One of the fundamental missions which we’ve set for our practice is to offer clients, for lack of a better term, life planning from the perspective of financial professionals, and we know that we’re not unique in this regard. Any financial planning or wealth advisory firm worth its salt will take as comprehensive approach as possible so that there is a broad and well coordinated action plan established from the outset and faithfully implemented over time.
What we find, however, is that many clients haven’t thought along these lines. It’s common to have a client say they “just want know when we can retire” or to ask us to “just help me get organized” or even “just help me with my investments,” it not having occurred to them that a good planner is unable to effectively do any one of these things (to the best of their ability) without also taking care of the others.
In our initial “kick the tires” meeting with prospective clients, we find that we sometimes need to ask creative questions to uncover what’s truly important to them. An interesting technique proposed at a recent conference we attended is to ask a client to write down thirty goals. This is often a difficult task, and by the time the client gets into the 20’s they are dredging their memory for abandoned dreams or forgotten ambitions. As they work to remember those things they realize that, although set aside, some hopes remain deeply important to them… hopes which they feel must be addressed to have a sense of satisfaction with their lives, not just their financial objectives. Such goals then get moved from the bottom of the list to the top and serve to reorient the client, and therefore the advisor.
And life satisfaction is really what this is all about, isn’t it? Even the most personal aspects of our lives are informed by the business, the finance, of our lives. But, in the end, no one really cares that they die with their checkbook balanced. They care that they had a positive, meaningful life, filled with memories and defined by occasional contribution. Such things are, to a great extent, predicated upon financial freedom. The promise of comprehensive planning is that the client, by working with a professional advisor, can create a reasonable forward looking architecture for the remainder of their life by using the financial components of their present situation so that they might have their best, most fulfilling, life.