by Mitch Anthony

While it’s essential that your clients have enough invested to achieve their goals, don’t let them get fixated on a number. Last month, we discussed why it’s important for your clients to focus on the journey instead of the destination. This month, we’ll continue our discussion of how to help your clients harvest the greatest amount of significance from their money—or Return on Life™—by exploring the second reality: the critical role outlook has in financial life planning.

As most of us know, one’s outlook is the one thing guaranteed to give life meaning, focus, challenge, and joy—no matter what is going on at any given time, and without fail. It has very little to do with where one is, and everything to do with where one is at. If you were to take a survey and ask people, “What do you think it would take to make your life great?” there is a very good chance that folks would list things like:

  • Living somewhere else;
  • Being able to quit their current job; or
  • Having lots of money.

If these are their assumptions for a rewarding life, they may be in for a rude awakening.

Other folks might answer the same question with, “I can’t imagine my life being any better.” If you surveyed those people and asked them where they lived, the kind of house they owned, or their net worth, you would find their answers all over the map. Some folks live in the country, some in the city, some in a high-rise, some in a small bungalow, some with a seven-figure net worth, and some with a five-figure net worth.

The only thread connecting the members of this second group is their understanding of true wealth. That understanding is reality number two: outlook trumps position in the game of life. Where they are at (mentally) means more than where they are in terms of location or status or wealth.

For example, consider people like these who you might have observed, up close or from a distance—(you may even recognize some of your own clients):

  • The grouch on the golf course who can’t enjoy his round—just a few years ago, he would have told you playing golf every day was his lifelong dream.
  • The person who has millions of dollars and fame, yet demonstrates little to admire in life.
  • The rising corporate star who is so frazzled that she isn’t able to enjoy the fruits of her labors.

Material wealth is constantly in flux. Fortunately, this doesn’t need to be the case for our outlook on life. While our clients’ fiscal fortunes fluctuate, it’s important to remind them that a balance statement is only part of a much larger picture. The next time you meet with a client, ask him or her, “What has changed in your life?”

If your client has lost a partner, or even a job, plenty has changed and knowing that you cared enough to ask will mean a lot. If your client is concerned that the balance in his or her account has dropped, again, ask, “What has changed in your life?” Don’t let some imagined number—an artificial, ethereal finish line out in the distance—rob your clients of their joy in the present. Don’t let a temporary drop destroy their outlook. Believe it or not, there are still many in the financial services industry that exacerbate the problem by constantly pointing clients to their present account positions instead of to the proper emotional outlook. Of course, you should show concern and interest when a client’s portfolio takes a hit—but you should also help clients understand you’re there to help them see beyond that quarter’s statement.

This is where the “advisor part” of a financial advisor comes into play. Don’t just talk about financial tactics and strategies—discuss attitudes and perspectives that help your clients weather market storms. In other words, advise them; don’t just sell. Warren Buffett once said, “The chains of habit are too light to be noticed until they are too heavy to be broken.” By obsessing over a number, clients are unable to enjoy the journey. A number on a piece of paper shouldn’t have that kind of power.

Ultimately we are all defined by our outlook on life: How did we respond to something? Did we make the best of what just happened? Did we strengthen what remained? Did we shift our focus toward what mattered most?

We should never allow our wealth or status to define us. The next time you meet with clients, ask questions like these:

  • Did you wake up today with your health, surrounded by people you love?
  • Are you still challenged by the work you do?
  • Do you have plans, dreams, and experiences on the drawing board?

If your clients answer “yes” to all three questions, they are in an enviable position in life simply because they have the proper disposition. Instead of asking, “Where are you at financially?” let’s ask, “Are you getting the best life with the money you have?” If not, why? Invest in your client, and they’ll invest with you.

If we (and our clients) are viewing the numbers from the proper perspective, we can cruise through each day (and statement) with the assurance that the one thing that matters inside us cannot be taken or shaken by forces outside. Outlook trumps position. A settled mind trumps unsettled markets.

© 2016 Mitch Anthony

Mitch Anthony is the founder and president of Advisor Insights Inc.and the Financial Life Planning Institute, the leading provider of financial life planning tools and programs for the financial services industry.

For almost two decades, Mitch and his team have provided training and development for both individual advisors and major organizations throughout the world. Mitch personally consults with many of the largest and most-recognizable names in the financial services industry on both financial life planning and relationship development.

Mitch is a consistently top-rated presenter who has spoken to groups ranging from 10 to more than 10,000. He has been named one of the financial services industry’s top “Movers & Shakers” for his pioneering work. Through the Institute, he has partnered with Texas Tech University, the University of Georgia, and Utah Valley University to develop financial life planning programs for their undergraduate programs.

Mitch is a sought-after expert for the media, and a regular columnist for Financial Advisor magazine. His columns have appeared on CBS MarketWatch and in the Journal of Financial Planning. His original comic strip “Stanley Brambles, CFG (Certified Financial Guru)”appears monthly in the print edition of Research magazine. Mitch is also host of the daily radio feature, The Daily Dose, heard on over 100 radio stations nationwide.

Mitch is also the author of many groundbreaking books for advisors and consumers, including perennial bestseller StorySelling for Financial Advisors, cited by “Financial Advisor” magazine as the number one “must-read” book for financial professionals. Mitch’s other books include The New Retirementality (now in its 4th edition), From the Boiler Room to the Living RoomYour Clients for LifeYour Client’s Story, and The Financial Lit-Kit: The Cash in the HatThe Bean is Not Green, and Where Did the Money Go?. For information on these books and more resources, click here. Contact Mitch at [email protected].