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Serving Clients at All Stages of the Financial Planning Lifecycle Effectively and Efficiently

Connor Sung February 9, 2023

A financial planner meeting with clients

Recent research1 found that there is a large population of Americans interested in financial guidance. Of an estimated 104 million households seeking some level of financial advice, 88 million of those households want that advice from a financial professional.

If you are looking for opportunities to grow your business, expanding your services to clients at all stages of the financial planning lifecycle creates new opportunities for you to reach those households in search of professional advice.

But before you can serve the broader lifecycle, it’s essential to understand what each stage needs, where to reach them, and how to efficiently serve them.

How to Serve Clients at Each Stage of the Financial Planning Lifecycle

The financial planning lifecycle, which can be broken down into four key stages, covers a range of client needs, from the most basic to the most complex. In this overview, we will explore the demographics of each stage, the financial planning needs of people in each stage, and strategies for serving them.

Stage One: Starting Out

Also known as the early accumulation or early career stage, this is the initial stage of the financial planning lifecycle. People in this stage may have just graduated from college and recently joined the working world. Their key financial challenges include paying off student loans, creating a budget, developing healthy spending habits, and saving for future goals like buying a home.

Financial Planning Needs:
  • Creating a budget
  • Establishing an emergency fund
  • Starting to save for goals
  • Building credit
  • Managing debt
Strategies for Serving Clients in This Stage:

During this stage, focus on education, personalized recommendations for mainstream content, helping your clients think about their relationship with money, and leveraging technology.

Starting Out clients are typically focused on beginning to build wealth. According to a Fidelity study, 45 percent of younger investors are more inclined to consolidate their assets with one advisor as opposed to spreading assets across multiple advisors.2 So, if you establish a close relationship now, it can lead to a long-term partnership as they move through the financial planning lifecycle stages with you.

Your clients in this stage will likely be engaging in a substantial financial planning conversation for the first time. Since they may not have a lot of experience, it will be important to provide education and instill positive financial habits. Focus on short-term goals.

These tech-savvy young professionals research everything online, but they want financial advice from an experienced professional. You can build trust and credibility by educating them with content applicable to them and their situation such as podcasts, videos, seminars, and blogs, but be sure to make yourself available when they have questions. As we mentioned, they’re finding the generic content online everywhere.

With a long financial future in front of them, planners can help these clients set and pursue their first financial goals. Concentrate on asking the right questions about their experience with money, their overall life goals, what motivates them, and what they’re passionate about. This will ultimately aid in your ability to help identify and select realistic, achievable goals so you can instill confidence and get early wins.

Leveraging technology is a must for both client satisfaction and to make your work more efficient. If your technology solution has a self-directed platform, you can save time by having your clients add data for you. Starting Out clients are likely to be digitally-fluent, so putting this type of responsibility on them isn’t overly burdensome and can create major efficiencies in your planning processes.

Stage Two: Pre-Retirement

The second stage of the financial planning lifecycle is pre-retirement, which involves a wide range of clients with different lifestyles and priorities. They are more established in their careers so their income is going up, but their expenses may also be going up as they may have dependents, a mortgage, or other assets.

Financial Planning Needs:
  • Retirement planning
  • Education and family planning
  • Obtaining appropriate insurance coverage
  • Business and tax planning
  • Significant asset purchases
Strategies for Serving Clients in This Stage:

Clients at this stage are experiencing life events — both large and small — that will impact their financial planning needs. Due to that, your service should focus on holistic planning and interactive scenario planning during this stage.

From education and family planning to retirement planning to insurance coverage, they have more goals in play than they did during the previous stage. Holistic planning will be a valuable way for you to address this broad range of needs.

In this stage, your clients should to be setting concrete goals and executing on recommendations to achieve their goals and get retirement ready.

Technology solutions with interactive scenario planning will help you show your clients the financial impacts their decisions have on their plans in real time for immediate feedback. This gets your clients involved in their plan, demonstrates exactly what they need to do to achieve their goals, and gives them the flexibility to reassess their goals along the way.

Stage Three: Retirement

In the third stage of the financial planning lifecycle, your clients are in their golden years—retirement. Now that they’re living from their retirement accounts, the financial challenges they face will include sustaining their current lifestyle, not outlasting their savings, and healthcare costs.

Financial Planning Needs:
  • Social security
  • Withdrawal/decumulation strategies
  • Investment planning
  • Tax considerations
  • Expense management
  • Healthcare
  • Income planning
Strategies for Serving Clients in This Stage:

During this stage, focus on helping your clients transition into the retirement years, analyzing current and potential courses of action, and utilizing the your technology solution’s client portal.

As your clients transition to this new phase of life, you can help them ensure their savings last and help them make the right choices in terms of healthcare and social security. Fortunately, these are all things you can do efficiently with the support of your technology solution.

In this stage, you will again want to emphasize analyzing current and potential courses of action. There are many variables to account for, including different ages to begin taking social security benefits, which assets to tap into first to provide retirement income, and how aggressively or conservatively to invest to ensure assets last.

