I’M 69 YEARS OLD and so have spent most of my life dealing with people—and businesses—in person. That said, I’ve loved and greatly benefited from the internet revolution and appreciate its marvels in a way that only a person who lived in the “before” period can. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently, and about how important it is—or isn’t—to have face-to-face relationships with the people I do business with.
For many years, I’ve split our investments between Charles Schwab and Vanguard Group, and think highly of both outfits. But Schwab has always had a more personal touch. I’ve long had a representative there with whom I’ve occasionally met in person, made possible by the fact that Schwab has branch offices in my city, as it does all over the country. Even though it’s now been several years since I sat down with my Schwab rep, when I interact with him by phone or email, I can put a face with the name and I feel like I know him a little. With Vanguard, there are no branch offices. My relationship with whatever rep is currently assigned to me has been much more superficial and impersonal.
Recently, fellow HumbleDollar contributor Dennis Friedman wrote about his Vanguard financial advisor. He was generally happy with his advisor, and Vanguard’s comparatively low fees for this service are obviously a big plus. I asked Dennis if the impossibility of face-to-face meetings was an issue for him and he said not at all.
That made me think of a recent experience I had with an insurance broker. The broker assisted my wife and me with Medigap insurance and Part D prescription drug plans. I had set out to find a broker with a local office whom I could meet in person. But I was so impressed with an insurance broker located in Dallas—200 miles away—and with whom I only interacted by email, phone and Zoom, that I went with him. So far, it’s been a smooth and entirely satisfactory relationship.
Despite that, with a fulltime financial advisor—if and when I get to the point of hiring one—I confess to still having doubts. This may be a vestige of my pre-internet self. But when it comes to the person handling my family’s entire assets, I’d still like to be able to look ’em in the eye.