What Beauty Makeovers and Financial Planning Have in Common

Amy Goan |


I know what you’re thinking: Makeovers and financial planning? Really, Amy?

Stay with me on this.

This morning I received a text from my friend, Rachelle. She said she wants to get a beauty makeover (she has her wedding coming up, after all!) and this time she wants to pay for it. Am I in?

As a little background...a few years ago we went to the cosmetic counter of the local department store when she was preparing for her brother’s wedding. We went to the counter that sells the brand of cosmetics we like and received our “free” makeover, although I don’t want to think about how much we spent buying their recommended beauty items. We were happy with our purchases and appreciated the beauty tips we received.

So this time, she wants to hire a beautician and pay her for her expertise. She figures she has enough makeup, but just wants to learn cool, new ways to apply it. She doesn’t want to feel obligated to purchase makeup, like we did at the department store, for any makeup tips she receives.

So, how are makeovers like financial planning?

Think of “free” makeovers as commission-paid brokers (i.e. Ameriprise, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, etc.) and hired beauticians as fee-only advisors.

With a commission-paid broker they may give “free” financial planning, but it’s pretty cursory and their end goal is to sell you some product so they can get paid. The products they may recommend may be suitable for you, although they may not be the best product for you because they can only offer what’s on their limited menu. If you like the product they sell and would purchase it anyway, any financial planning they do for you is a bonus. They get paid and you get exactly what you want. A win-win!

However, you may prefer to pay someone for their financial expertise and you don’t want their pay to be dependent on the advice they give you. You want them to recommend the best product for you, not just the best product for you from the short list of products they sell. You want unbiased advice and are willing to pay their fee for this service. Also, since they’re getting paid for any financial planning they do for you, you can be more assured that it will be complete.

Just like there’s a time that a department store makeover is best and a time that hiring a beautician is called for, there’s a time that it’s best to use a commission-based broker and a time that it’s best to hire a fee-only advisor.

So, next time you’re looking for someone to help you with your finances are you going to go to the department store or hire an expert?