It’s easy — extremely easy — to overestimate your audience. The key to great public speaking is not simply to make eye contact and move around the room but to study your listeners before you speak, before you even write your remarks.

Financial advisors miss this a lot. They take hundreds of hours of licensing classes, weekend after weekend of in-service training. Much of it has to do with important changes to securities laws, arcane but sometimes important stuff. Investing well is no accident, it takes a plan.

Advisors spend their working hours immersed in the news flow of Wall Street, thinking about foreign bond issues, working up Monte Carlo simulations, analyzing IPOs. It’s intellectually entertaining, I’m sure, and relevant to at least some high-end prospects.

Then a client walks in the door and has questions. And the financial advisor never sees it coming: Do I need life insurance? What is an annuity? Can I afford to send my kids to college? Have I saved enough?

Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, the daughter of Schwab Investments founder Charles R. Schwab, recently wrote a book, with Joanne Cuthbertson, called The Charles Schwab Guide to Finances After Fifty. Very few books published this year are more timely.

Timely because literally millions of Americans are in exactly this boat, and they are piling in by the thousands every day. Most of them have only just stopped focusing on kids and work and are just now starting to focus on their own needs in the years to come. It’s a daunting time for many.

If you already invest on your own, you won’t find a lot here to keep your mind busy, that’s for sure. She’ll probably be criticized for writing a “light” book on investing. But you should get a copy for someone you love and one for yourself.

Why? Because not everybody is comfortable scouring the Internet for specific advice. And because Schwab-Pomerantz has nailed her audience perfectly with each question-and-answer chapter.

Some samples questions (there are, fittingly, 50 of them): “My husband of fifty years has just died. He always handled our finances, and I’m feeling at sea. How can I manage?” and “I’ve heard about insurance to supplement Medicare. What will I need, and how much will it cost?”

Once you get into the book, Schwab-Pomerantz follows the style of the popular “Dummies” self-help books — lots of bullet points, checklists and easy-reading facts. Again, the advisor community is likely to laugh, but they shouldn’t. These are the questions their clients want answered.

A real service

It’s well-trod ground, I know. Suze Orman has written shelves of books along these lines. But another good book is always welcome, and Schwab-Pomerantz has done the near-retiree a real service. Her tone throughout is never condescending, never opaque and always aimed directly at her specific reader. She knows how to communicate.

My advice to advisors is to buy two copies: One for your mother or father and one to keep on your own shelf. You’ll probably give it away to a client within a week and have to order another, then you’ll just order them by the box and give them away at Christmas or on client birthdays.

You might even learn a thing or two yourself. At the very least, you’ll be better prepared for the real questions on your clients’ minds.

Send this to a friend