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Expanding Your Planning Practice with Financial Psychology

Sasha Grabenstetter February 3, 2022

financial planning psychology in advisor's office
Updated on: September 15, 2022

Financial planning has become about a lot more than helping people retire comfortably. While that may still be a primary objective, the profession is quickly expanding into new territories as planners and advisors recognize the intersection of finances and overall well-being.

Financial professionals who want to serve clients holistically will have to continue broadening their skillset and adopt a human-centric—not investment-centric—approach to relationships.

Learning and Growing to Better Serve Clients

One of the privileges of working in the financial planning profession is the opportunity to learn, grow, and incorporate new skills into our financial toolbox to use with clients.

To better serve your clients’ needs holistically, find what you’re passionate about—it could be financial coaching or counseling topics or anything else. Then pursue that knowledge topic by listening to webinars and podcasts, reading the latest academic research, or adding in diagnostic tools and scales into your practice. The more we can learn about our clients, the better we can understand them and appropriately help them reach their financial goals.

For example, learning about Attachment Theory, while a complex psychology topic, can help financial advisors understand the “why” behind a client who’s having trouble connecting. If you work with a couple where one is really into the numbers aspect, while the other focuses on the feelings behind the financial decisions, you can be sure you speak to each person’s inner self. In that way, you can help find balance not only in the relationship between the spouses but also with the financial advisor. Both spouses can be seen, heard, and validated in their feelings.

You could also utilize scales and diagnostic tools like the Financial Anxiety Scale1 in your practice to gauge your clients’ feelings around money. Clients who have financial anxiety may wind up ignoring or not following their advisor’s financial recommendations, so the insight from using this scale can help you engage better with your clients.

You can use the tool directly and hand the scale over to the client to weight their own feelings, or use it more casually by asking clients one or two questions at each session to see how they’re feeling overall.

Again, the more we can know about our clients, the better decisions we can make about their financial well-being. Financial planning is more than just the money!

Making Referrals for Clients’ Well-being

If you do run into an issue or problem that you feel is outside the scope of your financial planning practice, make sure to have referrals systems set up.

Financial planners have referral sources for accountants, and mortgage lenders, etc., but what about mental health professionals or marriage and family therapists? Being able to have a candid conversation with a client that their need is outside the bounds of your practice should be normalized.

If you’re not entirely comfortable approaching your clients about these kinds of issues, consider providing these referrals in your first client meeting. This can set the tone and spark a productive conversation about how, if they ever have the need for another professional, you have a list of trusted referrals that could help.

As the financial planner, you may be one of the longest professional relationships your clients have. Given the fact that money intersects with so many other facets of life, this puts you in prime position to help your clients beyond their retirement goals.

Being able to make referrals to other professionals proves you care about your clients’ financial and emotional well-being in the long term and can help your clients live more fulfilling lives.

Exploring the Expanding Field of Financial Advice

The field of financial planning is expanding with the new Financial Psychology knowledge topic from the CFP Board, behavioral finance, financial counseling, financial therapy, financial wellness, and more. You don’t need to become an expert in every possible field, but having awareness and some knowledge on certain financial topics that interest you can make you a better more well-rounded financial professional overall.

To continue broadening your knowledge base, watch our recent on-demand webinar “Exploring the Financial Field: A Panel Discussion” to hear experts of various disciplines discuss the interconnectedness of financial planning, psychology, and therapy in helping clients live better lives.



  1.  Archuleta, K. L., Dale, A., & Spann, S. M. (2013). College students and financial distress: Exploring debt, financial satisfaction, and financial anxiety. Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning, 24(2), 50-62.
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About the Author

Sasha Grabenstetter, AFC®, BFA™ is a Financial Planning Education Consultant at eMoney Advisor. She is an integral part of the internal and external financial planning education programs, as well as financial planning content development. Sasha won the 2020 Outstanding Symposium Practitioners' Forum Award from the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education. She previously co-authored “Apple Seed: A Student Guide to Pro Bono Financial Planning” and “All My Money: Change for the Better.” With close to 10 years in financial education, Sasha received her AFC® designation in 2015 and graduated with her master’s degree from Texas Tech University in 2012.

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