What Do You Say to Someone Whose Financial Circumstances Are Short of Chaotic?


You’re talking with a prospect, all set to listen, and before you know it they’re telling you they’re mired in debt – including a second mortgage, they have a third leased car, plus $50,000 in student-loan debt, and they want to know how you can help them. This is not the financial situation of someone you want to bring on as a client at this stage in your business. What do you say next?

  • Know your first response in advance. It’s a simple compliment: “Well done on deciding to take action now.”
  • Be empathetic. When you start with a compliment you show you’re identifying with the circumstances they are in and you don’t think their situation is completely hopeless.
  • Know somebody who focuses on budgeting and basic personal financial management education who can give them the help they need most and offer to make an introduction.

Related: This Process Is Key to Successfully Achieving What You Want This Year


You’re seated with a prospect, ready to listen, and before you know it, they’re describing a second mortgage they have, a third leased vehicle they’ve got, the fact that there’s still $50,000 in student debt to pay off, and they’re wondering how you can help. How should you respond next?

It’s been a while since I’ve been making my weekly posts, and it’s great to be back with you. . .

This question was posed to me by several advisors: “What do you say when you have heard from someone whose financial circumstances are short of chaotic?” They are mired in debt. They’ve got student loans to pay off. They’ve got a second mortgage, and the circumstances they’re in are somewhat tragic.

What do you say out of the gate for these people, even when you know you won’t be the one to help them?

The first thing you want to be ready to say is a compliment to them. Let them know that they are making a wise choice to do what they’re doing now. You do that simply by saying, “Well done. Well done on deciding to take action regarding your circumstances now.” It doesn’t matter how dire a prospect’s situation is, or even how wealthy and finacially healthy they might be, with these simple words, you’ve just provided them hope.

None of us ever, ever don’t want to receive a compliment and a hopeful statement from someone else. By doing this, you’re letting them see they’re talking with the right person who understands them and their concerns, even if you know you’re probably not going to be working with them.

Now to make sure you’ve given yourself a backdoor here, you want to start off that conversation by saying, “It’s great that we’re getting this opportunity to talk today, and I’m interested to see if we can be of help.” Don’t say “how we might help,” because there are ways that you can help. It’s “if” you can help. Does this person need you or need someone someone else to help regarding budgeting? If you know they want and need help, but it will come from someone else, not you, leave yourself with room to move here by starting this conversation with that language.

So to do this most effectively,

  1. Know the language. The language is very simply a compliment: well done. “Well done on deciding to take action now.”

  2. Be empathetic. By saying these words to this person, you’re letting them see you’re feeling for them, you’re feeling with them, and you’re identifying with the circumstances they’re in.

  3. Have someone ready to refer them to. If there is another advisor at your broker-dealer or someone else you know who focuses on budgeting and basic financial management and education (which you won’t do in this particular instance), let the prospect know who that person is and offer to introduce them.

Be ready to help, even if what they most need won’t ultimately be coming from you. Be ready to listen and provide hope.

I look forward to bringing you another Distraction-Proof Advisor Idea next week.