The Best Golfers (And Investors) Have The Best Caddies

Matthew Cuplin |

Although I can’t claim to be a great golfer, I talked to a client recently about golf and how the pros always seem to thank and appreciate their caddies. It got me wondering about golf caddies. Why does someone with so much talent (the golfer) need someone else to stand by them and help? Surely, there has to be more to it than simply having someone carry a heavy bag.

I read more about what a caddy really does, and it made me think about how financial advisors, like me, are in many ways caddies to the clients we serve. Just as golf caddies help golfers play during their rounds, advisors help clients prepare for retirement. Here are some of the ways advisors are like caddies.

1. Caddies help select the right club. 

Caddies get to know the golfer and how they hit different clubs. Because each golfer is different, caddies adjust their services to the person they are working with that day.

In the same vein, advisors help clients understand how to save, where to save and potential tax implications. They help clients “read the course” of their financial lives.

2. Caddies keep clubs and equipment clean.

Things can get messy on the course. Caddies are there to help clean up. It’s important to stay focused and keep the golfer’s tools clean when things get messy.

Investing can get messy when the market has a lot of uncertainty. Building a written financial plan can help keep clients’ financial lives clean and organized while staying focused on avoiding messy mistakes during times of market volatility.

3. Caddies are knowledgeable about the game.

Caddies need to know all the equipment and rules of the game. Caddies must be prepared to provide advice to golfers, such as which club would be the best for a particular shot.

Your financial partner should have an understanding of more than parking your assets in a portfolio. They should be reviewing your emergency funds, debts/liabilities, taxation allocation, income sources in retirement, protection (life, disability, long-term care insurance), education funding, and even Social Security and Medicare. In that way, the knowledge advisors have and provide their clients is vital to their success. And if an advisor doesn’t know or understand something, they should seek an expert in those areas. Look for advisors who follow a specific code of conduct or act in a fiduciary capacity.

4. Caddies must know the course well.

Caddies take time to study the course to know the “lay of the land.” It helps them know where potential traps or danger may lie. They need to be thinking a step or two ahead.

Advisors who take time to understand their clients base any future recommendations on a written financial plan. The plan looks at today but also projects toward the future. What changes in the industry could impact you? A new president could mean changes that your advisor should be discussing with you. Maybe you are doing a great job of saving, but a change in rules could cost you thousands of dollars in the future. Just like the course the golfer is playing can change, the pin can move, the grass can be cut differently, so can the course of the financial world. So advisors have to help navigate that ever-changing course.

5. Caddies watch the ball when it is hit and keep track of where it’s going.

Caddies track the ball after the golfer hits it. They pay attention to where it’s headed and immediately begin to think about preparing the golfer for the next shot.

In that same mindset, once you have a written plan and know what you need to do to accomplish your goals, your advisor should help monitor your progress and track where it’s going. Monitoring should be according to goals, not chasing returns. 

If you are a golfer, you probably understood the references to caddies. But even if you don’t golf, you can see the value of a trusted financial partner, or someone to be by your side every step of the way. 

Maybe you’re about to tee off on the first hole of your financial course, or maybe you are on the “back nine” of your working life. Either way, a trusted partner can do a lot to make sure you play it out the best way your situation allows.

The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.