planning are consistent. You need savings, investments and insurance. And then you need a basic plan so your earnings can fund your retirement, protect your assets and secure your legacy. A good coach helps you set your priorities early in your career and develop the discipline you need to stay committed. When you’re starting out, that means:  

  • Setting realistic short-term goals that make it easy to get started and stay on track
  • Laying the foundation for a well-balanced, long-term plan
  • Getting the right kind of protection (insurance) at the right time 

“It sounds easy,” says Dugal, “but you can’t really move on to more complex financial strategies until you’ve mastered the fundamentals.”

2.  CREATING A GAME PLAN

Once the basics are in place, a coach can help you work on more complex strategies that begin to add tax and estate planning to the mix. “A complex plan has higher stakes and more opportunities to be creative,” says Dugal. A good game plan prepares you to make better decisions about: 

  • Planning for major purchases
  • Protecting your family and practice
  • Saving for your child’s education
  • Paying off your mortgage
  • Building a nest egg for retirement

“The sooner you create a plan, the better,” says Dugal. “It’s impossible to guess when you’ll need to change direction, but when you have a plan in place, you can adjust along the way.” 

3.  MASTERING THE MENTAL GAME

Financial planners, as coaches, help clients overcome the mental hurdles that are sure to pop up along the way. That often means helping clients: 

  • Stay focused on long-term goals
  • Manage emotions that often drive financial decisions
  • Ignore the chorus of voices (in headlines and online) and stay focused on the fundamentals

“A big part of our responsibility as advisors is providing emotional support when a client faces a tough decision,” says Dugal. “Our aim is to coach our clients through it, stay focused, and demonstrate how better planning leads to better outcomes.” 

Like an elite athlete, you never outgrow the need for objective advice from a coach who can keep you committed to the game at hand, focused on the basics and on track to reach your long-term goals.

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