A good friend emailed me looking for financial advice the other day. Pam wrote:
A friend of mine is getting married this summer and…blah blah blah. [The main story/question in Pam’s email isn’t germaine to this article. Plus it’s private.]
My friend really wants a financial planner-type person to help them, but she realizes those people really are for people with money to invest (and ultimately pay the financial planner) and her issue is a shortage of money.
Are there neutral party, financially educated people to advise those who are trying to make good decisions but need some help to see all the implications? Where should she look?
Responding to Pam, I was reminded of a business I wanted to start several years ago, just after I sold Get Rich Slowly. At that time, I had a number of friends and family asking for financial advice. It occurred to me that there was a market for a new kind of financial professional. Here’s what I envisioned:
- I’d open a storefront in a small space in some sort of high-traffic area like a strip mall.
- My store would sell personal-finance related material, including a library of high-quality books, magazines, and software. (Yes, I know the market for PF software has now vanished.)
- The store would also offer workshops and classes about personal finance topics, including budgeting and investing.
- One special focus of the store would be financial education for children. Another would be entrepreneurship.
- The main feature of the store would be financial advice. People could drop in and/or make an appointment to chat with me about their financial problems. I’d listen to their situation, and then offer suggestions.
As I was writing to Pam this morning, I realized that this idea excites me even more today than it did four years ago. My skillset is well-suited to a business like this. I’d love to give it a go. There are, however, some problems.
- First, I’m wary of the legal implications. I’d do my best to give sound financial advice, but what if a person took my advice (on investing, for example) but then lost a bunch of money. What’s my liability? Worse, what if they did not take my advice but still blamed me for losing a bunch of money. What then?
- I’ve never owned a storefront before, and I’m not sure how much it would cost to run a place like this. (This is a minor concern, though.)
- I’d love to offer my services for free and only charge for books and software, etc. In reality, this model probably wouldn’t work. I don’t need to make a lot of money with this venture, but I do need to make enough to break even. And, ideally, I’d make enough to live on.
- I’m fortunate to have a free and easy lifestyle right now, one where I’m able to do what I want when I want. If I had a store, I’d have to be present when the store was open. (This could be solved by just being open whenever I wanted, but then that creates headaches for customers.)
I like the idea of creating and running some sort of “money store”, but I’m not ready to actually do anything about it. Maybe I should do some research. I could find out the legal ramifications of giving financial advice. I could figure out what sorts of products I could offer. I could learn how much it would cost to lease a space for the store.
Who knows? Maybe a couple of years from now, you’ll be able to walk into a store called Get Rich Slowly in your neighborhood…