Occupation: Ombudsperson, Concordia University; writer and public speaker. My most recent book — I Wanted Fries With That: How to Ask for What You Want and Get What You Need — was published in October.
Earnings: Salary in the low $100,000 range, plus minimal income from writing and public speaking: we might be able to take a trip to Cuba with the money, but we’d likely have to leave a kid at home.
Assets and liabilities: A house in Montreal with a mortgage; RRSPs and TFSAs, invested conservatively (I’m very risk-averse); a joint RESP for all three children; no other debt. We also invest heavily in my husband’s business, which rents dishwashers to hotels and restaurants.
I intend to retire: Not anytime soon; maybe in my mid-60s. I really like working and I come from a family where no one ever retires, so I have no retirement role models. By the time I retire as an ombudsperson, I hope to be at the midpoint of my writing career — that’s one advantage to having come to writing later in life.
Why I have two financial advisors
I have two financial advisors, at two different institutions. I don’t like having all of my eggs in one basket. One was referred by a friend, and the other cold-called me and I liked his pitch. I like doing business with people who want my business. Both are excellent communicators. They respond to me quickly and they’re able to make information accessible to me. They respect my risk tolerance.
David and I tested out a different planner once. We didn’t go with him because, during the meeting, he spoke only to my husband and not to me. That was quite short-sighted of him, I thought.
Know what you want — and say it
I have a good relationship with my financial advisors because I’m very clear about what I want. In my book, one of the main pieces of advice I give is that you need to know what you want going in. If you’re clear in your own head about your desired outcome, you have a better chance of getting it. It’s true for complaining, and it’s true in financial planning.
I know what I want: I’ve never gambled. I’m very nervous about losing what I’ve worked so hard to get. And I’m OK with growth being slower, but I’m not OK with taking a chance. And I’ve had to communicate that to any financial professional I’ve worked with.
Turn a complaint into an opportunity
When people are complaining, don’t react right away. Ask as many questions as you can. Write down their answers. And then say to them, “Thank you for telling me. I’m going to look into this and get back to you.” So much of the time, it’s our gut reaction to say, “It wasn’t me, it wasn’t my fault.” Or we have excuses: “I didn’t see this happening to the market”; “I didn’t get your voicemail”; “I think you were speaking to my colleague.”
But that’s often poorly received. People want to be heard. I would encourage advisors to look at complaints as opportunities to get as much information about the nature of the client’s dissatisfaction as possible. First accept the complaint, and then respond. Done right, it’s an opportunity: if someone expresses dissatisfaction and you go above and beyond in correcting it, you may well be getting a client for life.
Up close and personal
You publish a book, you get comments like, “Oh, now you’re famous. Now you won’t have to work anymore.”
But those comments are silly. It’s really, really difficult — almost impossible — to make a living as a writer, even when you do public speaking and even when you’re doing well. It’s extra money, and I really appreciate it, but I still have to work.
This interview took place in January.