I often find that when people come to me for financial advice, they get more than they bargain for. A conversation about the stock market? Sure. Tips on how to save for a future goal? You bet. Observations about the opportunities available to you in your current situation? Absolutely.
But there’s so much more.
What about the potential impact that your financial decisions may have on those you love? Or your personal values, and how these show up in your financial behavior? Or your sense of identity, who you are, and what you want to do in this world? In other words, why are you even doing all this in the first place? Often people don’t expect that kind of conversation with a financial advisor.
Simon Sinek, well known for his motivational books and inspirational TED Talk “Start with Why,” has said:
“Achievement happens when we pursue and attain what we want. Success comes when we are in clear pursuit of why we want it.”
If my job is to help my clients improve their financial lives, it is essential that we take into account not only the technical nuts and bolts of those lives, but also the drivers behind them. The why, not just the how and the what.
Interestingly, there didn’t use to be much formal training for this way of looking at finances. Back in 2011 when I earned my CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ designation, we were well-trained in the nuts and bolts areas: estate planning, taxation, employee benefits, insurance, retirement savings, investments, etc. But the “human” side was simply not addressed. Personal financial drivers like relationships, emotions, hopes and dreams, and self-esteem were not considered particularly relevant. Finance is supposed to take emotion out of money, right?
Wrong. Making financial decisions is an emotional exercise. To deny this would be to leave out an important part of the overall picture.
I am gladdened to say that the profession is changing. Now, there are designations such as Behavioral Financial Advisor (which my colleague Phil holds), Certified Financial Wellness Educator, Registered Life Planner, and even Financial Therapists. This is a wonderful recognition in the financial services profession that human beings are not simply computers, and we might serve them better by acknowledging the human side of finance.
To that end, this fall I earned the designation “Certified Financial Transitionist.” The training was excellent. It started with learning to recognize and then to address the drivers of our financial behavior. We learned about behaviors that can get us stuck and behaviors that can help get us “into the flow.” We then learned tools to help assist us when we’re stuck in the struggle state, and tools to help enhance the flow state. We learned how to better help clients, friends, family as they move through the important and often challenging times of making financial decisions when life changes.
Overall, this has expanded my horizons and provided me with even more tools and resources to help my clients. We’ll still talk about budgets and the stock market, I’m certain, but we’ll be able to put those conversations into a richer context of what’s going on in our lives and relationships, what we can do about it, and why it matters.
As Susan Bradley, Founder of Financial Transitionist Institute, said: “In the midst of disruption, there’s a creative force. Harness that force and beautiful things can happen…”
Helping people accomplish beautiful things sounds pretty good to me. What do you think?
For more information about Financial Transitions Planning, please click here.