How Can the Workday of an AFP Be Similar to Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood?

by Jerin Young, CFP®, Associate Financial Planner | June 28, 2021

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The not-so-typical workday...that’s one thing that led me to a career choice in financial planning. Granted, as an Associate Financial Planner, I am working within the normal working hours, but each day has its own unique happenings with a similar (mostly) predictable schedule.

With a 1 1/2-year-old son at home, the best comparison I have to my workday is a children’s TV show. You may not be familiar with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, a spin-off of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but I have had the pleasure of watching several episodes and they all follow a similar plotline.

Each episode begins with the opening song - a catchy one - that seems to get stuck in my head more than I’d like to admit. The familiarity of the same melody every time always grabs my son’s attention for what is to come.

Then Daniel partakes in an everyday task with his family or friends and encounters a dilemma. These situations change in each episode, of course, depending on the theme and lesson.

Each episode comes with a simple riff that encompasses the theme, a make-believe time with Daniel, and a full song that summarizes the lesson. Then, the episode ends with a resolution of the situation, a lesson learned, and an “ugga mugga” (an “I love you”) from Daniel.

As an associate financial planner (AFP), every day I log in to my computer and check my email. This is my initial engagement for my day, my own personal opening song.

Each day I work with clients and encounter different dilemmas and conversations. These encounters are as different as the themes in each of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episodes.

One day I might be knee-deep in employee benefits for a 30-something client, learning all there is to know about what is available to them, and then meeting with the planner to determine the best route.

The next day I am meeting with the children of an older client trying to figure out what is the next best step to take for mom and dad’s estate plan.

That same afternoon, I find myself celebrating an upcoming retirement with a client and helping them navigate the changes to help provide peace of mind.

In between client meetings, my day consists of handling TD Ameritrade account activities, such as contributions and distributions. I also prepare for upcoming meetings and complete follow-up tasks from recent meetings.

In the office, a slew of our everyday tasks is tracked by what we refer to as “workflows.” Workflows help us stay on top of these tasks by assigning steps to the right person at the right time. We use workflows for almost anything related to an investment account: setting up a new account, making an allocation change, trades, or contributions and distributions. We also use them to initiate client meetings, such as annual planning sessions (APS) and investment reviews (IR). Even for these more routine tasks, I am learning new things, especially in the preparation phase for meetings.

The AFPs prepare the presentation for all client APS meetings. Once we have the plan built, we review it with the financial planner in a “handoff” meeting. During that meeting, we brainstorm different strategies we might recommend for the client’s unique situation.

It is a collaborative process that creates space to grow in knowledge and share ideas. As an AFP, we do not work exclusively with one planner. Therefore, knowledge and ideas are always circulating throughout the Syverson Strege office.

Unlike Daniel, I do not get to break out in song at the end of each day to summarize what I learned, but I suppose the metaphor must stop somewhere. Each day ends with new knowledge, new experiences, and restarting my computer for the night. However, the basic plotline remains the same...serve our clients well.

In general, I know what to expect each day, which is nice for the type A part of me, but there is always something unique that makes each day interesting. Similarly, the aspects that draw my son into each Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episode are that he generally knows what to expect, but each episode has a distinctive theme.

My favorite part of my role is building relationships with a large variety of people. I enjoy being able to see how our recommendations are impacting clients' everyday lives and often seeing how their lives and stories are impacting mine.

In the words of Mister Rogers, “Often when you think you are at the end of something, you are at the beginning of something else.” So, bring on tomorrow and let’s see what it will behold.