In addition, you should encourage your clients to use your technology solution’s client portal. Being able to review a real-time, comprehensive picture of their finances will help retirees monitor their lifestyle expenses and ensure they are staying within the parameters set in their financial plan.

Your clients may need guidance on how to best utilize the portal for their needs, so be sure to offer educational resources and be available for any questions they have.

Stage Four: Leaving a Legacy

In the final phase of the financial planning lifecycle, which is also known as the wealth transfer stage, your clients will be preparing to pass on any remaining wealth to their loved ones and/or charities in a tax-efficient way.

Financial Planning Needs:
  • Estate planning
  • Advanced directives
  • Gifting
  • Power of attorney
  • End of life planning
Strategies for Serving Clients in This Stage:

Clients in this stage of life are looking for peace of mind and the assurance that they don’t need to worry about what will happen after they are gone. With that in mind, focus on ensuring that all loose ends are tied and building relationships with the next generation through educational workshops.

Though it can be an uncomfortable topic to bring up, your clients will be looking to you for proactive estate guidance. Asking the right questions will help you learn what wishes they want to have carried out and how they want to protect and care for others.

You will want to ensure that all loose ends are tied, including checking that wills are completed, trusts are drafted, and power of attorneys and advanced directives are in-place and updated.

You should also begin developing relationships with the younger members of the family so you can remain the financial expert for the next generation once the wealth distribution occurs.

One way to establish credibility and deepen relationships with your clients’ heirs is to offer educational workshops or seminars on topics of interest to their demographic. You can also encourage and hold family meetings on topics such as estate planning to clarify the parents’ wishes, reduce stress, and prevent family conflict in the future.

Adapt Your Business to Efficiently Serve Clients from All Financial Planning Lifecycle Stages

With the right business practices and technologies in place, you can reap the benefits of serving a wide range of clients from the different stages of the financial planning lifecycle. It may seem difficult at first, but there are key actions you can take to serve a variety of clients in a way that is effective, efficient, and scalable.

Expand Your Services

If you are planning to serve multiple lifecycle stages, you need to ensure that your business is prepared to provide the support and services your clients at each stage are looking for.

Financial planning is holistic in nature and your clients’ diverse needs will include a variety of topics, from coaching on financial habits to retirement analysis to estate planning.

If you lack expertise in an area that your clients will be looking for advice on, there are several ways you can fill in the gap. You can gain the expertise needed by learning additional skills, hire experts to cover the areas you aren’t knowledgeable about, or build a network of external experts that you can refer your clients to.

Standardize Your Offerings

Taking on clients from all stages of the financial planning lifecycle will require you to align your services with the needs and values of clients in each segment. Consider developing standard packages for each of your target segments based on their unique needs.

Standardized offerings allow you to create scalable and repeatable processes within your firm. This not only creates a strong internal experience but also creates efficiencies that allow you to serve a higher number of clients with quality advice.

Consider Your Pricing Strategy

Serving clients at all stages of the financial planning lifecycle may require you to revise your pricing structure. While your primary business may continue to be AUM-based, you can offer other options for certain segments based on their unique needs.

These alternative pricing structures will help you profitably serve clients who are much earlier in the financial planning life cycle and have a lower net worth and little-to-no assets to manage.

For example, young professionals who are just starting out typically don’t have enough money to be served by the traditional AUM model. Offering services based on an hourly rate or a flat fee is an ideal option for this group. You can provide them with the focused services and advice they are looking for in the immediate term while starting to build a foundation for a long-term relationship in the future.

Leverage a Technology Solution

Technology is essential for a strong client experience and the efficiency of your business, especially if you are looking to expand and add more clients.

Power your services with financial planning technology that caters to both simple, goals-based planning and complex, cash-flow based planning. This will enable you to serve someone who is in the starting out phase as well as you serve someone who is in the retirement phase.

Utilizing technology will also alleviate some of the time burden of administrative or operational tasks, giving you more time to serve more clients.

Optimize Your Marketing

If you want to reach prospective clients in different stages of the financial planning lifecycle, you need to meet them where they are. Identify what value you bring to clients in each of your target segments and then communicate that value via the right channels.

Different generations have different social media habits, so one platform may be more effective over another depending on which segment you’re targeting.

Bring Planning to More People at Every Stage of the Financial Planning Lifecycle

Serving people at all stages of the financial planning lifecycle creates new opportunities for financial professionals to expand their client base, serve new segments of the market, and establish long-lasting relationships from the start.

With an understanding of the unique needs of clients at each stage and how to adapt your business to best serve them, you can start bringing your planning to more people with the support of your technology solution.

Learn more about you can partner with technology to expand your financial services business by reading our ebook, Bringing Planning to More People.


1. eMoney 88 Million Consumer Research Study, April 2022, n=1,616.

2. “Climbing to the Top of the Value Stack.” Fidelity, 2020. November 16.

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.

Image of Connor Sung
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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