Anyone Understand ‘Financialese’?

Have you ever met with a financial advisor, and wished you had a translator?  My sister and I, spouses too, have spent the past few months interviewing various advisors for some family trusts.

Nice people, all of them. But once they got started talking, they were suddenly speaking a foreign tongue.

I thought I knew this tongue. I really did. I’ve written 5 books about money. I even wrote one on Finding a Financial Advisor You Can Trust.

But these folks, at various points in the discussion,  had my head reeling.

At first, I was a bit embarrassed. I mean, I should know this stuff, right?

Then it hit me. No wonder so many women aren’t getting the financial help they need. One conversation with an advisor and their heads are reeling too. And most of them just want to put their reeling heads right back in the sand.

Consider this blog (in part) a Plea to Professionals. C’mon, you guys. Speak in plain English. And then check in with clients at frequent intervals to make sure they’re tracking.

But, truth is, I don’t hold out much hope.

And the truth is the onus is on us. I am a Big Believer in working with professionals…be it for a root canal  or retirement planning.  And sometimes the latter can be as painful as the former! But it doesn’t need to be.

Not if we’re willing to speak up,  ask for clarification, and keep asking until we understand.

It all boils down to this. If  you don’t understand  ‘Financialese,’ it doesn’t mean you’re stupid.  It’s simply a sign to ask more questions.  The payoff is clarity. But, I’m here to tell you, the real reward is how powerful you’ll feel for standing up for yourself.

Can you relate to this post? You can tell me about your conversations with a financial advisor by leaving a comment below.

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Comments & Feedback

  • Great topic, No wonder it doesn’t sink in-they are talking a different language. What are some good questions to ask? What is the most important info to understand?

    • Michelle, I always want to know about their fee structure, what services they offer, their investment philosophy, if they’ve been in an trouble with the SEC (important!),and their background/experience.

      But here’s the key. If you don’t understand a response, keep asking until you do. And if you still don’t, BIG RED FLAG!

      My rule of thumb: never put any money in anything–or with anyone–you don’t understand.

      Does that help? Several of my books have a list of questions to ask advisors.

  • And I thought I was the only one that thought this! I feel like every time I speak with a financial advisor I go to another country where I don’t speak the language. I do ask questions but I feel like I have to ask it so many different ways that I start to confuse myself! It would be a great idea for a business for a financial advisor that spoke in a language we can understand!

    • I had the same exact experience as you, Janice…and still do, obviously. But I’m pretty clear, if I can’t understand them, even after asking repeatedly for plain English, I find someone else. There actually are some really great, plain speaking advisors out there…but like good men, they can be hard to find…yet it’s well worth the effort!!!

  • Larry

    I am very new financial advisor and I just wanted to thank you for this article. ‘Anyone Understand Financialese’. I truly appreciate your comments and insight.

  • Thanks for the post Barbara. One of the root issues here is that many financial professionals don’t have training in listening, communication and connection skills. Just last year, communication and counseling training was “recommended” but not required by the FPA. Their training lies in numbers. I also believe, (regardless of profession and the language of each profession) the most excellent professionals don’t hide behind language and explain things in plain English.

    • Right on, Denise!! I couldn’t agree with you more…and I loved (TOTALLY LOVED)the way you said it. Thanks so much!!!!!

      • Caitlin


        Am thrilled to hear Denise Hughes’ response. Maybe she knows a financial advisor or two–maybe she is one?

        Is it ok to ask her directly?

        Had the same trouble when I went to my bank to try to find out about retirement planning. Yikes! Haven’t done a thing since with my itty bitty CD. Am intimidated beyond belief, but I need to ask questions to someone who respects my willingness to learn!

        BTW-Thanks for being brave putting out your story ten years ago in the Prince Charming Not Coming book..was a game changer for me!

        • I’m thrilled you came to my blog, Caitlin. And super thrilled Prince Charming was a game changer for you. I’m going to assume it’s OK to contact Denise directly. I can also give you the name of some advisors I trust, if you’d like. email me: [email protected].

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Meet Barbara Huson

When a devastating financial crisis rocked her world, Barbara Huson knew she had to get smart about money… and she did. Now, she wants to empower every women to take charge of their money and take charge of their lives! She’s doing just that with her best-selling books, life changing retreats and private financial coaching.

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