Life-Centered Financial Planning Essentials: Understanding Your Client’s Journey

How did your clients come by their attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and habits around money? By chance or by happenstance?

To arrive at an answer requires a unique skill set—that of a biographer. In fact, your competence regarding discovery comes down to developing this biographical competency with your clients and their stories. Where the majority of the profession is trying to put together a story of numbers, life-centered financial advisors are busy gathering a number of stories. Why? Because stories are the very context for the numbers; they give the numbers meaning.

Each of us has our own journey. It behooves life-centered financial planners to understand that journey, starting with their clients’ pasts. Too many advisors start by talking about goals and then move back into the present, largely ignoring the past. Ignoring your client’s past can be fatal to your relationship with them.

Delving into a client’s past story enables you to discover something that is critical to a successful bond with that client: the inspiration or the pathos that has directed his or her life to this point.

One question that cuts to the quick of this type of discovery is, “Have you had any experiences that you would call a defining experience?” This is where you hear about the death of their dad, the fire, the divorce, the bankruptcy—traumatic life experiences that deeply impacted them, including how they think about money.

Do you understand your clients’ philosophies on investments and money matters? Do you understand the experiences that shaped (and continue to shape) their views? If not, you may find out when it’s too late, and they’ve left for another advisor. Do your clients understand your fiscal philosophy and the inviolable principles that you believe in? More importantly, do you and your clients share the same philosophies about money and life? Your clients’ beliefs and principles regarding money will be reflected in their behaviors—the most successful advisory relationships happen if you are both on the same page.

Learn more in Life Centered Financial Planning: How to Deliver Value that Will Never be Undervalued, available at local or online bookstores as well as at