Major Tom to Ground Control!

“Once again, please check to make sure your seat belt is securely fastened, your seat back and tray table are in the full upright and locked position, and all carry-on luggage is placed completely underneath the seat in front of you.” At some point, everyone who travels by air has heard this familiar refrain. There’s even a feeling of comfort in this familiar routine of flight. But what if the next time the Emergency Briefing Public Announcement said, “Once we reach our cruising altitude we will engage the auto pilot and return to the cabin and begin our cabin service.”

I’m fairly certain fear would break into our “comfort bubble.” Feelings of unbelief and incredulity probably would surface and maybe even some anger. We might think, I’m paying for a service: air transportation. For this service I expect flight attendants in the cabin to provide safety and a snack. I also expect the flight crew to pilot the aircraft! These feelings and responses are entirely appropriate and natural, and yet . . . .

Each day, thousands of consumers engage asset managers; insurance agents and brokers; and purveyors of almost every imaginable product to perform a similar act. Consumers are asking the flight attendants to pilot the aircraft. Like piloting an aircraft, financial planning is a discipline unto itself. Yes, a pilot is certainly capable providing cabin service; however, I would prefer that the pilot, pilot the aircraft.

Individuals, who hold themselves out as financial planners, should do just that—provide financial plans. There are over 10,000,000 Exchange Traded Funds and mutual funds. How is it possible for an adviser to both manage the assets and manage the plan? The analogy also applies to insurance products, individual securities, private placement programs and real estate investment trusts.

Each of the disciplines is necessary. What is also necessary is effective coordination of the various disciplines into an effective plan for the consumer. One person needs to be handling the controls and guiding the aircraft. They do not need to be distracted by insuring the safety of the passengers, providing cabin service, and responding to the attendant call button.

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