I have always disliked the saying, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” Finance is an industry known for suits, which I am unable to wear because of my disability. It is difficult for someone to dress me in everything that makes a suit, especially after expending the effort needed to get me out of bed and bathed before getting dressed. Let’s not forget I would have to wear dress shoes, which hurt. Did you know that many people with my disability are unable to wear shoes? Does that make them less productive in their field? It shouldn’t!
Many people (including myself) are unable to wear dress pants with zippers or buttons because it hurts our feeding tubes. Trust me, you don’t want anything pulling at a tube in your stomach. That thing is a lifesaver, but can be one of the worst pains around. So, will my wearing pants with an elastic waistband hinder my ability as a financial planner? No! Not being able to wear a suit may have hurt my ability to get a job with other firms, but it won’t impact my relationship with my clients.
I also believe that suits make clients uncomfortable. You have heard of “power suits,” which may work with corporate takeovers, but I think they send a negative message to people seeking help in personal finance. It takes a lot of courage for a person to admit they need help because money is such a private matter. They’re already nervous, so it won’t help if I look like a principal and they were called to my office for disrupting class. Sure, when I first meet a client I look “professional” with a collared shirt or a sweater, but after that first meeting, I’ll be in something like a t-shirt. My Captain America t-shirt has started more conversations than a suit ever would. Getting clients to talk about sports or movies because of my shirts seems to help them relax.
While I welcome all clients, I’m building my practice with a focus on the middle class. When a young couple makes $60,000 a year, has a mortgage, student loans, and childcare expenses, “Dressing for success” is difficult. Sure, everyone can do better managing their expenses and prioritizing their spending. I’m working on helping people solve that problem, but I wish we could back off on the dress code for success. Everyone won’t be a CEO and most of us can’t afford to dress like one.
It makes us feel good to look nice, so we should try our best. Financial management is about balance. If looking nice prevents us from saving for retirement, then we need to evaluate things. It’s time that we remember clothes do not make the man. It’s his heart and contribution to the world that matters.
Of course, we still need to dress appropriately. Remember, pajamas are for sleeping, not leaving the house. It’s sad that needs to be said, but here we are!