How I Get Clients Excited About Their Financial Plans
Posted by: Joseph Kuo | February 24, 2023
Whether it’s a diet, household chores, or following a budget, it’s never fun to do anything you have to do, and it’s easy to let it fall by the wayside. But it is way more fun and easy to do something you get to do, and you’re far more likely to do it well.
To make a financial plan something my clients want to follow, it should be about something that means a lot to them, and something they really want out of life. To create such a plan, it’s important for me to fully understand what my clients really want. For my clients to understand what they really want, it’s important that they understand their relationship with money.
Our Relationships With Money
We all have beliefs about how the world should be, and by extension, how money should be saved and spent. Frequently, these beliefs came from interactions and experiences we’ve had while growing up. For most of us, our upbringing, how we lived growing up, and seeing how our parents dealt with money all had a significant impact on how we see the world as adults.
Regardless of whether they directly taught us, watching first hand how our parents handled their finances is bound to at least subconsciously influence us on our own approach to money. This influence shows itself when we form an opinion on how someone we know handles their money. For example, when we see a colleague with similar income buying a very expensive car, how do we react? What about when we see similarly educated classmates earning less (or more) than we do? While most of us recognize that everyone is different with different motivations, we still will have at least an initial visceral reaction and judgment.
My Own Relationship With Money
As a financial planner, one of the most important things I need to be aware of is my own relationship with money. What are my beliefs around how money should be earned and used? All my clients have had different experiences with family and money while growing up.
When a client signs up with me, we enter into partnership with different viewpoints of the world. Clients seek out financial planners looking for some sort of change because some element of their beliefs are no longer serving them. However, beliefs are often guided by emotion. It is one thing to know in your mind that you want to change something, but a different matter altogether to come to terms with actually doing it. So it’s important to not just propose changes to my clients, but to make sure those changes are ones they will want to follow.
In order to create a plan they will buy into, it’s essential that I understand what my clients want for themselves. It is so easy to become clouded with what I want for my clients or what my clients should want. This can be very difficult because our beliefs guide how we see the world. What I personally think is best might not be necessarily the best for my client’s particular situation.
I Work For My Clients
First of all, as a fiduciary I am required to work in my clients’ best interests. In order to do so, I have to put my own personal values and opinions aside. Now there might be instances where my personal background might help in my work for my clients, but what they want always comes first.
I Build the Plan From The Client’s Vision
As you might recognize from my other articles, I’m not the type of financial planner who fixates solely on rates of return and account balances. Although those things are important and are an objective way to measure success, for me success is measured by client happiness and fulfilling the client’s vision.
Thus, when I create a plan, my first question is not “how much money do you want to save for retirement?” Instead, I want to know my clients goals, visions, and priorities. I also try to get a sense of their values and how they see money. How did their family handle money in their formative years? What are their current views on spending money? What would an ideal quality of life look like for them?
Only then do we determine how much money is necessary to accomplish the client’s goal. From there, we co-create a plan for them to get to that goal. I don’t create a plan and then give it to them. Rather, I take the approach that we are creating their plan together.
I Create Resilient Plans
A rigid plan that only has one way to do things is susceptible to market and life changes. A plan that presents different ways of accomplishing the goals can not only mitigate this risk, but having more choices makes it easier to follow.
My work doesn’t end when the plan is completed- it’s actually just beginning. As we progress in life, our viewpoints and priorities can also change. Thus, it’s also crucial to periodically follow up to not just check up on progress, but to confirm that the goal should still be the same.
I Love It When A Plan Comes Together
A client of mine wanted to retire within ten years. So when we created her plan, I first asked why she wanted to retire so soon. I learned that she wanted to stop working full-time so that she could spend more time with her family. With this reason in mind, I included options for varying projected retirement dates depending on her monthly spending levels. This way she could choose a balance between her current quality of life versus how much longer she would need to work.
Then, as part of the regular service I provide to ongoing clients, I met with her quarterly to review progress. A few quarters later during one of these follow up meetings, she mentioned to me that she had started a side consulting business, and was hoping to continue consulting after retirement. So we were able to update the plan to account for the added income. She is making great progress and with the part time gig, it looks like she’ll be able to stop working full-time much sooner than her original target.
To build a resilient plan that my clients want to follow, I work closely with my clients to incorporate their personal beliefs, priorities, and dreams. I make sure the client has options in following the plan and is not constrained to one way. I then continue working with them to make sure the plan is up to date and still reflects their wishes.