This week is Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday of the year. My day will kick off running 10k with thousands of my closest friends in Cincinnati’s 103rd Thanksgiving Day Race, widely considered one of the nation’s oldest road races. The rest of the day will include relaxation, a little football and plenty of turkey. No gifts or undue stress, just a day to reflect on what’s important and that for which we’re so thankful.

I want to borrow from fellow blogger Lee Baker, who shared his Top 10 Reasons I’m Thankful post ( one year ago today, but with a financial planning twist. Many times each week, I’m reminded why I’m fortunate to have found my calling in this business. As I thought about my Top 10 list, I realized that what I do and why I feel so fortunate likely differs from what the average person thinks about when they think of financial planning.)

So, rather than create a list, I want to share the part of my work I enjoy most and believe provides the most value to those I’m fortunate enough to serve. I’ll be careful to speak for only myself, but I’m certain there are many more advisors that echo these thoughts.

Planning to me is not managing an investment portfolio. Sure, that’s a skill most of us have and a crucial tool in carrying out a successful plan, but it doesn’t get to the “why” of what we do. What does is when we are able to truly understand our clients’ beliefs, values and goals, help them assess where they are in reaching them and then provide real world, practical advice around those things they can control.

A good example is talking to clients about saving for college. It’s not developing the numbers behind an optimal college savings strategy. There are lots of online calculators that can provide that data. It’s talking with clients about helping their goal to help a child earn a degree without monstrous debt, but not allowing them to take their education for granted. Understanding a client on that level ensures that I’m not just projecting expenses on a spreadsheet. It means I’m helping them use their financial resources to instill the values they wish to share with their children. No online calculator can have that conversation or share that understanding.

There are many more examples for all areas of a thoughtful financial plan. There’s no question that these are the toughest areas of our business to put numbers to, but I am confident that it is these discussions and the decisions that follow that ultimately lead to a successful experience for clients. It can sound hokey, but developing those relationships and helping an individual or family achieve even more success that they otherwise might gives me the greatest joy.

Wherever you find yourself tomorrow, I do hope you have a safe, happy and reflective Thanksgiving holiday and that you’re able to share it with close friends and family.

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