As a young financial planner, I decided to focus the early years of my career on acquiring the technical skills needed to succeed in our profession.
This involved completing the CII’s Advanced Diploma in Financial Planning, which led me to become a Chartered Financial Planner.
I also completed an MSc in Wealth Management at the Cass Business School and have recently been named a Fellow of the Personal Finance Society.
I firmly believe that this approach has held me in good stead, as it has given me the confidence and the knowledge needed to deliver really good financial advice.
Nonetheless, the more experience I gained in dealing with a variety of client scenarios, the more it became clear that something big and important was lacking in my technically-driven advice process.
Instead of just solving financial planning problems, like maximising retirement savings or mitigating inheritance tax, I wanted to facilitate an environment where my clients could explore and envision their most fulfilling life; allowing me to connect the dots between their financial reality and the life they longed to live.
Enter the Kinder Institute of Life Planning.
Through their EVOKE® training programme, I experienced first-hand the power of really being listened to.
Although a notion that will seem either blindingly obvious or trivial at first – namely, that financial planners should first discover their clients’ most essential goals and aspirations before developing financial recommendations – their methodology has taught me to uncover my clients’ most exciting, meaningful, and fulfilling aspirations and coach them to create their own vibrant futures; all supported by a solid financial plan!
Like most of us, I had never been trained to be a good listener, and so I use to put my fact-finding questions in financial terms alone (i.e.: are you looking to “grow your portfolio”, “save for retirement” or “get your spending under control”).
On this basis, the client’s answers simply allowed me to figure out the best way to invest, increase savings, pay down debt and reduce taxes.
While most of my financial planning conversations had focussed on the money, financial life planning has taught me to see that the clients’ finances are inextricably entwined with their dreams and aspirations.
Therefore, the goal is not just to solve the financial planning problem at hand, but rather, to balance the client’s dreams with an investment strategy.
As Oliver Wendell Holmes once put it: “What lies before us and what lies behind us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us”.
So, how does this translate in practise?
When building a retirement plan, by blending my technical knowledge with my new-found life planning skills, I’m now confident that I’m helping my clients have something to retire to instead of simply being able to retiring from a job and having nothing to fill the available hours that work once occupied.