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Checking up with a financial planner

Financial planner Neil Blicher doesn’t keep a crystal ball under his desk that predicts or guarantees the performance of investments. That’s the first misconception about financial planners that Blicher, a certified financial planner with Baystate Financial Services in Boston, would like to clarify. “Some people think I have inside knowledge on what the market is going to do tomorrow, but unfortunately, I don’t,” said Blicher. And the other task that he can’t perform as a financial adviser is protecting consumers from risky or destructive financial habits. “People might know very well what steps they need to take to change their financial situation, but because financial planning falls into the category of ‘important, but not urgent,’ it’s human nature to put things off.”

Blicher, a graduate of the Kellogg School of Management, began his financial services career with a large investment firm, and then made the leap to financial planning. “I think of myself as a primary care physician, but for wealth, not health,” said Blicher, who connects individuals and small businesses with a network of financial specialists. He enjoys the challenge of accessing the financial needs of families and then assisting them with investments, taxes, and insurance decisions.

“It’s not as simple as other consumer products, such as cereal, where you can simply buy a box of Cheerios, eat it, and serve it to your kids,” said Blicher. “Financial products and services have a lot of complexity.”

He says his typical client is stuck in the sandwich generation: a middle-aged, dual income couple who is coping both with children and aging parents. “As their careers have progressed and they’ve gotten older, they start looking at their overall finances, including wills, estates, and retirement savings, and realize they have no comprehensive plan in place.”


Q: Yogi Berra once said, “A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore. Do you have any favorite sayings like this?
A:
My favorite quote is from former UCLA head coach John Wooden, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” This goes into so many facets of life, whether training for a marathon, studying for an exam, or developing a long-term retirement strategy. You need to know where you’re going. My kids are tired of hearing me say this to them.

Q: What are some of the most satisfying problems you help solve?
A:
I think healthcare costs for the elderly is a huge risk in terms of a major money drain. I’m pleased to be able to work with clients and help them shore up their current expenses and plan for a rainy day.

Q: What are the steps for developing a financial plan?
A:
After the initial discussion and deciding if there’s a good ‘fit,’ I sit down with the family and gather information about who they are and what makes them tick, as well as the quantitative aspects of their finances. We gather tax forms and other documents, and then I develop an assessment and analysis, and make recommendations, based on client goals.

Q: Can anyone hang out their shingle and become a financial planner?
A:
This is a very heavily regulated business, and for a good reason – you’re dealing with people’s money. As a Certified Financial Planner, I need to meet the ethical and educational experience to gain this designation, as well as pass a series of exams.

Q: You have three kids. How soon should financial literacy begin?
A:
Parents should start educating their kids on financial literacy in grade school. That's what my wife and I did with our kids. One concept we still employ is the “money savvy pig,” four parts of a piggy bank: save, spend, donate and invest. Their monthly allowance is broken up into these components.

Q: We all have financial "Achilles' heels." What is yours?
A:
I am fond of Starbucks' coffee. I could definitely be a more frugal coffee drinker!

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