by Mitch Anthony

While money can be used to forge independence, it can also drag us down and impede our goals and dreams. Money has the power to help us find significance or to drive us further into despair, depending on how we appropriate it. Money can be utilized in a way that introduces a sense of balance into our lives or be invested in enterprises that do nothing but perpetuate and even accelerate the manic pace we’ve created. Our attitudes toward money can be the difference between a state of contentment and a state of depression.

Daniel Kahneman, recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize for Economics, demonstrated that the more money Americans made, the less sleep they got. There is a definite disconnect between the pursuit of wealth and the satisfaction it brings: we may be getting money, but we are not necessarily getting our money’s worth. What was supposed to help us sleep at night is, in fact, keeping us awake.

Consider the following examples:

  • A couple, already financially maxed out, goes out and increases the size of their mortgage when one partner receives a pay raise, even though the other works for a firm that recently lost a major contract.
  • A man who is pulling down a great salary, and whose career is flourishing, can’t bring himself to enjoy any of his money because he’s controlled by a mortal fear of being poor.
  • A woman feels her skills and gifts are being wasted by not utilizing them in her career. Between college loans and credit card debt, she is convinced that she cannot afford to change career paths.
  • A man places his recently-earned bonus in a risky stock bet. He watches it disappear within a year because he can’t force himself to sell it and move on.
  • A woman uses money from a settlement to purchase an expensive foreign vehicle, a high-priced European vacation, only to then face rising levels of financial anxiety because of her decisions.
  • A couple in their 60s move all their money out of safe havens when the market is booming because they don’t want to miss out on high returns, and then try to mitigate their losses by reversing course when the market bottoms out.

Sound like some of your clients?

People continuously make money decisions that lead to greater increased anxiety rather than prosperity and peace of mind. Your opportunity and obligation is to educate your clients to ensure that they see the bigger picture.

If we took a closer look at how we appropriate the money we receive, I am certain each of us could find adjustments (some small, some significant) that would immediately produce dividends of less anxiety, greater security, and increased satisfaction. For this to happen, money must be placed in the proper context. Asking your clients to answer the following question is a good first step: Is money a means or an end for you?

If your client’s answer is that it is an end—that he or she just wants a big pile of money at the end of the race—then this client might not be right for you. If money is a means to something more important in his or her life—a tool for moving to greater security, happiness, and balance—then this question will help to guide both an internal dialogue and some decision-making processes designed to set that client free from financial anxiety. My guess is that both you and your client will sleep better.

The Four Cornerstones of Life

When I ask people what they want from their money and their lives, the answers I hear repeatedly are happiness, balance, security, and meaning. How well and how wisely we manage our money has an impact on all four of these cornerstones of life. Use these cornerstones to help your clients create a lasting foundation.

Happiness: Wanting What You Already Have

Madison Avenue is keenly interested in incenting us to want bigger, better, more. Advertisers are interested in feeding discontentment by creating a void and filling that void with a product. Most people eventually realize that this brand of consumerism only produces empty calories because it creates a need that is never satiated.

Author/theologian G. K. Chesterton said there are only two ways to get enough: one is to continually strive for more and more, and the other is to be content with less than you already have.

Balance: Walking the Tightrope between Too Much and Not Enough

When we can manage to get work, family, leisure, and personal development in balance, we truly start enjoying life. However, achieving balance is a perpetual balancing act, not a “one and done” decision. Many of your clients are forced to work long hours and even extra jobs to pay for stuff they don’t need, or even want. Their lives become enslaved to their debt.

Money can be utilized in such a way that it actually restores balance to our lives. Those who have done so have learned to readjust and use their resources so their lives are no longer about making money. Their money is about making a life.

Security: Doing What You Want with Your Tomorrow

Security may be the greatest intangible benefit properly managed money can provide. Once we forfeit or lose that security, we live with fear: fear of unemployment, fear of never being able to pursue dreams, fear of not having enough to retire. This probably sounds like a lot of your clients.

Each time a financial decision is made, your clients are adding to or subtracting from a sense of security. Every person is different when it comes to how much they need to feel secure. Your obligation is to listen to these feelings, and to help your clients figure out how much is enough so they can sleep at night.

Significance: Making the Best Possible Use of Our Time, Abilities, and Passions

Viktor Frankl stated that man’s primary motivation was the need to find significance and meaning in his life. People are motivated by a need to somehow make a difference in others’ lives—to feel they are making a contribution that is significant or has meaning.

Because of financial pressures, many people have unplugged themselves from the activities and pursuits that fulfill this sense of meaning. Many are caught up in “activity traps” where there is much sound and show but little meaning.

Contrast that with people who have managed their finances in a way that has enabled them to move their lives toward to a place where their hands, head, and heart are working together to fulfill this inescapable need for meaning and significance.

One advisor shared with me how he had spent 20 years as a social worker and counselor and had burned out. Through his years of experience, however, he had noted that many people’s problems were rooted in and stemmed from money management issues: “It sounds strange to some, but I have a much greater feeling of meaning and significance in what I’m doing now because I feel like if I can help people do the right things financially, I can help to save them much misery and add to their life satisfaction in immeasurable ways. It’s not that what I was doing before wasn’t significant, it is that what I’m doing now is more meaningful to me.”

It may be a career step or it may be a directional shift, but, either way, financial implications are involved in the move that puts the “me” in meaning. Your challenge is to help your clients find this direction.

Finding the Keys

We have seen clients who manage their lives and resources wisely, resulting in both prosperity and peace of mind. They realize that there are both fiscal and philosophical keys for approaching financial and life decisions that are as good for the soul as they are for the portfolio. Chances are, these individuals are working with a financial advisor who shares their beliefs. If they are not, they are certainly looking for one who does.

After interviewing many clients who fit this description, I developed the following four “fiscalosophy” keys and dialogue starters that you can use with your own clients:

  1. Help your clients decide what they want from their money and life by asking them these important philosophical questions:
    • Is your life about making money, or is your money about making a life?
    • How much is your paycheck costing you?
    • If you had all the money you would ever need right now, what would you do differently?
  2. Help your clients remove the clutter from their money memory by having them:
    • Look at lessons they learned about money when they were young.
    • Take an honest assessment of their worst money fears.
    • Balance the books on money mistakes they’ve made in the past.
  3. Help your clients move their money from the fantasy fund to the reality rollover by settling their emotional/investment ledgers between best intentions and denied reality:
    • Admit past errors and move past them.
    • Stop blaming others for traps created by their own greed.
    • Admit that they’ve often followed the herd for fear of getting left behind.
  4. Realize that the bottom line is not just a number; it’s also quality of life:
    • Understand the tether that connects your client’s money and life.
    • What is the value your client is willing to place, and what is he or she willing to pay for security, peace of mind, and anxiety-free living?
    • Make money a servant, not a god.

Many people live their entire lives allowing money to dictate every move, turn, and life-changing circumstance. The result for those people is stress, frustration, loneliness, and dissatisfaction. We have a world of people who are hungry to learn how to use their money to create quality in their lives and the lives of others. The right relationship with the right kind of financial advisor—one who really gets it—can have a life-changing effect in their lives. Seize the opportunity to make a true difference in your clients’ lives. You will both reap the rewards!

© 2017 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)” has appeared 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-KitThe 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].