If you’re like most advisors, you don’t know what your clients really think about you. Here’s the view from Lauryn Williams, 33, a former Olympian in track and field and bobsledding, who ultimately became a financial advisor herself, based in Dallas.
In 2004, when I was a junior at the University of Miami, I ran the second fastest time in the world at the national championships. The same year, I competed in my first Olympics—I also participated in 2008, 2012 and 2014—and I signed a contract with Nike. In 2009, I got a different sponsor, Saucony, until I retired from sports in 2013.
It was after the nationals in 2004 that my coach sat me down and talked to me about what it means to go pro. We discussed signing a contract with a sponsor, and I wanted to find someone to help me organize my finances. A friend of the family introduced me to an advisor with an independent firm and I got life insurance, a brokerage account and a SEP IRA.
I was 20 years old, making $200,000 a year, and I didn’t understand what an advisor should do. I didn’t even know the questions to ask that would have led me to a different person. But I had a lot of concerns about what I could afford. I didn’t realize he was getting paid a commission and there was no service model for him to provide advice on financial literacy or creating a budget.
We didn’t live in the same state; he was in Michigan. We’d have phone meetings at least quarterly. Mostly he talked about track and field. I’d ask him what I should be spending every month, and I never got a clear answer. Once, I asked him about buying a second home I really liked. And he said, “I’ve been waiting for you to ask me about that. This is great.” I wondered why he hadn’t brought it up himself. Also he offered no analysis, nothing about what I could afford. Then in 2007, he called to tell me we’d lost some money. That was a rude awakening for me because I didn’t get very much detail about why we lost money. No explanation.
I started looking for someone else. And I found an advisor who was working with athletes I’d gone to school with. I explained to him what I didn’t get from the other advisor. And he said, “Oh, yeah, we can definitely help you with that.” They had a bill-pay service. I thought that was a step in the right direction, because I could see what my monthly spending was. I’d meet with him quarterly in his office, but I never got a document with a plan or a budget. He'd hand me a profit and loss report and then we went to lunch. He’d tell me, “You’re doing OK. A lot of my football players spend a lot more than you.” OK, I thought, but a lot of football players make a lot more than me.
He basically just inputted the old investments in his name and let them sit there. In 2012, I still had Bear Stearns as a line item in one of my accounts. I paid him a flat rate of $10,000, basically, to pay my bills.
After a while, I decided to educate myself. In 2012, I knew what I needed to do was become a financial advisor. Last year, I started my own firm. But I also believe planners should have their own planners. Money is too emotional.
I just got married and I'm probably going to move my finances over to my husband’s advisor. I introduced them. They do a plan and meet with clients every quarter. They also handle investments, but we’re younger. I don’t want to talk for two hours about my investment strategy. I want to talk about it for 15 minutes and then move on to other things.