When advising couples, you probably walk a thin line between being a financial advisor and a couples counselor. Because so much of your clients’ long-term financial success comes from both parties pulling in the same direction to reach their goals, the conversations can be awkward on an average day. However, on a less than average day, they can be emotional.
So, how can you facilitate the beyond-the-portfolio conversations to move your clients forward? The following are five strategies, including specific fpPathfinder checklists, that can support you and them.
1. Facilitate Open Conversation
In your role as a trusted advisor, you can open the door to discovery and open communication for your clients. A productive first step is to introduce The Master List Of Goals. When you’re advising couples, share it individually with both couple members to reveal shared goals and personal goals in a positive, judgment-free environment. You’ll help them create awareness and understand goals, including:
- Retirement and lifestyle goals
- Tax planning and healthcare goals
- Self-development and professional goals
- Estate planning and wealth transfer goals
From there, as a team that is on the same page, you can coach your client-couple toward prioritizing the next steps.
2. Create Financial Transparency
When advising couples, are both members aware of how much money is coming in and going out? Cash flow is a critical component of any successful financial plan, but it’s also a sensitive topic to discuss. Use the “What Issues Should I Consider When Reviewing Cash Flow” checklist to open up the conversation around:
- Income sources
- Essential and discretionary spending
- Debt and taxes
- Goal funding
- Monitoring strategies
When you create space for both members of your client-couple to be open about the ebbs and flows, you can be the hero in their financial planning story.
3. Foster Confidence
Households are complicated and busy, and so many documents flow in through the mail, electronic and otherwise. With every document comes the “pitch it or keep it” question. You can instill a feeling of calm and confidence when you take the time to share the “What Documents Do I Need To Keep On File?” checklist. The couples you advise can get organized when they know which documents are essential to keep, including:
- Tax documents
- Healthcare records
- Various legal documents
- Asset and debt documentation
- Insurance policies, employment contracts, and proof of professional certifications
Inevitably your client-couple will need to produce necessary paperwork or digital documents. Your upfront work will enable them to fulfill the request quickly and confidently.
4. Instill A Sense Of Security
It’s a hot topic in the news nearly every day: identity theft. In your work advising couples, you are in an ideal position to counsel them about reducing their risks of becoming fraud victims. Take time with your client-couples to introduce the “Am I At Risk Of Having My Identity Stolen Or Becoming A Victim Of Fraud?” checklist. You can use this checklist to guide your client-couples through actionable conversations that address common threats and scams. With your guidance, they’ll be ready to:
- Minimize cyber threats
- Identify common scams
- Take steps if they suspect unlawful activity
Of course, every advisor talks about how much they care. But when you actually can take the steps that help the couples you advise feel safer in their personal lives, you get to show your clients exactly how much you care. And they’ll notice.
5. Be Ready When An Unexpected Expense Arises
Rest assured, over time, there will be an inevitable surprise that takes a financial toll, which can fuel a lot of stress for the couples you advise. But that’s where you come in and can help chart the best course of action when your client-couples are having difficulty seeing the path forward.
When your client-couples come to you (or call you) panicked, take a breath and walk them through the “What Issues Should I Consider When Funding An Unexpected Expense?” checklist. They will appreciate your steady hand as you guide them through:
- Payment strategies
- Funding sources
- Tax consequences
- Impact on the overall financial plan
Even though you can’t make an unexpected expense go away, you are in the position to help your client-couples execute a plan to manage the expense efficiently and effectively. And when you do that, you relieve the pressure that can build between them.
Beyond The Portfolio
It’s pretty easy to set up a portfolio these days without ever working with a “real-life” advisor. That’s why the advisor who wholeheartedly embraces a holistic planning approach — which includes fostering understanding, honesty, confidence, security, and calm between couples — has a lot to gain. None of the above strategies has anything to do with investing, but each one strengthens financial well-being. Your holistic approach to guiding and advising clients through challenging, complicated, and emotional decision-making empowers you to become the trusted partner they will rely on and refer to their friends and family.
Not yet a member? We can help you with that! Visit the Become A Member page and select the membership level that moves you toward your goals. Additionally, you can join a 30-minute live demonstration to learn more about how an fpPathfinder membership can benefit your practice. Of course, our team is standing by to answer your questions. Send them to [email protected] and we’ll respond!