As the Trump Administration continues to steamroll democratic institutions, accompanied by concerns about the income gap, wage stagnation and economic security continue, financial advisors have a choice:
They can continue to provide clients with financial plans based on a no- or small-wage growth scenario, accompanied by admonitions to save more and reduce expenses, while contributing more to a diversified 401(k) plan.
Or, they can create prudent, long-term financial plans for retirement and wealth building while also pushing for progressive, national economic reforms that will create wealth on a much larger scale.
One of the basic goals of all financial advisors is to work with clients who are growing their wealth. This propels the entire economy. At the local level, it creates a win-win situation for clients and advisors as wealth is created.
But as recent history over the past 30-plus years has shown, political and fiscal policies are intertwined with corporate economic power, often to the detriment of average Americans.
This is more true today than ever. But more importantly, how can this be corrected for the benefit of average investors?
One alternative is to link progressive thinking individual investors with like-minded financial advisors to advance a progressive economic agenda. This can be done through existing investments (such as, low-cost funds and ETFs or socially responsible mutual funds) accompanied by focused efforts aimed at specific issues (such as closing tax loopholes for corporations who want to hide profits overseas and avoid taxes.)
Yet, while there are millions of individual investors who are political progressives, there are fewer progressive financial advisors, or at least they have not publicly identified themselves.
This makes it more difficult to connect progressive individual investors with RIAs and investment firms that adhere to the fiduciary standard and progressive political goals.
What is a Progressive Financial Advisor?
The role of progressive financial advisors (PFA) is to advocate for progressive political positions that are now resonating with millions of individual Americans. These are issues that have largely by-passed the political and corporate establishment.
Evidence of this is seen in the raw popularity of both Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. For different reasons, both have tapped into the unsettled, seething attitudes of many Americans who have either not enjoyed financial security or been forced to serve as silent witnesses to the mismanagement of America’s political, economic and military systems.
So while these are often considered purely political problems, financial advisors know these are problems that affect their clients every day.
This is why some financial advisors should consider becoming PFA. Then, these advisors can include today’s political issues directly into their financial practices and advice.
Not only will this align PFA with like-minded individual investors, but it will also differentiate certain practices from other advisors who just offer advice without ever addressing the macro-political-economic events that shape all current financial plans for 99% of all Americans.
Individual investors who are progressives and link with PFAs should both benefit as they pursue positive financial gains while also advancing a progressive political agenda.
Advancing the Progressive Economic Agenda
While many individual investors may back away from aligning their choice of a financial advisor based on sharing political beliefs anathema or foreign, it is not an uncommon practice.
Injecting politics into the financial advisory business has existed for decades, as evidenced by the huge lobbying money financial services and insurance companies have been directing into anti-investor laws and regulations for decades.
Today, the financial services industry (comprised of insurance, securities and investment companies) is the nation’s largest lobbying force and spent $3.45 billion from 1998 to 2015, according to www.opensecrets.org. In 2015 alone, the securities and investment industry spent $48 million to advance their own interests over those of individual investors, according to the same source.
At a different level, injecting an outside philosophy into providing investment advice has existed for decades among the religious right. There are many Christian-oriented financial advisory firms which promote investment advice aligned with biblical scripture and teachings.
Niche marketing is also an accepted marketing strategy. Financial advisors who have cultivated a following among gays have existed for decades. Similarly, the progressive political movement has fostered many financial endeavors, such as co-ops, building and loan societies, fraternal lending associations, and social investing. However, these have not existed in a formalized way among progressive advisors working with like-mined individual investors.
So while the PFA suggestion is admittedly a novel and undeveloped idea, it may also be an idea who time has come; a time for a few intrepid independent investors and financial advisors to think out of the box.
So for those few, here are the progressive ideas to promote in a PFA practice. Each can be built into a module as part of a larger presentation and as a way to lead into a product or strategy discussion.