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Linda Lingo
Linda Lingo

My Life as a Client: Condescending and Belittling

A lot can be learned listening to clients’ experiences working with financial advisors—good and bad. We talked to Linda Lingo, a financial coach in Redding, Calif.

Maybe 20 years ago, soon after my then-husband and I moved to this area, a mutual acquaintance recommended an advisor. I didn’t really know many people around here, but I was leaving a corporate job and had a 401(k). I would have liked a woman, but there weren’t any. So my friend said he’d have his financial advisor give me a call. I went on his recommendation, which is what I think a lot of women do.

We set up an appointment, and the advisor came to the house. He was with a big firm, seemed a little salesy, and that kind of put me off. More transactional than relationship-oriented. But he was persistent. Called again and came over a second time. I ended up hiring him.

Keep in mind, I’ve had corporate jobs. I’m a CPA and have an MBA in finance. I understand numbers. But the stock market was not something I dealt with daily. So I was looking for advice and guidance.

We worked together for probably five years, always meeting in his office. Maybe he called once every six months. Overall, I always felt he didn’t really listen to me. He just did what he thought was the way to do things, the way he had been taught. And our meetings were very cursory, almost like he had a checklist to go through. It was cookie-cutter. There also was no financial planning. It was always about the portfolio, whether we should rebalance and so on. And I had a six-figure portfolio. It wasn’t nothing.

Over time, the more I looked at my statements, the more questions I had. Finally, I scheduled an appointment with him and brought my statements with me. I spread them out on his desk. Keep in mind, this was a very traditional, male office. Dark wood paneling. He’s in his chair, across the desk from me. I’m on the other side posing questions.

I wanted to know about my bond funds, why they were going down. I needed more information on how bonds worked. He couldn’t answer my questions. So I thought, like a typical woman, I guess, “I’m not asking the right questions. I must not be understanding what he’s saying.” I kept on asking him again and again to explain. And I could tell he was getting really irritated. There were physical cues, like pushing back his chair and crossing his arms. And he still couldn’t answer my questions.

Finally, I asked one more time and he leaned across the desk, put his hand over mine, and he said,
“Honey, as long as you do what I tell you to do, you’ll be just fine. Don’t worry.”  Talk about condescending and belittling. I pulled my hand out from under his and started gathering my papers, told him thank you for this information and I will think about it. But, I’m thinking, “I can’t believe this just happened. I will never enter this office again. And I don’t want another woman to have to go through this.”

When I look back, I see I could have paid attention to the warning signs. The way, when we spoke, he pretty much drove the conversation, that kind of thing. 

Anyway, as I was driving home, I thought, “I’m a smart woman. I could do this job better than him.” I was a stay-at-home mom at the time. I went online, Googled how to become a financial advisor. And I did it. I took the series 7 and 63 and, in 2008, started working as an advisor. I practiced for 10 years and built up a good practice. I focused on communication, building relationships and showing people I was interested in them and not just their money. That was how I differentiated myself.

But financial advisors do not get paid to educate their clients. So I took early retirement and started my own financial coaching business, educating women about everything money, from budgeting to building wealth. It’s very gratifying.

Read more My Life as a Client stories

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