Like many of the finer things in life, cigars provide a sense of occasion and ritual. This is why some of us enjoy marking the closing of a deal, celebrating the beginning of a new partnership, or announcing the birth of a child with a good cigar. Like a fine wine, a well-made cigar provides an opportunity for connoisseurship — an appreciation of the subtleties of craftsmanship, taste, and aroma.
But here's a contradiction: Just because I smoke cigars, doesn’t mean I like cigarettes and the big tobacco companies. As I enjoyed a cigar recently, I got to thinking about this contradiction. I came to the realization that cigars differ from cigarettes because they aren’t mass-produced or designed to offer a quick fix that keeps you on the hook for more. A fine cigar is unique and offers a satisfying experience to be savored.
This led me to wonder, “How is a great financial advisor like a great cigar?” My distaste for cigarettes is like my disdain for the wirehouses, the computer generated “robo” platforms, and the “discount” financial services of the world. The mass production, low quality ingredients, and addictive nature of cigarettes remind me of the lack of individuality, specificity, and detail that are the hallmark of many discount services and cookie-cutter “solutions” today. Read on for a deeper comparison.
Great cigars are known for their uniqueness. Manufacturers place great importance on each cigars appearance, taste, and aroma, and often manufacture in small batches to ensure quality and variety. Cigars International explains, “Any given cigar may contain up to 4 or 5 (or more!) different types of tobacco in the filler alone, then there’s the binder and wrapper.” The wrappings and fillings given to one cigar variety are completely different from those in another. This is because each variety has different end goals for taste and aroma.
Each cigar is composed of different blends with a specific, desired result in mind. Montecristo, one of my personal favorites, boasts a classic cigar that offers a “complex and flavorful smoke on the milder side, with bountiful taste notes and an easy draw” and a platinum cigar that “offers a rich, smooth, and sensual smoke.” These are only two of the dozens of varieties offered by Montecristo, and the difference illustrates the care and craftsmanship inherent in the brand.
The same is true for financial planning — except there are many more than 4-5 ways of “filling” a client’s financial needs. The advice that a great financial advisor provides for a client and their family will be unique to their situation. Based on an in-depth understanding of their individual goals and needs, a great financial advisor creates a comprehensive plan just for them. Like cigars are manufactured with a specific, individual taste in mind, a great financial advisor offers tailored solutions, not a one-size-fits-all quick fix.
Besides specific tastes and aromas, cigar manufacturers provide several other distinctions as well. One look at a humidor or cigar case reveals that cigars come in a variety of different sizes, shapes, and lengths. While the length of the cigar has no direct bearing on elements such as taste or color, cigar manufacturers provide their clients with an assortment of options. One article on cigar preferences found on Columbia University’s website urges cigar smokers to “get to know the various sizes and discover which one is right for you.” Dozens of different lengths and widths exist and one of them will be perfect for your specific tastes.
Another of my favorite cigar brands, Romeo y Julieta, took specificity and individuality to the extreme in the first half of the 20th century. The owner of the brand at that time, Jose Rodriguez Fernandez, promoted the brand by offering personalized cigar bands to regular buyers of his cigars. At the height of this promotion, the Romeo y Julieta factory produced over 2,000 unique, personalized cigar bands.
The same applies to financial advising. An independent financial advisor maintains relationships with several different service providers and offers their clients a wide range of specific products and services. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Client's aspirations are different. Their needs are different. Their bank accounts are different. Just like cigar manufacturers, a great financial advisor will offer many options and help choose what is right for their clients’ needs, goals, and bank account.
Both Montecristo and Romeo y Julieta create exquisite and high-quality products. This is largely the result of the hands-on attention that is given to each cigar. Montecristo boasts the largest hand rolled cigar factory in the world, located in the Dominican Republic. Romeo y Julieta also produces their product by hand. Hands-on attention to each cigar ensures that the tobacco is of the best quality, the density is just right, and the wrapping is intact and beautifully crafted. This attention to detail is a key component to both companies continued quality and success.
A great financial advisor will take the time to “hand craft” their clients’ financial plans, ensuring there will be few, if any, imperfections or flaws in the final product. By carefully considering each investment, strategy, or product, a great advisor will construct an in-depth and custom tailored plan for each of his or her clients. With specific knowledge and certification, the advisor can take care of the important details so their clients don't have to.
The Final Draw
If a client wants a quick fix, one-size-fits-all “solution,” then by all means they should work with the cheaper, mass-produced option. However, if they want an individual, specific, and detailed financial plan that they can trust, then an independent financial planner is their best bet. Much like a fine cigar, quality financial craftsmanship and ingredients will increase in value and only get better over time.
(Cover image adapted from http://www.cigarsasquatch.com.)