The fact that clients don’t always divulge all their personal financial information to their financial advisors comes as no surprise. The questions that need to be answered, however, are: how many clients, what is being withheld and why are they so secretive?
Securian Financial Group surveyed 720 consumers who turn to financial advisors for advice and published their findings in Client secrets: What people don’t tell their financial advisors. Almost one third (29%) said they haven’t been completely honest regarding things that could affect their finances.
What They’re Hiding
“They may not realize it, but personal matters can profoundly affect a family’s financial stability,” said Michelle Hall, manager, Market Research in a statement. “Health and marital difficulties rank high among the critical subjects clients do not discuss with their advisors," she added. More than one-fourth (25%) carry debt their advisors do not know about.
Who They Are
A large portion of those who withhold critical financial information appeared—demographically at least—to fall in many advisors’ target markets:
• Nearly one-third are pre-retirees and retirees. Two-thirds are 40 and older.
• One-fifth are affluent, with $150,000 or more in annual household income, or mass affluent, with $100,000 - $149,000 income.
• Of those who are employed, two-thirds are in professional or managerial careers.
Why They Keep Secrets
More than half (52%) of those with secrets said the information was of a personal nature. Another large group (45%) felt their secrets were not relevant to their financial strategies and, therefore, didn’t need to be shared. These responses may suggest a lack of education about the benefits of holistic planning and a need to raise awareness about the financial risks associated with not sharing these matters. Embarrassment was another reason why one fifth of the respondents did not share personal data.
Some people may hold back because they don’t want to hear their advisors response if they did have the whole picture. When asked what changes their advisors likely would recommend, half (50%) said increase savings or reduce spending. One-quarter (25%) said their advisors wish would be to create new financial plans.
Forty-eight percent—nearly half—of all respondents said trust is the most important aspect of their advisor relationships. Forty-three percent indicated they discussed other personal issues with their advisors. Of the 29% who withhold critical information, however, only 11% said it’s because of a lack of trust.
What Advisors Said
Rich Preuss with The Healy Group in South Bend, Ind., said the 29% does not surprise him, though he “doubts the percentage is that high among his clients because his relationships are strong.”
“You have to understand what’s important and what’s driving them,” said Preuss who has been a financial advisor for 31 years in the same statement. He said, however, that trust is a two-way street. “I make sure up front that they know I can only help them as much as they reveal to me,” he said.
Joel Twedt, of Twedt Financial Services based in Lake Mills, Iowa, has been an advisor for 34 years. When clients withhold critical information, he doesn’t pry.
“Some people are embarrassed to provide information so I don’t ask. Once they get comfortable, it’s amazing what they reveal,” stated Twedt in the same statement. “Quality advisors are counselors,” he added. “It’s not just about the clients’ money: It’s about their dreams, their fears, their families.”
Like Twedt and Preuss, Nicole Winter Tietel of Winter & Associates in St. Paul, Minn., also feels her client relationships are strong. But she worries about people who don’t share important facts with their advisors.
“If they keep secrets they likely have duplication in their investment portfolios, are underinsured or carry debt that eats away at their net worth,” said Tietel in the same statement. “Ultimately, they are taking more risk.”