Financial planning is more than spreadsheets, cash flow and balance statements. Financial planning is the ability to link the client’s financial life to their whole life. This holistic planning starts and ends with the client, not the advisor.
These questioning strategies may feel uncomfortable for some because you are getting personal, and perhaps emotional. Partners will disagree with each other and will look to you to facilitate this conversation in a safe environment. Facilitating conversations your clients, customers or members can relate to will not only build trust with your client by showing you care, but will also uncover more opportunities to grow your business.
Let’s dive into some questions and conversation techniques to help you broaden your discussions to uncover and link your client’s holistic life to their fiscal life.
What are your big dreams in life?
This question is to get the client to think big. They most likely will not have an answer the first meeting, so use this as a follow-up as well. So, any thoughts on the big dream? and/or If money was not an obstacle, what would you want to be doing?
These dreams enable us as advisors to break the dream down into realistic attainable goals or S.M.A.R.T (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) goals, if you remember the work developed by George Doran, Arthur Miller and James Cunningham.
The goals that you create will be the building blocks of your plan. You want to retire in five years with current lifestyle and travel? Now, we quantify the goals.
Retire in five years at what lifestyle? $100K, great, now we can figure out if $100K is sustainable through retirement. You want to add $10K a year in travel? Let’s see what that does to your retirement plan. Can you spend more? Let’s find out.
If something was to happen to you, like a health care event or death, what would that do to your plans (and your family)? That is the analysis we do for our clients, as well as solutions to prepare against such risks.
This collaboration takes dreams and turns them into realities!
What does money mean to you?
There have been a few articles and books in this area and everyone uses different terms. So let me summarize the basics. If you read, “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman, he speaks of the five ways that people feel loved: acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, and physical touch. Understanding your partner’s love language helps strengthen your relationship.
Similarly, couples also have different views of money which are interpreted as money languages. I have seen four main characteristics or focus areas: stability, retirement, experience and opportunity.
We need to ask the question: What does money mean to you?
The answer will help you gauge how to work with your client. Let me explain.
The Stability person will make reference to the amount of cash saved, or the emergency fund, and they will not be comfortable with taking additional risk until their level of stability is met.
The Retirement person is maxing out the 401k or IRA, and is looking at long-term investments.
The Experience person sees money as a way to support hobbies, travel, lifestyle, and keeping debt managed (or not).
The Opportunity person wants to be able to take risks invest in the “next big thing”, has cash on the sidelines waiting for an opportunity. These were your Crypto clients, serial entrepreneurs, and speculative risk takers.
Now that we know who we are speaking with, we can tailor our advice to match the language they are speaking. Why an emergency fund is important to the opportunity person, or why insurance protects experiences, and how diversification into equities support long-term investments and inflation.
Practice Retirement: What does retirement look like for you?
You have worked and saved for many years, now you are considering the next chapter, how are you going to write it? Part-time work, volunteering, or lounging at the beach, this is your story.
What happens on the first Monday of retirement? What are you doing? What are you wearing? Where are you going?
Have you ever thought of practicing retirement? Take a week off in the location, and do the activities you imagine. This could be simply working on those projects around the house, golfing with friends, spending a week at the beach or in the mountains. Practice retirement.
If you and your partner are different ages, what is the plan? Do you really want to be retired while your partner works? Or will there be pressure for them to join you on experiences, trips, etc.? Will there be pressure on you to take on more domestic duties, now that you are retired? Now is the time to think this through and talk it out!
These questions do not need to be answered today, they just need to be asked. Facilitating the conversations your clients, customers or members can relate to will show that you are looking at the whole situation. Behaviors drive actions and understanding behaviors drives change.
Engage Your Clients Today!
If you have a client or prospect that you would like to discuss a unique questioning strategy to help uncover their whole situation, contact me today at 704-816-8034 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to partnering with you to help you uncover more opportunities to grow your business.