In the financial advisory profession, one of the biggest trends is the rising emphasis of psychology in financial planning.
“Money is inherently emotional, and the way people react to, handle, and make decisions about their finances can often be attributed to events they have experienced throughout their lives—both positive and negative,” according to Emily Koochel, Ph.D., AFC®, CFT-ITM, in an article for eMoney.
But if you ask your clients the direct question, “what are your values,” it’s not uncommon to hear crickets as a response.
“It’s not easy to have clarity around your values,” explains Irina Cozma, Ph.D., a career coach, in an article for Harvard Business Review. “After all, the importance of identifying and using them isn’t emphasized in our society. Most of us aren’t taught how to do this type of self-reflection in school.”
Ask the following questions to help your clients open up and share a more meaningful story.
1. Who is a leader that you admire, and what are some traits that you respect about that person?
It’s human nature to seek out role models who embody influential traits. According to one psychology study, “having adult role models directly impacts not only how you perceive yourself but, just as importantly, how others perceive you.”
In other words, the traits that your clients admire in others are traits that they aspire towards in their own decision-making. With an understanding of these characteristics, financial advisors can better steer conversations and working relationships.
2. What was a meaningful childhood experience that shaped who you are today?
According to countless research studies, childhood experiences are formative for adults.
“Most of us don’t remember our first two or three years of life — but our earliest experiences may stick with us for years and continue to influence us well into adulthood,” explains one NPR article.
When it comes to managing investments, family experiences have a role to play. After all, a substantial proportion of a person’s wealth is intergenerational.
Understanding an investor’s formative years may shed light into that person’s relationship with money. Even if not, at the very least, a nice story about your client can be meaningful for relationship-building.
3. What is an example of change you’d like to see in society?
From global hunger to vaccine access, the climate crisis, healthcare inequities, and lack of access to education, there’s a lot going wrong in the world today.
Investors have a lot of power to make a meaningful impact. Ultimately, wealth management is about putting financial resources to work. The optimal portfolio not only helps investors grow their financial resources but also helps achieve meaningful outcomes for the world around us.
Consider how charitable giving increased in the years following the pandemic. As a financial advisor, you’re in an optimal position to steer positive outcomes for your clients’ wealth.
4. What was your favorite class in school, and how did it make an impression on you?
Investing is a process that’s rational and emotional — and every human mind is different.
One way to better connect with your clients as a financial advisor is to appeal to their sense of curiosity. That means gaining an understanding of their expertise and field of view. How do they see the world? What experiences have been formative to their thinking?
With an understanding of what your clients enjoyed learning in school, you’ll have a foundation for more personalized, meaningful, and tailored conversations.
It’s about speaking to investors’ interests beyond money.
5. What’s the most sensible lesson that someone has taught you?
For the majority of Americans, investing is about life goal attainment — purchasing a home, preparing for their children’s future, and ensuring a safe retirement.
Keeping this context in mind, your clients will have varying levels of risk tolerance with respect to specific investment choices.
A lot of financial advisors, and people in general, think about risk in terms of abstract concepts. But risk is often more human than what probability might explain.
Aim for a story to gain greater clarity. Build a deeper sense of empathy, as a result.
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