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HENRYs and Why I Love Them

The first time I heard the term “HENRYs,” I cocked my head to the side and gave my colleague Steve a look of utter confusion. What is a HENRY? He kindly explained to me that HENRY stands for High Earner, Not Rich Yet. (The term was first coined in a 2003 Fortune Magazine article written by Shawn Tully and Joan Caplin.)

As soon as he explained, I knew that I finally had a word to describe my favorite clients. HENRYs tend to be young and have high incomes but possess few financial assets. Their “asset poverty” means that they are often overlooked by my colleagues and competitors. After all, why would a Financial Advisor who bills on assets under management consider pursuing someone who lacks assets?

But they can’t see what I see. When I look at a HENRY, I see so much to adore.

This is my love letter to all the HENRYs of the world.

You Are Fascinating

Making a Financial Plan is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. Planning for a client who is already wealthy and moving into a comfortable retirement is the intellectual equivalent of doing a 200-piece puzzle: fun for an afternoon, but after the 100th time the challenge fades. But a young client who is just starting to save and invest, who has competing goals that will unfold over 30 to 60 years, who must make trade-offs now and in the future to achieve goals…that’s more like a 1,000-piece puzzle.

No two HENRYs look alike, and each new client is a new challenge and new opportunity for me to learn something I didn’t know before.

You Are More Likely to Value My Work

It could be a generational thing, or it could be an artifact of the times, but I find that younger clients tend to place a higher value on the financial planning process. You see why planning matters, and you engage fully in the process — which can be laborious at times. As we build your plan, we also build trust, and I develop a deep understanding of what really matters to you. A client who truly values the work that I do is a client who will stay with me for life. And who doesn’t love to feel valued?

You Are More Likely to Be Loyal

As I alluded to above, a client who values the work I do is a client who will tend to stick around for a long time. Working closely with someone to build something that matters means a lot to most people. Building together over time also means that you are less likely to be wooed away by a fast-talking, slick competitor once you have graduated from a HENRY to a WOOF (Well Off Older Folk). When you become a WOOF, everyone wants you — but by then we’ll already have each other.

...we’ll already have each other.

We Can Grow Old Together

The single best part of this job is watching your clients’ lives unfold. Picture it: We meet when you’re just starting out; you’ve been out of college a few years, and you’re starting to build a career. Soon you’ve met that special someone. Next, you’re getting married and that first baby is due any day now. Before we know it, your “little one” is headed off to college, and we’re planning to buy the home where you’ll retire. The best part is, I got to help make some of that happen. And that is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world.

I’m a HENRY Too

Who better than a close peer to guide your financial plan? I’ve lived many of the same experiences you have, and I understand you in a way that some of my more established colleagues and competitors can’t. This isn’t to say that I know everything about you and understand every aspect of your life — but in general, we “get” each other.

Why All the Love?

As this point, you may be wondering why I would do business with younger folks who are “asset poor.” (Remember our example from the opening of this article?) It’s because I love the work. I have built my business specifically to make working with younger investors not only possible, but profitable — after all, I’m not running a charity. By offering a financial plan for a flat fee (negotiated with each client), I can serve those who value, and have the cash flow to pay for, my expertise.

If you are a younger investor who is looking to start saving for your future, and you’re intimidated by other wealth managers who demand large account sizes just to get in for a consultation, consider talking to me. I might be just what you are looking for. After all, I already know that you are exactly what I’m looking for.

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Thank you to my colleague Steve Oniya, Financial Advisor Foundations Program Associate at Baird, for helping me conceptualize this piece and for telling me what a HENRY is.