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Holistic Financial Planning: 4 Steps to Get Started

Connor Sung March 23, 2023

Life Values Chart for Holistic Financial Planning

Holistic financial planning incorporates a client’s total life and financial circumstances into their plan. The purpose is to go beyond helping clients achieve financial goals by supporting them in living a more meaningful life.

Getting started with holistic planning is not always straightforward, however. Creating a holistic plan takes more time than a regular financial plan, and will likely involve difficult conversations at some point. But our research shows that holistic planners are able to charge a premium for their services and report far greater client successes.1

Initial Considerations for Holistic Wealth Planning

If you believe holistic plans will offer greater value for your clients, it’s important to first understand a few things.

Holistic Planning and Comprehensive Planning Are Different

A comprehensive plan covers all aspects of a client’s financial circumstances. A holistic plan covers all aspects of a client’s life.

While 92 percent of advisors say they offer holistic planning, only 46 percent of advisors truly offer holistic plans, and only 29 percent do so for all their clients.1

Holistic planning, by our definition, includes firms that offer 10+ services in-house, review plans at least once per year, and are comfortable with all types of in-depth conversations, including some of the toughest ones like divorce or physical health.

The Holistic Plan Isn’t Built All at Once

Financial planning technology today can be very good at helping you quickly produce a detailed financial plan. But that doesn’t mean you need to create a holistic plan all at once.

While much of the work is done upfront in building holistic plans, you can create a comprehensive plan first, then work to make the plan holistic over time. We tend to focus on the first 6-9 months of a planning relationship, but in truth, there are 29.5 more years to consider.

You Need to Get Your Business Ready to Offer Holistic Planning

It takes a little more than simply deciding to start offering holistic financial plans. Your people, processes, and technology all need to be working together to accommodate this in-depth offering.

You’ll have to establish what holistic planning means at your firm, ensure you have an efficient way of delivering those plans, and charge clients in a way that aligns with this new service offering.

4 Steps to Start Holistic Financial Planning at Your Firm

Holistic planning can provide truly transformative results for your clients, and while there may be several areas your firm has to address to offer this service, they can generally be boiled down to four key areas.

1. Address Technology Use

The technology you use to develop and maintain holistic financial plans will be the foundation of your service offering and must be addressed first. Given the extra time involved in holistic planning, maximizing the use of your technology will provide vital efficiencies in order to make this service profitable.

You can focus your audit of technology use on a few key areas:

  • Leverage all available integrations. You’ll want to make sure you’re leaning on integrations for financial data feeds that provide up-to-date market information, integrations that allow clients to easily connect to their financial institutions and integrations that make your planning experience as simple as possible. All of these integrations will make plan development more efficient while speeding up client onboarding and fact-finding.
  • Promote the use of a personal financial portal. Some clients may not be tech-savvy enough to leverage a client portal, but most will. Standardize the use of a portal in your service offering—it helps to educate clients on how to use it—to streamline communication and build engagement with the plan. Clients who are tuned into their portal are likely to be more open to holistic planning when they are more invested in planning outcomes and can see its impact.
  • Ensure you have a comprehensive solution in place. A holistic plan will cover all the aspects of life that money touches on, so you’ll need a solution that can accommodate the entire breadth of potential needs. You’ll also need to understand how this technology works for topics that may be outside the traditional scope of a financial plan.
  • Establish technology workflows. Knowing exactly how you’ll use your planning technology can help you set up efficient, repeatable planning workflows. These workflows can be invaluable in reducing the time it takes to create a holistic plan and making this service offering profitable.

When it comes to technology use, you’ll need a platform that can both facilitate the entire breadth of holistic planning while having the ability to build client engagement and promote efficiencies in planning.

2. Prepare Firm Processes

Once you’ve got your technology in order, it’s time to look at your firm’s internal processes. The entire staff needs to be aligned on the service offering and ready to support all client needs.

There are a few areas to focus on:

  • Look at planning fees. With a new service offering, there will likely need to be a new way of charging for that service. Create a planning fee that makes sense for your firm and make sure you can explain this fee to clients in a clear, direct way.
  • Empower support staff. Whether it’s administrative professionals to help with data collection or paraplanners for plan development, support staff can be vital in maintaining efficiency while handling the extra time commitment of holistic planning.
  • Expand your expertise. Educate yourself on new topics, learn how to use the corresponding technology, bring on financial professionals with complementary expertise, and/or build out your network so you can have a solution for the entire holistic spectrum of client needs.
  • Master onboarding and data collection. This perennial pain point for financial professionals needs to be addressed prior to offering holistic planning. The upfront work of holistic planning is the most time-intensive part of the process, so perfecting your onboarding and data collection processes will help your firm with a profitable rollout of this service.

