Many of us follow life’s traditional path: education, marriage, kids, house, career, save, retire. As planners, we know how to help our clients reach these goals. But I believe our real value comes in helping clients acknowledge the goals and dreams they’re too scared to admit to themselves.

Divorce rates are steadily high and nuclear families are in the minority. What if we could help clients realize in advance that they don’t want to get married? Or don’t want to have kids? What if we talked less about money, and more about what people really want — even if they don’t know it themselves?

These are often uncomfortable, tough conversations about what comes next. I believe that as advisors, whose role is to guide our clients and look out for their best interests, we should be having these honest conversations sooner.

When clients come to you announcing an engagement, for example, congratulate them — but also talk with each partner separately. It’s fun and exciting to get wrapped up in love and an upcoming wedding, but ask both partners: When are they happiest? In addition to their relationship, what drives them? What goals and dreams have they had over the years?

You might discover passions they haven’t acknowledged to themselves in years: things they’ve dismissed as impractical or ideas they’ve had shut down by others. I believe one of the greatest roles we can play is to uncover, nurture and encourage the deepest desires of our clients.

Consumers are increasingly embracing the fee-only planning model. And we can help propel that growth by not only moving away from the sales tactics of the past, but by being invaluable partners to our clients through all the decision-making points of their lives.

Discussing financial topics may be what we all think we should be doing, but clients need us to listen, uncover, encourage and nudge them in the direction they’re too scared to go on their own. This leads to stickier, more fulfilling, and longer-lasting relationships with clients; and to clients who want to refer. It’s time to break the norm and have the conversations they’re not having with anyone else.

I work with clients for a flat upfront fee plus a monthly retainer. I don’t manage assets or sell products. I find this model takes the emphasis off investments and risk management, and encourages me to spend more time with clients on actual planning.

I’m passionate about where the industry is going. We’re already moving away from the broker model and consumers are choosing fee-only advice, but we have a lot of work to do. The future of the industry is truly relationship-based planning. Let’s stop talking about money and show clients our real value. 

Kate Holmes, CFP, is founder of Belmore Financial in Las Vegas.

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