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Helping Clients Find Their Purpose

Rita Cheng January 27, 2022

Senior man enjoying water sports in retirement

Everybody deserves the opportunity to become financially resilient. It’s one of the main reasons I became a financial planner—because I believe financial planning transforms lives. That is why in my practice, I lead with financial planning.

Helping clients gain clarity, confidence, and control over their finances is my passion, and doing so has given me a very fulfilling career. I admire anyone who finds their fulfillment by helping others and just as I want to help my clients, I also want to help other financial professionals achieve the same for themselves and their clients.

Begin with the End in Mind

Working with clients to define their purpose will determine the direction of their financial plan. When I am getting to know a new client one of the first things I ask is what they are hoping to gain from the planning experience. The answers I’m looking for aren’t just related to financial goals, but also the type of fulfillment they will receive by attaining those financial goals.

Another very important thing I want to understand is how we can best work together to achieve those goals. So, I ask them to tell me about any previous experiences they’ve had with other financial professionals and if there are things they want to do differently in working with me.

Through interactions like these, you are building trust with your clients. Their responses to these questions provide the building blocks for establishing the relationship that will help you lead them to financial resiliency. They are essentially telling you what they need from you to be successful in carrying out their financial plan.

Guiding Client Achievement

One way I help clients visualize the financial planning process is to use “buckets.” It’s a concept that works with any level of financial sophistication. I stress the importance of having different buckets that align with their financial goals and risk levels and together we allocate their savings and investments in liquidity, longevity, and legacy buckets. By understanding the client’s unique personal and financial circumstances I can provide guidance on how much goes in each bucket. I simply explain that if they put everything in legacy, that’s not helpful for liquidity and longevity, and if they put everything in liquidity, that’s not really helping plan for longevity.

For clients who want a more complex view, I go into greater detail about what’s in each one of those buckets and the different types of investments that make them work. It’s a way for any client to visualize how the financial plan they have in place will ultimately allow them to achieve their purpose.

I like to say it comes down to ART—the amount of money, the expected rate of return, and the time involved in reaching the goal. Adjusting a client’s buckets with these three variables in mind provides the means to achieving fulfillment from their financial plan.

Financial Planning Is All About Options

One of the greatest things about financial planning is that it shows clients the options available to live the life they want. I’ve had clients who have been working towards certain goals for years, and suddenly something in their life changes that makes them rethink their priorities—their purpose.

This provides the perfect opportunity to regroup so their financial plan can be adjusted to reflect this change. This is just the sort of flexibility we want them to have when it comes to ensuring they have the confidence to achieve their financial goals.

This is also where financial planning technology provides a huge benefit. I can take that client’s plan and move things around—change retirement dates, change levels of saving and investment, change allowances for cost of living—and show them all the possibilities they have in front of them.

I’ve found that even my most hands-on, do-it-yourself investor clients find value in having a financial plan. I’m not telling them what to do, I’m asking them, “What do you want to do?” and then I can take that information and plan it out for them to see all the ways to make it possible.

I’ve had clients who have told me nobody has ever asked them that question before and they sometimes get emotional about it. Don’t be scared of seeing people’s emotions in front of you because it is an incredibly powerful indication of how much they trust you.

Celebrate Client Successes

I also think it’s important to celebrate client wins along the way. Maybe it’s someone whose goal was to get out of debt, and they have achieved that. Maybe it’s just that they have finally reached retirement or perhaps achieved an important business or career milestone. This has been a huge accomplishment for your client and it’s worth celebrating.

It doesn’t have to be a big deal—a card or letter, a book, a small housewarming gift for a new homeowner—but it really reminds the client that you are on their side. They can be vulnerable with you and you’re proving that you were listening to what’s important to them and what’s going on in their lives. It helps deepen those relationships even further.

Aligning Advisor and Client Purpose

As my career has evolved, I continue to go back to my “why.” I ask myself, “Why did I choose this profession? What value do people seek and how can I provide it?” I wanted to help individuals and families change the conversation about wealth. Yes, we need to invest to reach our goals, but we need to know and understand the why—or purpose—behind it.

If you can alleviate your clients’ fears and create that safe space for them to confide in you, you are letting them know they’re not alone. That can be really liberating and empowering and it gives them the confidence to explore their passions and interests, so they can develop a financial plan that serves as a means to reach their fulfillment. The beauty of it is that this will give you a rewarding career you can be proud of as well.

To learn more about the intersection of advisor and client purpose, read our eBook, Planning with Purpose.

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.

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About the Author

Marguerita (Rita) Cheng helps educate the public, policy makers, and media about the benefits of competent, ethical financial planning. As a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® professional, Rita helps people meet their life goals through the proper management of financial resources. She is passionate about helping them navigate some of life’s most difficult issues—divorce, death, career changes, caring for aging relatives—so they can feel confident and in control of their finances. Rita is a regular columnist for Investopedia and Kiplinger, and a past spokesperson for the AARP Financial Freedom Campaign. Rita volunteers her time as a SoleMate, or charity runner for Girls on the Run, raising money to win scholarships for girls. She is also a coach for 261Fearless, a global supportive social running network which empowers women to connect and take control of their lives through the freedom gained by running.

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