Digging Deep for Financial Plans That Align with the Goals of Your Clients
• Julia Wiss • April 20, 2021
Financial plans can’t be superficial. They have to touch every aspect of a client’s life to truly help them achieve a life where money and investments are a vehicle to their happiness.
To create financial plans that help clients achieve their most important goals, financial professionals have to dig deep and understand their clients as people and what makes their circumstances unique. Planners have to create a trusting environment for planning to take place, and they should aim to give their clients the confidence they need when it matters most.
Getting to the Goals We Don’t Talk About
There are goals that people come to you about and goals they don’t talk about. You’ve got to get the conversation started to learn about the things clients don’t know to bring up. Nobody comes to you and says they need more life insurance. That’s something you have to uncover yourself.
At Lumen Wealth Group, we follow the CFP Board’s financial planning process very closely and it works great for us. In the discovery and onboarding phase, we’ve built out a worksheet we follow internally to guide our conversations. We try to uncover everything we can in regard to the client’s priorities on their current financial situation, wealth accumulation, risk management, income taxes, retirement plans, and wealth preservation.
Once you understand these kinds of things about your clients, you can stress test their financial plan in every way. Then, you’ll start to see the pain points, the ways in which their goals impact their current lifestyle, their retirement, their legacy, and their loved ones. You’ll start to see where decisions need to be made and why their priorities are so important.
That’s where you start the conversations about goals that nobody talks about. Uncovering these is an essential part of creating a financial plan in the best interest of the client.
Planning for Every Scenario
I often tell people that financial planning is my creative outlet. When I plan for my clients, I’m planning out many, many different paths they could potentially take. I believe it’s my primary responsibility as a financial planner to show people the consequences of their decisions before they make them.
It’s very easy to do this today with technology. I don’t sit across the desk from my clients (when we can meet in person), I sit next to them and I tell them that I understand not all decisions are based purely on numbers, so if you make this or that decision, then this will be the consequence. I want to make sure my clients are prepared for any decision they make.
Education plays an important role in this as well. If a client heard from their neighbor that 529 plans are bad and risky, then it’s your responsibility to educate them otherwise and demonstrate the ways in which 529 plans may benefit them and their children.
When you educate your clients and show them different paths forward before they make decisions, you’re looping them into the planning process. By collaborating on the plan, they’ll help you build in the right combination of lifestyle changes so that their goals are aggressive but achievable.
Creating an Environment of Trust and Transparency
When clients share their deepest fears, that’s when you can do the best planning. That’s when you can truly engage with what matters the most to them. Clients won’t just do this on their own, however. It takes time. You have to create the right environment for them feel comfortable enough to open up.
Over the years, I’ve developed a niche specialty in working with women investors. A lot of women feel that they get talked over in planning meetings, that their male advisors speak directly to the husband and they aren’t truly a part of the process. When I speak with women investors, I empathize with their situation and the difference is noticeable. The things that come out of our conversations are a lot more intimate than the typical financial planning meeting and this allows our planning discussions to really zero in on what they’re hoping to achieve.
Whoever your clients may be, empathizing with their unique situation based on what you’ve learned about them and other clients like them, and treating them like a person instead of an investor, can help elevate their comfort level so that they’ll share these intimate details with you. They’ll know that you understand them, and they’ll also know that you’re fully prepared to help.
Clients won’t feel fully comfortable until you do this—it’s an essential aspect of planning towards their most important goals.
When You Know You’ve Done a Good Job
We talk a lot about deeper relationships, greater share of wallet, and higher AUM, but at the end of the day, confidence is a great metric of success. It’s a really strong indicator that you’ve successfully shown clients the path to their most important goals and that they’re satisfied with the work you’ve done.
We knew we were doing right by our clients when the COVID-related market volatility started. We reached out to everyone to assure them that we’re reviewing their plans and that we’ve already accounted for this kind of uncertainty.
We got a lot of responses back from our clients that they weren’t worried, that they knew their plans already had this baked in. A few people even told us how they knew their colleagues were really worried and stressed about their finances but they weren’t at all.
While this was satisfying to hear from our clients, it was a great affirmation that they truly believe they’re well on their way to living the life they want. I don’t think this confidence happens unless a client’s plan is headed towards their most important goals, both those they know and those you’ve uncovered over the course of the relationship.
Scaling This Model for the Future of Financial Planning
When you can create a trusting relationship and deliver confidence, you have a client for life. It’s a time-consuming process, that’s of course well worth it, but growing a business this way in a future where advisors will be expected to manage even more relationships requires finding efficiencies in the planning process.
Our practice has clearly defined responsibilities regarding planning, business development, and relationship management. In the future, I intend to work with junior advisors to handle the more straightforward relationships, as advisor leadership is a passion of mine. But the point is to reserve my time for complex planning and for my existing clients.
Delivering confidence, building a financial plan around a client’s most important goals, all revolves around getting to know your clients at a deep level. That’s never going to change. There are different ways you can scale this process for the future of your business, but it depends first on knowing how to dig deep for impactful plans.
DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.
The views and opinions expressed by this blog post guest are solely those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of eMoney Advisor, LLC. eMoney Advisor is not responsible for the content, views or opinions presented by our guest, nor may eMoney Advisor be held liable for any actions taken by you based on the content, views or opinions of the guest.
Any opinions are those of Julia Wiss and not necessarily those of Raymond James.
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