Taylor Schulte, CEO of Define Financial, and the Toughest Question He’s Heard

Being a financial advisor isn’t easy. Money is the leading cause of stress for Americans, according to the American Psychological Association, and financial advisors are on the frontlines of that battle.

But no two clients are the same, and every day poses new challenges. We asked some of the best and brightest financial advisors from around the country to share the toughest questions they hear and reveal how they ensure they are helping to position their clients for long-term success.

This month, we talked to Taylor Schulte, CFP®, of Define Financial in San Diego, California.


Here’s his answer to the toughest question he’s ever heard:

“‘Where is the stock market going right now?’ is one of the most common questions I get. And it’s one of the toughest to answer, because we in the industry have a hard time with ‘I don’t know.’ It may be the hardest three words an advisor can say. But the truth is, when it comes to the market, you just don’t know, and that’s the honest answer. Anything else is a guess. And I tell my clients and anyone else who will listen that if any advisor does tells you any different you should run far, far away.

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“That people ask the question, continuously, speaks to the nervousness, the emotional ties that people have to their hard-earned money, and the lack of control they can feel. There is a lot of content out there. It’s in their faces all the time, every day. They are reading headlines about that next recession around the corner. We have clients whose whole portfolios are made up of short-term bonds, and when the stock market has a bad day you better believe they still get nervous and they pick up the phone and call us. And the fear is real. The closer they get to retirement, the more real market news gets for them. But if you try to be a stock picker, it backfires. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve done it, and trust me it’s not good for anyone.

“Instead of trying to answer that question, we try to get them to focus on things they can control today. What the stock market is doing is not one of those. Neither is the Fed or the presidential election.

“What can they control? Having a financial plan, asset allocation, understanding their risk tolerance, saving more and spending less. These are things you can do today that will have a dramatic impact on your long-term wealth. And the more we can show them this, with models or materials, the more it will sink in.

“We are all afraid of things we don’t understand. Being able to show people how these efforts impact their financial lives is very powerful. Bringing clarity to clients goes a long way in calming those fears.”