As the world continues to digitize, the way we learn is transforming right before our eyes. In many instances, students are looking to Google and YouTube for answers, rather than their teachers. These days, we can quickly bounce from source to source with the mere click of a mouse as we investigate different interpretations, theories and perspectives on a particular topic. Several years ago, I would have spent hours sifting through my local library's card catalog. Now, all that clicking enables me to reach a digital consensus from a variety of sources at a much faster rate. It's a very exciting time, but we've only seen the beginning. Every day, more and more people are online learning to do things they would never otherwise be able to do.
Take me for example. I recently decided to cut down a tree. By myself. Before I started, I went straight to YouTube and watched a number of instructional videos on tree cutting. I even found a website with a printable diagram on how to notch the tree and where to start the cut. As I revved up the saw and began the cutting process, I could feel the eyes of my neighbors nervously watching me from inside their homes, wondering if it would be their den or kitchen that would fall victim to my DIY project. Much to their relief (and mine), the tree feel neatly on the ground -- just like the guy on YouTube said it would.
When it comes to financial education, the same dynamics are at work. In the past, it was common for individuals to set up a meeting with their financial advisor and rely heavily on the advisor's expertise and recommendations. These days, advisors are often faced with prospects and clients who are armed with their own research. The research done after the meeting is especially impactful because it's often used to test the perspectives and ideas that were raised by the advisor.
For many advisors, this is a huge opportunity to amplify the education they provide clients, and position themselves even more objectively. Unlike the tree cutting service I might otherwise have hired, a real-life financial advisor cannot be replaced by a YouTube video. Developing a financial plan and navigating your financial security over a lifetime is extremely complicated stuff -- involving your ever-changing needs, limited resources, a shifting regulatory environment and numerous other factors that make the pursuit of financial security a marathon rather than a one-time event.
If you're having trouble mapping out your financial journey, leverage the web. But also ask your financial advisor for website recommendations. In many cases, he or she already has a list of great sites to explore. There is plenty of bad content out there, but there is also some very powerful learning to be had.
If you are a financial advisor, embrace the web and leverage digital learning to enhance your value proposition. Dedicate time to identify good videos, websites, digital books, webcasts, online classes and search terms related to financial planning. If this is not part of your current strategy, I encourage you to dedicate a few minutes each week to researching online financial resources for your clients.
(Full disclosure -- the tree I cut was small. I would highly recommend using a professional for nearly all tree-cutting jobs. You definitely don't want to end up in a situation like this. However, if you want learn how to make cheese, sing high notes or make a wallet out of duct tape, classes are now in session.)