Since joining the University of Northampton to teach on the banking and financial planning degree course last year, I have been thinking hard about two very important questions. First, is financial planning a career for young people? And second, if so, why don’t more of them know about it?
I should point out that I am, of course, totally convinced financial planning is a brilliant career choice for young people.
All the lecturers are passionate about promoting it as a career to our students, most of whom don’t really understand the role, in spite of the course they have chosen.
Traditional arguments against young advisers typically centre around the assertion that older clients, who are usually the ones with the money, want advice from “people like me”.
Would someone in their 50s or 60s really take advice from a youngster? Surely, they want advice from someone who has seen a bit of life, experienced its problems and understands its complexities?
Well, firstly, there is a practical matter to address here. If I am in my mid-50s, do I really want an adviser who is the same age or older than me? What if that adviser retires at the same age, or dies? Will that older adviser be able to advise me into my declining years, or will I have to find a new one in later life and start the planning process all over again?
This is increasingly relevant, with more and more clients with invested pension portfolios requiring maintenance for potentially 40 years or more.
Secondly, must an adviser share the exact experiences of their clients in order to be able to advise them?
I have never been diagnosed with a critical or terminal illness, but I have advised clients in that position.
I have never had children, but I have advised clients with children and grandchildren. So no, I do not agree that advisers have to have mirrored their clients’ life experiences to advise them well.
We have to listen to our clients, understand their fears and their ambitions, and provide a safe space for them to share their worries and dreams, but that is quite a different skill that can be learned by advisers of any age.
Finally, my experience in just one year of teaching at university is that our students are not naive about the complexities of human life.
They may be young but they have encountered many challenges, from budgeting with limited incomes and being in debt, to confronting mental health issues, balancing studying with work and home responsibilities, being a single parent or carer, or dealing with the sudden death of a parent.
To use a lack of life experience as a reason for not employing young graduates as advisers is a poor excuse.
They will need (and want) to learn more, but all of us, whatever our age, do. Who knows? They may be able to teach us and our clients a thing or two. So why not give youth a chance?
Gill Cardy is a lecturer, financial services, at University of Northampton.
You can follow her on Twitter @RedKitesMoney