How To Get Valuable Clues From Social Conversations

One of your objectives for getting involved in the community is to mingle with HNW individuals. Unfortunately, they do not have their net worth printed on their shirts. There are others doing the same thing and everyone is dressing to impress. How much can you learn about their financial circumstances through casual conversation.

Conversation is an art. Years ago, while writing my book “Captivating the Wealthy Investor” one of my interviewees pointed out: “It’s conversation, not interrogation.” Here are ten conversation topics that can give you the right information.

  1. What do you do? This is a standard icebreaker question. You have a pretty good idea what different professions pay in your area. If not, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produces excellent reports titled Metropolitan and Nonmetropolitan Area Occupational Wage and Employment Estimates. (1) This gives you a pretty good idea.

  2. Where do you live? You know neighborhoods and property values. You know about property taxes. You know about lot sizes. They might live on an estate, in a McMansion or a Tract house.

  3. Where did you go to school? This might be a more common question among people in their 20’s because college is a very fresh memory. This can lead into the type of degree they earned. Are they in graduate school? You also have an idea what schools cost.

  4. Is that your Bentley? OK, maybe you wouldn’t say that unless you were standing at the valet station and the attendant just brought up that shiny new Bentley. It’s been said in California that your car is your rolling net worth statement. Many people like talking about their cars. You can rent anything today, but exotic cars are expensive no matter how you get them and classic cars can be maintenance nightmares.

  5. Do you have children? Where do they go to school? Everyone loves talking about their children. They might go to the same school as your children. If they attend private school, you have an idea of the costs they are covering.

  6. Have you been on vacation this year? Most people like getting away. Do they take family, couples or separate vacations. You don’t need to probe. They will volunteer details. You can tell from personal experience the cost of the trips they talk about.

  7. What do you do for fun? Most people have outside interests. Some are focused on work to the exclusion of outside activities. They might travel. They might have season tickets at the stadium. Golf is still popular and people of a certain age play often.

  8. Where do you play golf? You know the oldest clubs in the area. You know the ones almost impossible to join because of long waiting lists. You know the one with the best courses. You know the costs associated with country club membership, perhaps from personal experience.

  9. How are you connected with this organization? You might be a regular member or someone who simply bought a ticket to the gala. They might serve on the board. They might be the president or immediate past president. You can do a little research in the annual report. Visit the section listing donors by giving levels.

  10. What else are you involved with? Some people have one favorite organization. Others have a dozen or more. This is often true if they have a foundation. Once you know the names, you can do some donor level research in the group’s annual report. It’s usually available online.

  11. Have you tried any new restaurants? There are plenty of jokes about retirees in Florida waiting for Happy Hour, but where a person dines can tell a lot about them. You can tell if they live to eat or eat to live. You can tell if they are adventurous. You can tell what price point is comfortable for them.

None of these questions are pushy or prying, expect perhaps “Is that your Bentley.” People share lots of information, often without realizing it.

Related: How To Reconnect With HNW People You Meet Socially