We know it often doesn’t matter how much money people have – the level of anxiety around it is often the same.

    Now clearly if you don’t have enough to cover basic needs, then the implications of that are more severe and abject.

    But if we're just discussing anxiety alone, it’s there for all to see; I've worked with some extremely wealthy clients who I would describe as being very financially comfortable, and yet they have a torrid relationship with money, and perpetually worry about it.

    Anxiety is anxiety – it’s not possible for our minds to rationalise our own feelings by pointing to another and saying their anxiety is better placed than yours.

    I experienced this myself recently when I took my car in for an MOT

    I live in London and so for the past 10 years or so, I’ve either rented a car for big trips away, or just use Zipcar. But with a young family I decided last summer to get a car and it had its first MOT last month. Suddenly I felt incredibly anxious.

    I couldn’t work out why this was.

    Like any good financial planner, I've got an emergency fund. So if the car did fail it would be an unexpected expense, and I could cover it, but that still didn't make me feel any less worried.

    And so I tried to rationalise it and think, well, how much could this car possibly cost to get repaired? A thousand pounds? I'd be annoyed, yes, but there's more than enough in my emergency fund to cover that. It would be fine; I’d chalk it off and move forward.

    But knowing the facts in that level of detail didn't make any difference. I still felt incredibly uneasy.

    And then I remembered something

    When I was at primary school, we didn’t have much money. We lived about 15 miles from school at that time. Each time the MOT came around my mum would get extremely anxious about whether the car would fail it. And it'd be a really big event. The car would get dropped off in the morning, and I’d all spend the day wondering what would happen, worried about how I’d be getting home.

    I realised that 30 years later this had stirred something in me and nothing I could say or do would make that anxiety go away. But it did help to understand it. Once I realised where my worries stemmed from, I felt a lot more comfortable.

    So how can we help others to do the same?

    At the heart of many discussions with clients around financial planning, there’s usually some form of underlying anxiety that's stopping positive behaviour, and more often than not, it’s rooted in their past. But it’s a barrier from them doing and experiencing what they want from life.

    It could relate directly to a feeling around spending money such as guilt. Or like me, an experience of a family member whose feelings or behaviour has rubbed off on them. But it’s usually some level of anxiety that can’t be explained or undone with rational thinking.

    But what does help is being able to understand these feelings. And as planners, we can help clients to do this. We’re outside the situation, we have a fresh perspective, and we can often home in on something that might be obvious to us, but not to others.

    We can rationalise their experience by listening and seeing patterns in behaviour.

    Through simply letting the client talk, we can give them the space they need to focus on their feelings.

    But at what point does it stray away from our areas into therapy?

    If a client says “I’m very anxious about the markets” then that’s our area. If they then say, “Because my dad lost his money in the stock market,” then that’s where things start to go deeper, but this is the insight we need to help them. We shouldn’t be afraid of encouraging them to open up.

    But how?

    We may not have the same techniques a therapist uses to draw out this information, but I know one thing that helps clients to share these details naturally – and that’s if you share your own feelings and experiences.

    As planners we’ve always been hopeless at sharing the benefits of our work – we’ve taken the easy route and focused on the features rather than the benefits. But taking the trouble to ask clients for their feedback and sharing testimonials and stories is hugely effective.

    But it’s also important that we share our own stories, and in particular, the benefits we’ve felt from financial planning. If I post on LinkedIn I know the biggest traction I’ll get is from sharing stories such as the one about the MOT above.

    People are partly nosey and partly curious. They want to know if you practise what you preach, and if so, how your finances look. But also, I’m not perfect and I make money mistakes. The more you share the, better. It makes them feel more confident when speaking to you because naturally they know something intimate about you.

    I often find that after the emotional excavation has taken place, presenting the plan becomes a lot easier. It’s more meaningful because it’s so closely linked to those emotions which are positive, and we’ve worked through any issues that may have harmed their financial wellbeing.

    At the heart of good financial planning is the act of listening, identifying the concerns and giving people the confidence to live without fear or regret. If you can share your financial planning journey too, you might find your clients open up in a way you haven’t experienced before.

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