Helping Clients Change: 21st Century Tools from a 19th Century Fable

Kahler, Rick; Klontz, Ted; Klontz, Brad
April 2007
Journal of Financial Planning;Apr2007, Vol. 20 Issue 4, p62
Academic Journal
A fundamental tool in working with "difficult" clients is accepting that their past experiences affect their behavior in the present. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is a useful metaphor for helping clients understand this truth. In the story, Ebenezer Scrooge was not a miser by conscious choice; he was acting in accordance with hidden beliefs about money, or money scripts. Destructive financial behavior is not about money, but grows out of unfinished business from the past; the Ghost of Christmas Past helped Scrooge come to this realization. Integrated financial planning, which combines the emotional, or interior, aspects of finance with exterior financial knowledge, provides an expanded set of tools for working with these difficult clients. A fundamental precept of integrated financial planning is that understanding the past leads to clarity in the present, as the Ghost of Christmas Present helped Scrooge see the truth of what he had become. Strategies to help clients change include using the story of Scrooge as a metaphor, asking them about the past, considering clients' possible money scripts, sharing your own experiences, communicating emotionally as well as factually, focusing on what matters most to clients, and avoiding blame. Acting as an effective change agent includes taking advantage of crisis points, establishing your credibility as an expert, building a relationship of trust with clients, being persistent, and following the lead of the client. Sharing Scrooge's story may be a first step toward helping clients achieve their own transformations.


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