Uncovering and Understanding Your Clients' History, Values, and Transitions

Diliberto, Roy
December 2006
Journal of Financial Planning;Dec2006, Vol. 19 Issue 12, p52
Academic Journal
Your clients' values about money affect many of the decisions they make. This article, adapted from the author's newly released book from FPA Press, "Financial Planning--The Next Step: Merging Your Clients' Money with Their Lives," explores how to uncover and understand your clients' values about money. The key points are illustrated primarily through the stories of real planner clients. A worksheet is introduced to help planners identify core values about how clients use money. Among other benefits, the worksheet can facilitate the discovery of any disconnects there might be between what clients say is important and what they do. Planners need to be careful to avoid making assumptions. For example, instead of asking a client when they plan to retire (perhaps they don't), ask them how they visualize their life in their sixties, seventies, and eighties. A second worksheet helps planners uncover potential but often unrecognized transitions (such as a client's aging parents) that may drastically and unexpectedly, alter previous planning. Dig below the surface, beyond the obvious of asking a client when he or she wants to retire. Don't rely merely on a form questionnaire. Asking the right, in depth questions in person can unearth hidden values, goals, and insights into the client's financial behavior. Often the questions help clients make their own discoveries about their lives and what's important to them. Furthermore, one never knows what questions we ask that will result in discovering behavior patterns that may be sabotaging a client's financial success. The article includes a list of 21 specific questions that can help planners elicit client values and personal histories. Consider asking them open-ended questions, such as to recount their life histories.


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