Over the years we have evolved a unique specialization working with Kansas City’s thriving engineering community. And that surprises many folks in our industry! Whenever I discuss that we work with many engineers at financial conferences, our colleagues from around the country think we’re crazy. We hear things like, "They are too detailed," or, "They are too smart," or, “Their standards are way too high.”
But that’s exactly why we love working with engineers. We’re very grateful for the work they are doing to enhance standards of living for people in our community and around the world. In fact, we try to do the same every day for our clients at Keen Wealth.
Here are some reasons why engineers are a pleasure to work with, and how the rigors of their profession translate into positive financial planning habits:
1. They are self-made.
Most of our engineer clients started out their careers with no real financial resources and have had to work hard, live within their means, and build their wealth over a lifetime of education, hard work and diligence. They have been through many market cycles both in the economy and in their respective departments or sectors and they understand that delayed gratification, to an extent, is a valuable asset. They also understand that takes time. This is quite the opposite of a majority of the “lottery winner” types that we discussed in a prior blog post.
I can relate to this type of thinking as I had a similar journey. I started my career in the financial services industry with no resources, no assets, no family money and no real influence. I certainly wasn’t inheriting a family business or asset. I was even told by my first manager out of college that I had a very low chance of succeeding with those circumstances at play. I realized early on that focus, commitment, hard work and time were key factors, and that there are no real shortcuts to success. Because of this, I have a deep respect for the journey and mindset of our engineering clients.
2. They know what they don’t know and they want to delegate.
Because engineers often work as consultants themselves, they respect the value of calling in an outside expert to answer specialized questions. This allows top-notch engineering firms to create robust professional networks that include consultants, supply chains, government bodies, and financial pros to name a few. The aim is for each task to be delegated to the best possible person who’s able to give the best possible answer so that every facet of a project is executed the right way and on time.
We take a similar approach to creating financial plans for our clients at Keen Wealth. We coordinate our efforts with CPAs, health care professionals, and estate attorneys so that we are way out ahead of any potential issues from just about every conceivable angle.
3. They want to understand.
Engineers love pulling things apart to see how they work, so they often bring some really well-informed questions to their meetings with my team. We have found over the years that our engineers want to understand our process and they want to be confident that it is being executed for them and their families. That’s why I don’t get many panicked calls from engineers when the market hits a volatile patch. Instead, if we do get a call, it’s more likely to simply confirm that we are “on plan.” The work that is done on the front end of a financial plan allows us both to continue to make educated and informed decisions over time – especially during difficult economic or personal situations.
I’ve mentioned many times before that financial and retirement literacy is an essential life skill that just isn’t taught in schools. As a result, a whole lot of adults don’t know how to manage their money or understand how the market keeps building wealth even after a major event like the 2008-09 downturn.
Of course, I don’t expect any of my clients to become financial planning experts. But the more engaged you and your spouse are in the planning process, the more empowered you’re going to feel about saving and investing for the long haul.
4. They love prudent planning and measurement.
Step one of building a skyscraper isn’t bolting a bunch of steel beams together. That’s probably not even step one hundred!
Engineers know that something big and long-lasting doesn’t grow overnight. They appreciate the need to check off all the tiny details one-by-one. They measure and re-measure. They work within mathematic, geographic, and budgetary limits, and they appreciate that we apply that same discipline to our advice on personal spending, saving, and investing. Many of our engineer clients also have the benefit of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), which allows employees to gain an ownership interest in the company they’re working for. In most cases, ESOP plans feature distinct nuances around retirement distributions and asset diversification, which just so happen to be areas of expertise here at Keen Wealth!
Regular readers and listeners know how much I love a good checklist. And my clients know that at Keen Wealth, annual checklists are an integral part of the planning process. We regularly review our clients’ tax pictures, estate plans, health care options, and portfolios. But we also go deeper with clients to make sure that all this careful planning will result in not just more money, but we hope also in a more fulfilling life and a real sense of financial freedom.
5. They have very high standards.
What happens if every single detail of a major engineering project isn’t perfect? At the low end of the seriousness scale, a city might get stuck with an eyesore, or a firm might lose an unhappy customer.
And at the high end? From the safety at a job site to the soundness of a structure, it’s not a stretch to say that good engineering can be a matter of life and death.
Some folks think I’m exaggerating when I say that the same is true of good financial planning. But in over 25 years in the financial services industry, I have seen lives ruined by poor planning and dangerous attitudes towards saving and investing. I’ve seen nest eggs that should have lasted decades disappear in a matter of months. I’ve seen good people trust the wrong people with settling their estates. I’ve seen hard-working folks struggle with depression and poor health in retirement because they just don’t know what to do with themselves once their 9-to-5 days are over.
That’s why my Keen Wealth team is so thorough when it comes to our clients’ financial planning. When you work with us, you’re working with a team of fiduciary advisors you can trust to build something big, strong, and enduring.
Bill Keen is a CHARTERED RETIREMENT PLANNING COUNSELOR℠ and independent financial advisor with more than 25 years of industry experience. As the founder and CEO of Keen Wealth Advisors, a registered investment advisory firm, he specializes in providing personalized retirement planning designed to help people thrive before and during their retirement years. With a passion for educating others, Bill regularly blogs about retirement planning, hosts the podcast Keen on Retirement, and has contributed to U.S. News and World Report, Reuters, Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch, Yahoo Finance, and other publications. Based in Overland Park, Kansas, Bill and his team work with clients throughout the greater Kansas City area and across the nation. To learn more, connect with him on LinkedIn or visit www.keenwealthadvisors.com.
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