January 25, 2011

Reframe Clients' Financial Behavior for Planning Success

Help clients work through deep-seated financial behavior to remove planning obstacles

Financial advisors looking to incorporate principles of behavioral finance into their practice would be more effective and able to serve their clients even better if they teamed up with a psychologist like Faye Hargrove, founder of Augusta, Ga.-based Hargrove Leadership Services.

Hargrove helps people get rid of their emotional and psychological barriers – barriers, she says, which impede their ability to pursue their financial goals. In fact, these mental limitations may prevent people from even identifying their goals, let alone acting upon them, she says, and if they can be gotten rid of financial advisors will be able to work in a far more clear cut and meaningful manner.

“Once we can identify the fact that we have limitations and once we can determine where those limitations are coming from, we can reframe them and set goals from a new perspective,” she says.

Hargrove believes that it is only after this “cleansing” process has been completed that the rest of the behavioral finance approach which a growing number of advisors are now employing can make sense.

“Once a client is able to look at their lives with fresh eyes, the financial advisor will have a much easier time getting through to them,” she says. “Any financial advisor has to have someone to do this cleansing process for them and to do it in the right way so that their clients can have a healthy relationship with their finances.”

Apexx Financial in Augusta is one firm that employs Hargrove’s services. The firm sends its clients first to Hargrove so that they can work with her to get a clear sense of their values, the role that money plays in their lives and where they want to go with their finances.

Hargrove’s first port of call is asking a client what his or her current challenges are. These may not necessarily be financial, but ultimately, finances and people’s approaches to their finances are linked to everything else, she says.

“For many of us, financial problems spill over into other aspects of our lives, and it’s one of the main reasons for the difficulties people have, for example, in relationships and in marriage,” she says. “Most people don’t realize that we come into relationships with very different ideas about how to manage money and how to make money, so I first start with what these attitudes and challenges are.”

After that, Hargrove moves onto trying to figure out what is causing those challenges by attempting to get a sense of what happened in a person’s life that resulted in a particular thought process. She looks, for instance, at what approach and attitude an individual’s family had toward money, because that will impact in a big way that individual’s thoughts and behavior.

“This is a question that you cannot really answer because you don’t know,” Hargrove says. “You may have gotten a certain way of thinking when you were two years old, based on what was happening around you, so my job is to take a client through a reframing process that filters out all the negative emotions from the past that have impacted financial decisions now. I help to clean the closet, to get rid of any residual anger, hurt, guilt and other limiting beliefs.”

Hargrove’s decision reframing program gets clients to look at their lives and their goals with fresh eyes. By getting rid of residual limitations, some of which people may not even be conscious about, they can focus on their own passions and goals and living their lives for themselves, she says, which then makes it easier for them to work with a financial advisor to realize their financial goals within a new framework.

Hargrove – who last year wrote a book about her methodology entitled “Better Choices” -- hopes that her approach can serve other financial advisors and help them to help their clients “get new eye glasses and not bump into walls.”

She launched Hargrove Leadership Services in 1998.  Originally, the firm focused on coaching and developing executive leaders in the Atlanta area, but through the years, she continued to expand its services to include services like leadership training, teambuilding, and helping companies to assess and select the right leadership talent.  The firm’s clients have included Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta; BellSouth; ZC Sterling; Emory University; Electrolux and the Augusta Chapter of the Red Cross.

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