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Would you invest 10,000 hours into financial planning? I have.

Posted by Ken Coombs

Apr 27th, 2017

Would you invest 10,000 hours into financial planning? I have.

Does 10,000 hours make you a master? In 2005, Malcolm Gladwell released the book Outliers: The Story of Success, which I just listened to as part of my audiobook adventure. In it, he examined what factors led some of the wealthiest people to success. He looked at why most elite level hockey players are born in the first three months of the year [side note: my son was born in February, so watch for him in the draft one day ;) ] and mentions throughout the book something referred to as "the 10,000 Hour Rule." He hypothesizes that it may be the key to reaching world-class expertise and mastery of one's craft and/or profession.

I've been in the financial world for a while now, so I thought that I'd take a look at my own practice and see how close to being a master I am. Here's how it breaks down:

Number of hours I work on plans in a week – 17 out of 40ish (I’m being honest, I slack sometimes).

10,000 hours to become a master divided by the 17 hours a week I work on plans = 11.3 years.

I started my career in finance in May 2006 - 11 years ago!

So, according to this, I should be really close to becoming a master Financial Planner. I should be able to look at a client's portfolio and instantly come up with a plan. I mean, I've been doing it for 11 years! It's all about repetition, repeating the same thing, reproducing it, over and over again. But here's the thing: every client I meet is different. Each time I work with someone, they have different goals, different incomes, different time horizons.

Now, I'm not dismissing Gladwell's theory at all. I bet that if I were to practice the piano for 10,000 hours over the next 10 years, I'd get pretty good at it. However, that to me is working on one specific craft, whereas Financial Planning covers so many aspects of your life: investment management, tax planning, estate issues, insurance and risk management... lots of moving parts. If I were to break down how long I have spent on each of these, I'd look like a rookie! That's why I work with a team of professionals who assist me in creating comprehensive plans.

Let's also keep in mind that the financial planning world is dynamic and changes all the time. Just these last 12 months have seen changes in the investment world (the growing popularity of ETFs, Robo-Advisors, and new fee transparency rules), life insurance world (updated mortality tables used to assess risk and premiums) and the tax laws change constantly. What I'm trying to say is what worked before might not work again. What your plan said would work 10,000 hours ago may not work now.

When was the last time you updated your plan? Your financial plan should be as dynamic as the world around you. Each year brings with it new rules, new products, new risks and brings you one year closer to your ultimate goal(s).

So, does 10,000 hours of working on Financial Plans make me a master at it? Hardly, but I love every minute of practice time! Think of what I can help you achieve in the next 10,000 hours of your life.

Would you invest 10,000 hours into financial planning? I have.

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