Financial planning: one-part strategy, one-part inspiration.
As the transparency of fees compels more planners to strive for value, financial planners are becoming more like coaches. According to an April 2017 article in U.S. News, Tallahassee-based financial planner René Bruer says only 20% of his facetime with clients is allotted toward finances.
The other 80%? Playing therapist and talking clients down from panic.
This element of “financial coach” is a role Tina Weeks, founder and Financial Life Planner at Serenity Financial Planning, understands well and doesn’t mind a wink. In fact, she encourages this wholistic approach between her advisers and clients:
“We work best with people who understand and value our relationship-based approach. People who are open to life planning and coaching conversations and people who are open to us being their trusted adviser in every aspect of their lives – not just financial planning.”
Why is this important? Because for clients, financial planning isn’t merely about numbers, it’s about how the service can enrich their lives.
“Financial Life Planning is a methodology that looks at every aspect of a client’s life – not just their money,” Weeks explains. “It is inevitable that we help clients with issues and decisions that are not purely financial.”
Upon first glance, this might not seem typical, or even logical. Is any other profession required to comb through their clients’ emotions? But this level of personalisation is part of proving your worth in an age of automation and price-transparency – and leaving a lasting impact on clients.
But beyond simply providing a support system for clients, knowing your clients emotionally allows planners and advisers to gain a deeper understanding of what’s truly important to clients.
“I would say that peoples’ relationship with money informs many of their decisions about their life in general,” Weeks states.
In fact, when clients come to Serenity, the biggest question our advisers hear is, “Will I have enough money to do all I want to do?”
Clients aren’t worried about hitting a specific number. Rather, they want to make sure they’re achieving their goals. Financial forecasting helps Serenity present a Financial Life Plan visually.
“For me, cashflow modeling or financial forecasting is a tool that has really helped me connect Life Planning and Financial Planning. It takes the life planning conversations I have with clients and enables me to connect them to their financial data by allowing me to present the conversations visually…I can’t see how we could do as thorough a job if we didn’t have those important conversations and use cashflow modeling to illustrate them”
Clients are taking notice of the shift from financial planning to financial coaching, and they’re excited about it:
“What’s amazing – and a huge relief to me now – is that clients are starting to put terms like ‘Financial Coaching’ in the search engines. That’s how they’re finding us. It appears years harping on about the importance of Life Planning as part of Financial Planning are starting to pay off.”
So what does the financial coaching process entail?
“We run a three-stage process,” Weeks says. “The creation of a Financial Life Plan, the implementation of any recommendations, and then ongoing advice with our coaching program. Each stage is priced separately and very clearly, so that clients know what they will be paying.”
As for being a woman in financial services, Weeks doesn’t believe she attracts more or fewer people of either gender:
“I think we attract people that want to be helped in a certain way. What I do know is that more and more women are accumulating wealth and don’t want the old-style transactional service. They want a relationship approach.”
Luckily, Weeks and Serenity are here to help.