I attended a financial planning conference last week and the theme of the day was lifestyle financial planning.
There is a kind of movement in the UK currently and in my view, it’s a pretty good one to be a part of. The crux of the matter is to help clients achieve their desired lifestyle. To move away from financial advisers of the past who have been all too happy to sell a product and move on to the next client.
This new generation of people (and it’s planners of all ages, genders, shapes and sizes) are beginning to see that the true value lies in the relationships you have, rather than the products you sell.
It’s about working alongside people to help them understand what’s truly important to them and how they can achieve it. How, if we get better at listening and understanding people, we’ll be alongside them whilst they develop a sense of purpose, of fulfilment, of happiness in their one and only shot at life.
I know the above can sound a bit cheesy.
I get it. However, I believe that I add value to clients lives - I’ve seen it. Clients must be engaged (excuse the pun) in this kind of process for it to work, otherwise you won’t be entwined in their life.
A motto we use is one I’ve taken from the great Tony Robbins, which is, ‘success without fulfilment is the ultimate failure’. I work on this saying. I try to make sure I’m personally fulfilled. Whether that be at home with my wife and two children (with our third on the way), or in the office trying to develop a business to be proud of.
I am extremely lucky to work with some brilliant people, who are amazingly talented in their own fields, some of the brightest minds around. However, they still need me in their financial life to make sure it’s all kept together.
People are often brilliant at something, they are not often brilliant at everything. Knowing when to get support in the areas you are less skilled in can make life easier, and be beneficial both financially and emotionally.
Going back to the conference, one of the speakers was American Mitch Anthony www.mitchanthony.com. He was brilliant. He spoke with humour, warmth and wit about offering people a return on life rather than a return on investment. He talked about how at the end of people’s lives, they’ll think about what they’ve achieved, the people they have met, the loved ones they’ll leave behind. They won’t be thinking about the investment they made in 2012 that got a 12% return in year one.
He went on to say that financial planners are in an extremely privileged position. That we planners get to know people’s hopes, their aspirations and their dreams. They entrust us, often with their life savings and their future incomes. They trust us to be honest and realistic about whether their goals are achievable, and they depend on us to tell them what they need to change when they’re not.
It’s not always easy to tell people honestly what their financial future looks like.
We have to discuss sad realities with people, such as telling people that they need to make financial sacrifices or they are going to run out of money. Or advising on the best protection levels for their families should they have a sudden change of circumstance. Not usually a fun conversation – but a necessary one.
When it’s written down on a date specific plan it’s actually pretty scary - taking ownership of these responsibilities for so many individuals and families. Maybe I should go back to just selling products? It seems so much easier now (I definitely won’t by the way!).
Of course it seems easier. It is! But the question for me is, where is the personal value in selling something and moving on? Where is the sense of pride you feel in knowing people trust and rely on you? That is what I enjoy most about my job, about running my business.
I know the value we provide. I’m sure some people reading this will think that it’s all a little airy fairy and I understand that. I also concede that not every relationship will work out as I’ve described. There will be relationships that don’t work. There will be people who don’t believe in the value of our services, who just want a product or to manage money and don’t want someone in their life looking over their shoulder. I’m not naïve. If a potential client doesn’t see the value in the relationship I want to build with them and chooses not to engage (there I go again!), that’s entirely their prerogative.
I feel privileged to be a trusted adviser to so many - this is my professional fulfilment. I have confidence that this sense of privilege is also what is going to set my business apart and drive it forward.