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How Advisors Can Guide a Client's Whole Financial Life

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What You Need to Know

  • Focusing on any one piece of a client's finances will soon become the old way of planning.
  • Forward-thinking advisors help clients set short- and long-term goals, and then teach them how they all interact with one another.
  • October, National Financial Planning Month, is an ideal time to broaden your financial planning conversations with clients and empower them.

Your clients’ finances are complex. While a good financial planner discusses short- and long-term goals when helping clients build a financial plan, the best advisors today are beginning to take these discussions one step further beyond the traditional buckets and helping clients connect the dots across their entire financial life, which also involves day-to-day financial decisions.

Staying focused on any one piece of a client’s finances will soon become the old way of financial planning. Clients today are looking for financial advice that ties everything together so they can make more-informed decisions. The most forward-looking advisors are delivering it.

For example, helping clients see what buying a morning coffee or paying for a Netflix subscription means for their big-picture financial goals can empower them to feel more connected to their financial future. The same goes for paying annual premiums for health care plans. How might financial decisions like this influence long-term plans?

Clarity such as this is priceless, and advisors who are delivering it are leading a new disruption in financial planning.

Think about the popular apps that help users stay focused on saving for short-term goals, such as a vacation. We may see Johnny get five stars for saving up for that trip, which keeps him motivated and engaged in meeting his goal. But how will that affect his goal to retire at age 55? 

The Bigger Picture

Forward-thinking advisors are connecting these dots for their clients today. They are helping clients build short- and long-term goals, and then educating them on how they all — like dominoes — interact with one another. This lets clients see for themselves why they need a dynamic financial plan that connects their entire financial life. Modern financial plans can shift and can be reshaped in line with your clients’ lives. Think of your client’s financial plan as being played by an orchestra. Imagine if the flute section were set up separate from the orchestra pit outside of the building. This would lead to one lousy overall performance. The same holds true for your clients’ finances.

Financial Plans Should Adapt as Humans Do

To complicate matters further, consumers are making major financial decisions faster than ever before. This was happening before COVID-19 as a result of the shift to a digital economy. The pace has only continued to intensify. As the person who guides them on their financial journey, it is important to help ensure that your clients have the most up-to-date data when making any financial decision. 

We saw many financial plans shift and change as a result of the pandemic. For example, weddings were canceled and rescheduled, then rescheduled again. Some are still on hold. Some couples decided the traditional ceremony was no longer as important as simply saying “I do.”

People decided to buy that vacation home today instead of waiting 20 years. There is also a new trend known as “the Great Resignation.” According to NPR, people are leaving their jobs “in search of more money, more flexibility and more happiness.” 

More on this topic

NPR points to Labor Department data showing that a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April alone. Many people say they left jobs simply because they didn’t feel valued enough by their employer in a health care crisis. 

The most futuristic financial plans can shift accordingly and instantly show clients how decisions such as these may affect their future.

Financial Planning That Empowers the Client

Bill Crager, co-founder and chief executive officer of Envestnet, recently explained this vision for the future of our industry in “The Intelligent Financial Life.” Here are some key insights from the paper that relate directly to financial planning:

  • Most of the financial decisions we make are disconnected from each other. That includes our daily financial interactions and the plans we’re making for the future.
  • Consumers are seeking a seamless, interconnected experience that supports them completely, from today’s spending to tomorrow’s plans.
  • A modernized financial mindset can put the consumer in charge with an ecosystem of providers that can help them understand, measure, optimize and connect their financial lives.

October, National Financial Planning Month, is an ideal time to broaden your financial planning conversations with clients and empower them. Here is advice on three steps that can help you begin the conversation:

Ask them how they are: October is a great time to check in with clients. Of course, we have heard from advisors that during the pandemic they have been in touch with clients more than ever. This makes sense, given that according to a survey released in October 2020 by the National Endowment for Financial Education, more than 4 in 5 (84%) of Americans said the COVID-19 outbreak was causing stress on their personal finances. Even if you are already connecting on a regular basis, it is a good time to check in specifically on clients’ financial stress levels. This is indeed an intertwined piece of a client’s financial life that too often gets ignored.

Educate: Use digital planning tools and apps to show the difference between a connected financial life and a disconnected one. 

As remote “face to face” has become the new normal, remember to turn on your webcam whenever possible to make a human connection. Some tools allow screen sharing, which is a great way to keep clients from becoming distracted.

This month is also a great time to schedule a meeting with the children of clients (and their friends) at no charge to discuss financial fundamentals and give advice. Consider offering a free financial plan for your clients’ children and grandchildren between the ages of 18 and 35.

Connect the dots: Ask clients to share details on how many financial decisions they have already made this week. Show them how tying these daily transactions together with their overall financial plan can help them feel more on track toward their future goals.


Tony Leal is president of Envestnet | MoneyGuide, which powers more than 2 million financial plans per quarter. Tony has been at MoneyGuide since its inception in 1997. Envestnet is fully vested in enhancing its financial wellness ecosystem, of which MoneyGuide is an essential component, to enable consumers to lead an intelligent financial life.