By Rachel Sloan, CFP®, CRPC®
I used to love the feeling of the first day of school. It was a blank sheet of paper in which a story would unfold over the next year. I also loved the feeling of wearing new clothes. We didn’t shop much back then, but somehow, we always had a new set of clothes for the first day of school. And let’s not forget, the sweet anticipation and excitement of starting new again. I just loved that feeling of newness and possibility.
I guess that’s why at Sloan Advisory Group I love starting a financial planning project with new clients—especially couples. It’s like that first day of school. I see the anticipation and excitement joyously emanating from new clients. Today, the blank sheet has taken the form of a yellow notepad and everyone still wears their best new outfit, in-person or virtually.
As an advisor, I find it fascinating to be a part of the unfolding story for the new client couple. To encourage the unfolding of their story, it’s important to establish rapport, trust, confidence and warmth to spur the sharing of their story. I want to hear all about it, including their beliefs and experiences around money.
Money does crazy stuff to people and it can be downright stressful. Money experiences are wide ranging and diverse. Add the dynamics of the couple to the mix, and the stories that unfold in front of you may be unexpected, things you’ve never heard before.
As advisors, we encourage and coach clients to open up by asking deep and meaningful questions. Sometimes, it opens more than we expected. How we hold space for clients is just as important as creating strength and guidance.
I’d like to share a quote from a seminar I recently attended that I keep close by and read several times a week. It reminds and aligns me with the power of the roles and the impact we have on our clients and the people we interact with every day:
“One of our greatest contributions to the world is our state of being and how we show up.”
As an advisor, I pride myself on my excellent listening skills and when I’m able to hold the line, create boundaries and provide guidance on a way forward. This was all helpful when the husband of a new client couple called after our first meeting. He wanted to be sure that I knew his wife is secretly out to take his inheritance. This is the reason why he won’t pay down the mortgage on the second home or pay down the excessive credit card debt. To him, these are reminders to his wife not to spend money because they owed so much.
When he requested that I not share this call with his wife—one of the greatest contributions to be made—was how I showed up for him and ultimately, the couple. By standing firmly and confidently that there were no secrets in this arrangement and everything he shared was on the table should it come up in future meetings, helped moved our conversations towards honesty and openness. I still work with this client and every year we tackle new challenges together.
Deeply held fears and beliefs take time to work through. Having patience and faith that people want to do the right thing is part of how we show up for clients.
I also remember having to navigate between a couple when the husband would not let go of his large single stock “gambling” account. It was impossible for him to relinquish his firm belief that someday, one of these stocks “will” hit the big time and solve all their money problems. It took time, process and patience to work through a negotiated compromise that benefited the couple as a whole while allowing a reasonable outlet for him and his “dream” of winning big one day. Perspective and facilitation skills are powerful tools that we as advisors bring to our clients.
And I recall the time where I retained composure when I asked newlywed spouses if they thought they were good with money. The wife, 35, who had amassed $500,000 in savings, thought she was horrible with money. While the husband, 38, who had zero savings, $10,000 in credit card debt and was on a five-year payment plan for back taxes, thought he was great with money. This did require a one-off call with the wife to talk about self-confidence and to dig deeper about why she thought she was not good with money, when clearly, she was great.
As advisors, there is so much good we do in the world. Often overlooked and hardly ever talked about is the lasting difference and deep impact we make in the world of our clients, which creates a ripple effect into the larger world. When working with couples, our impact can go beyond money…it can help deepen the love that couples bring to their relationship. Before your next client meeting, please ask yourself, “How is my state of being and how am I showing up for my clients today?”
Photo: Kristina Litvak – Unsplash