Life Lessons on Finding a Good Adviser

"Look at our Lord's disciples. One denied Him; one doubted Him; one betrayed Him. If our Lord couldn't have perfection, how are you going to have it in city government?" -Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago

I think about this Mayor Daley quote a lot. I have hired tremendous people, and I have hired some who didn't work out. Like Jesus, I've been denied, doubted and betrayed. Also like Jesus, I've found smart and loyal people who help me get my message out.

There is not a magic formula to hiring good people. Otherwise, only good people would work and the others would be unemployed.

My bestselling book, Life Lessons From the Lottery, gives tips on how someone who comes into a large sum of money can manage it well.

You can translate the tips to fit any aspect of life. I really see people slip up getting advice from people who don't have a clue what they are talking about.

A longtime friend sent an email about a financial product she was going to buy and if she would have to pay a sales charge. Yes, a large one. I'm glad she called, but chided her for not calling me first.

In Life Lessons From the Lottery, I tell people to find an adviser who has worked with more money than they have. If they win $100 million jackpot, find someone who has worked with clients who have $150 million.

You will find that translates to whatever financial position you are in. I've worked with numerous millionaires and at least one billionaire. It's easier to help richer people than those struggling to make it. Rich people have more options.

The hardest client I have is an injured person who has a million dollars in injuries, but was hit by a drunk driver who did not have insurance. I try to maximize government benefits, but they don't have the money to get the help they need.

The best way to get advice is to:

1. Find someone who has more expertise than you do.
2. Not be afraid to ask for help.
3. Follow up on the advice that you are given.

I know a lot about business, but Warren Buffett knows much more. He also has far more money than I do. I do business with Berkshire Hathaway in structured settlements, and everyone says Warren is easy to talk to. When I finally meet Warren, my questions will be ready. He has great expertise, and I want to learn from him.

Too many people ignore expertise in seeking advisers. They hire friend from church or a buddy from the country club. Often the pal does a mediocre job, and both the friendship and business relationship end.

Be it a medical, financial or car repair concern, I want the best expert I can find.

I've used the same accountant, Jimmy Webster in Lexington, for nearly 20 years. Until his daughter joined Webster and Kirk, I didn't know anything about his family or even if he had one. I just knew that he was a great accountant and charges a reasonable fee.

As they say in The Godfather, "It's business, not personal."

Many people have true experts in their universe, but never ask for advice.

I live next door to a man who owns a large plumbing company. I didn't want to bother him with a small concern. Later, after spending thousands on a major problem, I wish I had knocked on his door.

I'm stunned when friends don't ask me money questions. Acquiring and dispensing knowledge is what I live for. If people would get advice from experts they already know, life would go more smoothly.

What is tough for many people is to follow you are given. I give wonderful advice that gets ignored every day. I try to get people to learn from my mistakes, and they go ahead make the same mistakes anyway.

I've blown off plenty of good advice. I thought I was smart and could figure things out on my own.


I'm finally starting to learn. I'm co-authoring a book called Life Lessons From the Golf Course that will be out April 9. When I met my co-author, PGA professional Clay Hamrick, I stopped buying golf books and let him be my only source for golfing advice.

It worked. Clay is a wonderful teacher, and I play better golf than I ever have in my life.

As Mayor Daley said, it's hard to find good help, but, like Jesus, if you take time to cultivating good people, you can truly change the world. Or at least your own world.

Don McNay is the bestselling author of Life Lessons From the Lottery. His new book, Life Lessons From the Golf Course, co-authored with PGA professional Clay Hamrick, will be released on April 9, during the week of the Masters tournament.