Here’s an e-mail from a fellow who wondering whether we might be cousins. He is a fee-based financial planner (the good kind, who don’t take sales commissions for steering you into particular products). His last name, coincidentally, is the same as mine. And in fact it does seem just possible that in the 15th or 16th Century we may have shared a common ancestor.

Anyway, here’s his story:

“I started my career as an accountant in NYC,” he says, “and went out on my own in 1980. I always enjoyed giving people advice, which is why I gravitated to financial planning.

“Since I’ve been in this business I’ve always found myself to have different philosophies from most of my colleagues. For example, when I was starting out I took a psychological test for a major brokerage firm. My brother-in law was branch manager, so I got to see the results. The test showed that I was the kind of individual who would feel the need to educate my clients as well as understand the investments I would be recommending. It even mentioned that I would feel the need to read prospectuses.

“It was actually pretty accurate. I was that kind of guy. But I was told I could not succeed as a broker with those attributes. And here I thought they were positives!”

So eventually he became a fee-based financial planner rather than a stockbroker.

“In the years since then, I have rarely agreed with most other advisors on issues such as insurance and investing. On a personal level, I don’t consider myself cheap, I just don’t like to throw money away needlessly. That’s why I wrote you. Seeing my beliefs in print written by someone else was amazing to me. Now I am convinced we must be cousins.”

Actually, Ben looks a little like my brother. (Well, just a little.)


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