Enhancing client well-being through holistic planning

Kim Potgieter CFP®, Director, Chartered Wealth Solutions, discusses ways planners can adequately equip their clients for a life that is financially and mentally healthy.

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As financial planners, we often start our conversations with clients by asking, “What does your ideal life look like?” and “Do you have a plan for how your money will enable this?” I propose a third conversation starter: “How would you describe your relationship with money?” or “If you had to go to couples therapy with money, what would you say and what would money say about you?”

These are simple questions, but not ones our clients readily think about or discuss with others. Our work would be so much more rewarding if we could guide our clients through these conversations to give money – and their lives – proper attention. To be adequately equipped for a life that is financially and mentally wealthy.

Money habits sabotage financial plans

The role of planning is no longer purely based on retiring successfully but rather on guiding clients to make purposeful and intentional changes to managing transitions and their holistic wellness. You cannot move clients forward to personal and financial well-being if you do not understand the foundation of their money relationship. It can either be constructive and healthy or boycott their overall wellness. Unfortunately, many people don’t understand their relationship with money and most of the clients I meet are hampered by their money beliefs and habits – how they see, feel and think about money sabotages their goals and dreams.

I recently met a client who constantly lives in fear, worrying about money. Gail’s fear is so overwhelming that she continuously invests in property, driven to see her money grow and accumulate. At the same time, she overcompensates by spoiling her children and buying them everything they want, whether they need it or not. This client is not living her best life. To be so fixated on watching your money grow, to the detriment of your current circumstances, is just not healthy.

There is so much value in investing time in understanding (and then changing) our relationship with money. As Gail and I uncovered the root cause of her behaviour, we discovered that it all stems from a severe lack in her childhood. This realisation can help Gail create a money story and habits to serve her better – and her children.

Separating beliefs from reality

Your money mindset is not always based on reality. You don’t have to be poor for poverty to be your mindset. Many of my clients have a sizeable amount invested, but that does not stop this irrational fear that they can lose it all. That’s because a mindset has to do with your perception of your reality, not necessarily reality itself.

I recently had a life planning meeting with a client who inherited a significant amount following her husband’s passing at 35. Tracey, the client, shared that she felt reluctant to use any portion of her inheritance and that she constantly fears losing the money that her husband left in her care. I prompted Tracey to share the money stories that have shaped her life and relationship with money, reflecting on her childhood experiences. She remembered her father’s financial ruin and reflected on how this experience instilled a fear of spending and mismanagement. She also struggles with a sense of detachment from the inherited wealth, feeling that it’s a burden rather than an asset to be used for her well-being.

As planners, no matter how well we strategise and plan, nothing will change unless we can help clients understand what their money beliefs are and what money habits have been formed. The key is to help clients change money behaviours and beliefs that do not serve them, and very often, these beliefs are based on fiction rather than reality.

Tracey needs to separate her money beliefs from reality and let go of her fear of loss and being poverty-stricken. The reality is that with careful planning, she can start a fresh chapter, supported by her inheritance and financial planning.

The meaning of money

I have written about the meaning of money before, and it’s an interesting topic. We all have clients who attach different meanings to money and use money for various reasons: control, power, status symbol or something to be feared and avoided.

I met Lily at a conference last week and this conversation profoundly impacted her. Lily’s father grew up in poverty, and as soon as he started achieving financial success, he embraced a lavish lifestyle. For him, money embodied success and status, resulting in extravagant expenses on fancy cars, excessive parties and generous gifts for the community. Unfortunately, this left Lily responsible for caring for her father in his retirement years. Lily now finds herself pressured by the community to follow the same patterns of lavish spending to support her family, extended relatives and the community.

Your client’s commitment is the true measure of success in a financial plan. They have to buy into the plan, which often means changing their money habits and behaviours. The plan will not be impactful if we, as planners, cannot guide our clients towards putting money in its rightful place – as an enabler of their lives.

It’s about more than the money

Some clients are so fixated on increasing their wealth that they overlook the present moment – the life they’re meant to live right now, not just someday in retirement. Kathleen devoted 10 years to saving diligently and investing her funds overseas. She held a deep-seated belief that South Africa was not a safe place for her life savings and looked for security abroad. After a decade of putting her life on hold, she moved overseas, only to be overwhelmed by the isolation and a profound lack of belonging.

As her planner, I must recognise the significance of Kathleen’s sacrifices to invest her money outside South Africa. While I cannot expect her to bring the money back, I can help her live her best life with the money she has. Our life planning meetings included a vision board, and through this exercise, Kathleen realised her wish to return to South Africa. This meeting helped her define her dreams and enable clear goals and intentions for her life ahead.

Conversation starters for planners

I believe helping clients improve their relationship with money will enhance their wealth and mental wellness. It’s about understanding their money script and guiding them to reshape their beliefs and habits to serve them better.

A meaningful conversation starter with a client involves encouraging reflection on their childhood experiences with money. In most cases, our money mindset is shaped by the experience and messages we receive about money throughout our lives, primarily from our parents. These experiences become internal beliefs that create self-imposed limitations, often not based on reality. For example, if you grew up hearing that you would never succeed because you are not smart enough or have seen a parent struggle due to financial manipulation by their partner or observed lavish spending to flaunt wealth, you would have numerous beliefs to challenge to foster positive money habits.

Our relationship with money is multifaceted, often interwoven with complex emotions, unspoken beliefs and unconscious habits. Recognising that beliefs drive behaviour and behaviour drives actions emphasises the importance of understanding and addressing both beliefs and behaviours to reshape a money relationship.

Kim Potgieter CFP®, Director, Chartered Wealth Solutions, ICF Professional Certified Coach, New Money Story® Mentor Coach, Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator
Kim Potgieter CFP®, Director,
Chartered Wealth Solutions, ICF
Professional Certified Coach, New
Money Story® Mentor Coach,
Certified Dare to Lead™ Facilitator