When the Going Gets Rough: Helping Your Clients Through Transitional Times
by Mitch Anthony
Where can you provide the most value for your clients?
While the answers to this question will be as varied as the number of clients you have, typically you can provide the greatest value by helping them get through a period of unexpected and often unwelcome change. During times of economic crisis, including an unexpected job loss, your guidance in helping clients anticipate or deal with the changes and challenges they are facing is critical.
Looking for the Warning Signs
Life-changing events can be very personal, but there is usually a financial element associated with it. This element is the one that opens the door and gives you the opportunity to provide counsel to your clients at a time when they really need it. Because your clients may not necessarily realize they need your advice, it is essential that you know them well enough to be able to identify the warning signs.
If you are aware of the basic changes that your clients are going through and in tune to the predictable changes, you can increase the value of your relationship with clients by being there as partner, guide, and educator as they navigate through turbulent waters.
One of the biggest reasons advisors need to keep in touch with their clients is to stay top-of-mind by having their antennae attuned to each client's problem space. The reason that you want to be in this position is because your clients need your services on their schedule—not on yours. You need to be able to identify the warning signs because your clients may not seek out your help on their own.
When the unexpected occurs in your clients' lives, they are going to want all of the advice they can access, whether they realize it or not. For those advisors who believe that they only need to update their client information once or twice a year, who will their clients turn to when something unforeseen—like the loss of a job—happens in the interim? This doesn't mean that you have to be on the phone every month like an ambulance chaser looking for accidents, but you should have a regular communication schedule to help you stay in touch with your clients in both good times and bad. Your clients need to know you are there for them.
Helping Your Clients Through Unexpected Transitions
Most of you are experienced when it comes to discussing the financial consequences of an unexpected life change. Advisors are often called upon to deal with divorce, unemployment, and financial catastrophes like the ups and downs of the current market. You are asked by your client to do something because a life change has required a financial transaction of some sort. During these times of transition and uncertainty, your clients see you as the voice of reason.
Transitioning from one life stage to another can be an incredibly emotional passage. When moving from one phase of our life to another, we experience movement and change. Our ability to leave the past stage behind and embrace a new one is often a function of acceptance, rationalization, planning, and goal setting.
Financial life planning is, in part, the process of anticipating and understanding both the normal and exceptional transitions that clients are likely to experience. We can help our clients through this journey by showing our sincere interest in their lives and by providing sound financial advice that connects directly to the transition issue(s) they are experiencing.
There are financial implications accompanying almost all of our life changes. The opportunity for you as a financial advisor to reposition yourself as a financial life planner comes in making your clients aware of the specific financial implications of every potential life transition relative to their lives. This allows you to open up the discussion on life transitions and financial life planning. After all, as a financial planner, it is your job to acquaint your clients with the potential fiscal problems that changes create—whether it's the predictable transitions we all go through or the ones we least expect.
Approaching each life transition as a financial issue gives you the right to carry the discussion further and puts you in a position to also provide your clients with sage advice to help them get through trying times.
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Adapted from Your Clients for Life by Mitch Anthony (©2008 Mitch Anthony).
© 2015 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 Room, Your Clients for Life, Your Client's Story, and The Financial Lit-Kit: The Cash in the Hat, The Bean is Not Green, and Where Did the Money Go?. For information on these books and more resources, click here. Contact Mitch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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