Be the example… or change the example

By moving beyond the numbers and being the example, you can show clients the true value of financial (life) planning.

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Imagine walking into a gym, wanting to get in shape. You’re unsure where to start, so you hire a trainer. The trainer shows up and has all the knowledge in the world. The trainer shows you the right movements, makes sure you’ve got good posture and tells you which muscle groups you’re working. But it quickly becomes clear, the trainer has never gone through the transition that you’re hoping to go through. Worse yet, the trainer is not even in very good shape.

The trainer is going to walk you through some major changes, and while they have the technical expertise to do so, they haven’t done the tough work themselves.

Are you that trainer in your client’s lives? If so, you are not alone.

During a university commencement speech, the comedian Jim Carrey said, “Many people choose their path out of fear, disguised as practicality.”

Financial planners will recognise this, especially if you work with clients heading into retirement. So often clients have taken the practical path and worked to check all of life’s boxes. Go to school, get a steady job, get married, have kids, save money, then retire. Veering from this path can bring fear, either internally or through the reactions from others.

And because we’re all human, most financial planners also take that well-travelled practical path. It has been a way of life for so long. But times have changed.

While change can be scary, sometimes the idea of things staying the same can be even scarier.

Many people and businesses (especially in financial services) are operating in an outdated mindset. Even with the myriad challenges in the world today, there’s never been a more exciting time to be alive. We have the world at our fingertips and the opportunities are endless.

For example, in 2013 I left a traditional investment advisory business where I was a principal to launch one of the first completely virtual, fee-only, monthly retainer financial planning businesses. I then ended a long-term relationship and left the city I was living in. As an open person, I shared all of this with my clients who averaged in their 50s and included some high net-worth people.

Kate Holmes, CFP®, Chief Innovation Office, Innovating Advice
Kate Holmes, CFP®, Chief Innovation Officer, Innovating Advice

This ended up completely changing the conversations we had and clients started saying to me, as we worked through what their short- and long-term goals really were, “You are the example of acknowledging what you really want and making it happen.”

Now, I’m not encouraging anyone to quit your job, end your relationship and move away (unless that’s what’s best for you). What I am encouraging is that you take a deep and honest look at your life and see where changes would be beneficial.

Even small changes can make a big difference.

Look at each area of your life: work, friends, family, relationships, health and wellbeing – and ask yourself what you’d like more of, less of and what has a time limit. It could be more time on health and wellbeing, less of a toxic relationship and one more year in your job.

Whatever changes are right for you, when you’re bringing your absolute best self to your clients and you’ve gone on a path that they might be going on, you’ll start to see different things. You’ll pick up on different signals. You’ll know that you’ve done that hard work of realising what is and isn’t working in your life and you made the necessary changes so that you can be the example to them of what’s possible in this one amazing life we each get.

Whatever changes are right for you, when you’re bringing your absolute best self to your clients and you’ve gone on a path that they might be going on, you’ll start to see different things.

It changes the conversation, builds stickier and more rewarding client relationships and allows you to create fee and service models to serve a broader range of clients. By moving beyond the numbers and being the example, you can show clients the true value of financial (life) planning and can more easily niche down to the clients that are right for you.

There are people out there that are ready and waiting for you. Technology allows clients to search for the planner that’s the best fit, not just the one that’s closest. They want to work with a financial planner they can relate to, that makes it easy and enjoyable to work together and that has fee and service models that suit them.

With the right mindset shift, all of this is possible in financial planning businesses big and small. And while change can be scary, sometimes the idea of things staying the same can be even scarier. As concerns swirl about economic instability, regulatory changes and the commoditisation of financial advice, know that those that are innovating, personally and professionally, are the ones that will come out on top and will be the most satisfied in business and life.

I hope you’ll be one of those examples, leading the way, inspiring others and highlighting the true value of financial planning.