Although many studies, including recent research from Fidelity, show that Americans are often inadequately prepared for retirement, advisory clients tend to focus more on their finances than they do on their health, and that probably isn't a good thing.
We try to make it clear to clients that there are more important things than obsessing about their financial situations and that tracking the movement of one's equity holdings throughout the day isn’t healthy. We are a goals-based financial advisory practice and try to steer clients toward a definition of success that is determined by achieving their goals, not by beating the S&P 500.
Clients, for the most part, have come to us because they want advice for the long haul. We try to keep them focused on the big picture: their long-term goals, rather than short-term fluctuations in value.
To help clients stay focused on the long term, we often use examples from the non-financial parts of their lives that tie back to that theme. For example, we have held lunch and dinner events that highlight topics such as healthy eating and include a presentation by a nutritionist.
We want clients to understand that preparing for the future entails considerably more than just having enough money. Most people understand intuitively that substantial wealth doesn’t mean a lot if they are unable to enjoy it because of physical ailments and other health issues.
We try to give them actionable information, such as the importance of good nutrition and regular exercise.
It isn’t that we are trying to tell clients what to eat but rather that there is a connection between fiscal and physical health. Serious illness or a catastrophic accident can happen and is to a large degree out of our hands, but we can certainly take charge of what we eat, how much we exercise and whether we see a doctor for preventative care.
The same approach works for investing.
Neither advisers nor clients can realistically do anything about how the stock or bond markets behave, but that doesn’t mean that they are helpless. We can control how our portfolio is allocated or how much risk to take.
The same is true about our physical health.
We encourage clients to take a proactive, rather than reactive approach to both kinds of health.
Fiscally, that means routinely reviewing the financial plan, including performance, assessing progress and readjusting as necessary to stay on target. Physically, that means engaging in preventative care and taking steps to head off potential health crises.
Advisers can’t prepare clients for every situation, but they should do all they can to keep them focused on a healthy and well-funded future.
This story is part of a 30-30 series on strategies to boost your practice.
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