Your entire firm needs to be prepared to support the extra work of holistic financial planning, including everything from how you charge for the service to who handles each specific task.

3. Be Ready to Go Deeper with Clients

Holistic financial planning by nature will go deeper into a client’s emotions, values, and sources of meaning in life. Our research shows that many financial professionals struggle with conversations around premarital planning, divorce, significant health issues, and other potentially uncomfortable topics. We also found that those successfully offering holistic planning are comfortable with all of these possibly difficult conversations. 1

Skillfully navigating tough conversations is an essential part of holistic planning. There are a few ways to prepare for this:

  • Know your existing clients. Are all your clients willing to pay for holistic planning? What services would they like now that they don’t already have? Understanding what your current clients want is an important part of a successful rollout.
  • Uncover client values. Understand the right questions to ask to uncover client values. This will be an essential part of building a financial plan that maps closely to what a client truly wants to achieve in life.
  • Do your homework on tough conversations. There will inevitably be times when the conversation gets uncomfortable. There are tons of resources available to financial professionals about these difficult topics. Comfortably guiding clients through things such as divorces or estate planning will help you secure their trust as a holistic planner.
  • Niche your services. Zeroing in on your niche will help you customize your advice and be more efficient in doing so. Importantly, your familiarity with your niche will enable you to provide a higher level of service for your clients and prospective clients than other financial professionals.

Going deeper with clients will fuel your holistic service offering. You can prepare to go deeper by understanding your current clients, finding new clients who are similar and having pre-defined tactics to talk about values and difficult topics.

4. Develop and Execute Your Service Calendar

A holistic plan isn’t built overnight. Once your technology and processes are in place, and you’re ready to have deep conversations with clients, it’s time to develop and execute a service calendar that helps you plan for a client’s whole life.

There are a few key areas to focus on:

  • Cover different topics by quarter and/or year. Create a service calendar where you’ll work with each client on a topic at a specific time. This will keep you both on track and ensure that you’re continuing to advance the planning conversation over time.
  • Address all aspects of the client’s life. Explain to clients why you’ve created a service calendar and how you will execute it. Be sure to update as necessary and cover anything they may need: estate planning, benefits, insurance, taxes, health care, and more.
  • Stay on top of legislation and current events. Know how changes will impact your niche and work it into the calendar. This way you’ll always be working to both deepen the plan and keep up with the changing regulatory landscape.
  • Plan for the whole relationship. You don’t need to build the holistic plan all at once. Build towards a holistic plan by executing your service calendar, updating the plan as life changes, and continually speaking to clients about values.

Having a service calendar helps set the expectation that you will, over time, create a plan that incorporates the client’s entire life circumstances and helps them achieve their most important goals.

Elevating Your Service to Improve Client Outcomes

Holistic financial planning takes some preparation, but the result is a service offering that sets your firm apart from the rest and truly aids clients in pursuit of more meaningful lives.

If you want to continue to think about how you will take these steps in your practice, check out our infographic on getting started with holistic planning. The graphic uses a condensed format to lay out each step you need to complete in order to be ready for holistic planning in your firm.


1. eMoney Leading with Planning Research, May 2022, Advisors n=360

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About the Author

As Director of eMoney’s Financial Planning Group, Connor helps clients build more successful practices and deepen client relationships. He leads an exceptional team of financial professionals who help clients transform their technology platform and financial planning processes to increase efficiency, drive growth, and create planning-led user experiences. He oversees eMoney's financial wellness strategy, as well as internal and external financial education programs, aimed at providing financial peace of mind for all. Joining eMoney in 2013, Connor has over 10 years of technology, practice management, and planning experience. He earned a Bachelor's degree from James Madison University, and earned his CFP® designation in 2016. Connor loves spending time with his family and friends in Philadelphia, and enjoys staying active by golfing, snowboarding, playing hockey, and playing with his goldendoodle, Nala.

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