Completing a life insurance application is never just a simple process for a client. Clients entrust you with personal information they rarely share with their best friends, and you play a significant role in guiding them from a financial standpoint. To honor these relationships, I recommend a holistic approach to understand how finances affect individual lives. The more experience I gain, the more hats I begin to wear, and the more I can compare being an advisor with being a life coach.
Evaluate Client Trends
Consider the trends you observe among clients to identify how you can enhance their lives through comprehensive planning. For example, four of my key clients, who were building businesses and growing their assets for decades, experienced large “liquidation events” and an influx of wealth this past year. Their lives changed significantly and very quickly. They were already successful individuals, but they immediately saw a concentration of money they had not realized would come their way.
After identifying trends or major events in clients’ lives, take a life coach/financial advisor approach and develop a framework to serve as a guide. For example, if your clients experience an influx of wealth or are approaching retirement, start by asking what expenses and responsibilities are non-negotiable and should not change. Then, explore what they want to add or accomplish in terms of time or money, and outline the larger bucket list items to be checked off each year.
On the other hand, you may be working with clients who are facing a life change, such as an expanding family, that requires them to save more money. Either way, you should begin by gathering an understanding of who they are as a person and what they prioritize in life before using your technical knowledge to build their wealth structure.
Invest In Relationships
No matter what, you will always find that developing strong personal relationships with each client is the key to successful holistic planning. To make meaningful connections and gain a comprehensive outlook on your clients’ finances, ask the right questions and invest in learning about their lives over the course of your time with them. Spend the first 20 minutes of each meeting catching up on their personal lives, learning about their family and friends, and taking mental notes of even the smallest things that may be relevant for their financial plan. When we explore clients’ recent life changes, tears of joy or sadness are common in my office, and these moments are invaluable to develop our trusting relationship.
When we explore clients’ recent life changes, tears of joy or sadness are common in my office, and these moments are invaluable to develop our trusting relationship.
The irony is that as we become more of a life coach, we are often coaching clients how to spend their money wisely without compromising their financial stability. For example, I have a long-standing client relationship with a retired couple from Holland who often returned to visit friends and family. During a recent meeting, with tears in their eyes, they mentioned their previous trip was probably their last because they were no longer comfortable on long flights. We reviewed their investment portfolio and income needs, and I helped them see that small indulgences such as flying business class would not break their “retirement bank.” Working together on this gave them the permission they were seeking to spend their life and money in meaningful and fulfilling ways. I can say without question that a conversation like this would not happen if all I did for them was give advice on their insurance.
Confront Your Comfort Zone
If you would like to move from insurance agent to comprehensive planner, confront your comfort zone. You don’t have to go through an intimidating practice change alone when you are not confident in the expanded skillset. Instead, consider leaning on another professional who has the expertise you need (i.e. investment management). You may have developed a specialty, such as in life insurance, and you don’t have to give this up. Partnering with the right person will allow you to keep your niche and allow you to serve clients holistically in an ensemble-type practice.
As I continue to take more of a life coach approach to my practice, I find myself referencing my father’s perspective; he would say, “As much as money is an objective item, it will always have a subjective response. Then, when you add the emotion of a major life event, the response will go to extremes.” He prepared me to navigate through the emotional responses associated with financial planning and to honor client relationships. When you foster a trusting relationship, you can positively affect a client’s financial stability and confidence, which relies on your support as a comprehensive financial planner — and a life coach.